Poetry Illustrations

Poetry doesn’t fit into one academic subject box for me.  Many would put poems inthe category of reading, writing and grammar.  Rightly so, but I see poetry as an art.  So while we could dissect the word patterns and evaluate the rhyming schemes, I wanted the kids to see poems as pictures.  Without any real formal curriculum I decided to try a make-shift, week long poetry unit.  I assigned each of the kids a poem to memorize that was all their own, and I choose one group poem for us all to illustrate individually.

Some homeschools have a weekly poetry tea time. Four of my kids really enjoy this.  (Fancy desserts always help.) One of mine seems determined to sabotage poetry tea time. We are in the habit now of working on a poem to memorize, but we have come back to poetry illustration when we need a break from our regular curriculum.

Here’s how it works…

First, I get a couple short, simple illustrated poetry book from the library.  We read them together and talk about how the illustrator was inspired by the poet’s words.


Then I give them a copy of a poem without illustrations OR a title.  I give each child time everyday for a week to plan and practice his or her own illustration of that poem.  The finished product is due Friday.  The poem should be written on their art work, and they must come up with a title.  BUT they cannot let their siblings see their ideas or know their title.  We like secrets around here.

Finally, we all come together and share our art at the end of the week.  The finished pieces are so fun because they reflect each of the kids’ interpretation of the poem as they make the poem their own.  When they reveal their personal illustrations and new titles, the kids have been amazed that anyone else could see the poem differently than they did.  (There are some good life lessons there!)

We first did a poem about leaves from the book Autumnings.  My daughter picked deep colors to illustrate hers.  For my son it was all about the action words in the poem.  I didn’t catch it at first, but he wrote all the words of the poem inside the leaves that he drew.  I loved seeing their strengths and personalities come out in this project.



When we used this method this year we my second son join us.  He does not like to draw, but he came up with a plan for his snow poem: cutting snowflakes.  He was proud that his work was so different than his siblings.  They had completely different yet beautiful illustrations and different titles.  One chose “White Snowflakes,”  the other “In the Silent Night,” and the third “Drifters.”

I love seeing the kids connect with the poems, and I look forward to collecting a pile of illustrated poems from each of the kids that I will cherish in the years to come.


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