Guest blog post by Sommer Morris
Do you remember learning about poetry as a child? My experience in school was typically a one- or two-week “unit” that teachers had to squeeze in each year because it was on the required teaching list.
I’m not sure the teachers were much more excited about it than us students. So, we all apathetically ‘studied’ poetry for a few days. The teacher checked a box on the curriculum sheet, and I left with an ambivalence toward the subject.
Fast forward a few years to homeschooling, and I see the treasure trove that is poetry!
In school, I mostly remember being required to write poems rather than listen to good poetry. This is an important distinction, as each is instructive in its own way. In fact, poetry has many benefits, from increasing a student’s vocabulary to teaching them grammar to learning both verbal and written syncopation. (You can learn more about the benefits of reading poetry to children here.)
Because of my lackluster introduction to poetry as a child, I have taken a very different approach to developing an appreciation of poetry in our homeschool. One of my favorite ways to do this is by planning a Poetry Teatime where we sip a hot beverage, nibble on treats, and share our best-loved and newly discovered poems as a family.
Here’s a playbook for how you can create your own Poetry Teatime for an exquisite educational experience!
1. Pull out the Poetry Books.
Be sure to have at least one poetry book available for each child, considering diverse ages. Also, it is highly recommended that you have a dictionary nearby for all that rich vocabulary you will embark upon!
Here are some poetry books to get you started:
For Younger Children
- I Sat By the Sea Poetry Collection – A wonderful collection of relatable and appealing poems, you can get a free PDF of this book by downloading The Good and the Beautiful Level 3 Language Arts Course Set.
- A Child’s Garden of Verses (Robert Louis Stevenson) – A classic book you may remember from your own childhood, topics span from imaginative lands to the joyful innocence of a juvenile.
- Poetry Parties for Littles – Insects and Spiders – This small book of short poems also showcases fun snack and craft ideas for the littlest family members.
For Older Children
- The Essential Poetry Collection – This set includes several books of classic poetry, each providing a curated compilation of one famous poet’s works.
- Poetry Teatime Companion: A Brave Writer Sampler of British and American Poems – This book contains information about the poets as well as discussion questions.
- Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings – This is a great ice breaker book to get the poetry party started, especially for children who are hesitant to delve into reading poems.
- A Light in the Attic – Humor in writing and drawing coalesce in this timeless Shel Silverstein book of poems.
- Falling Up – Another book of unmistakable artistry – both in pen and paper – makes this a coveted book at poetry parties.
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers – Sometimes silly, sometimes sincere, Mister Rogers shares a poetic, childlike view of the world that resonates with youngsters.
- • Heroes, Horses, and Harvest Moons: A Cornucopia of Best-Loved Poems, Vol. 1 – From nursery rhymes to Emily Dickinson, 40 classic poems are presented to children by the iconic Jim Weiss.
- • Ten Thousand Stars: A Cornucopia of Best-Loved Poems, Vol. 2 – Narrated by the distinguishable Jim Weiss, this collection contains classic poems, appropriate for middle schoolers and above.
- • Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization – Download Level 1 of this course for free, which includes five poems read by Andrew Pudewa.
2. Prepare the Teatime Treats.
I like to keep our tea parties simple, yet authentic. These three foods provide a well-rounded nutritional profile (i.e. protein, carbs, sweets, fruit/veggie, dairy), and likewise, are a respectable nod to a lovely European tea.
If you don’t have time to prepare these treats yourself, check out Trader Joe’s, which often has appetizing pastries and maybe even a frozen quiche!
- Scones. Dry ingredients of the scones can be mixed the night before for faster prep. They only take about 15-18 minutes to bake, depending on the recipe.
- Raspberry and Lemon Scones from Two Peas & Their Pod Cookbook: Favorite Everyday Recipes (similar recipe: Raspberry Almond Scones). Scones are the quintessential tea party treat, and thankfully, are as easy as biscuits to make!
- Chef John’s Scones – If you’re not familiar with currants, they’re similar to raisins and can be ordered from Vitacost.com.
- Homemade Clotted Cream – This oh-so-British recipe makes a rich, butter-like condiment for spreading on those decadent scones! Make it the day before as it takes several hours to bake and must be refrigerated overnight.
- Spinach Quiche – A classic French recipe, this quiche is an ideal combination of pie and egg casserole. It can be made the day before; the recipe includes instructions for reheating it, which takes about 35-45 minutes.
3. Choose Teas.
I like to keep it simple (and caffeine-free) for the kiddos:
- Tazo Calm Chamomile
- Celestial Seasonings Chamomile
- Traditional Medicinals Echinacea Plus (with Elderberry)
Add a little lemon juice and a drizzle of honey, stir well, and you’re ready to sip tea while enjoying some beautiful poetry!
4. Add a simple structure to the Poetry Teatime.
- Poem selection: Lay out the poetry books, and tell each child to choose a poem to read to the group. Go around the table, allowing each child to read their selected poem, being sure to read the title and author before beginning the poem. Remind them to enunciate words, and encourage them to find the proper syncopation, if possible. Older children can help the younger ones pronounce new words. Continue taking turns until several poems have been read or interest wanes.
- Discussion: Ask children why they selected each poem and which was their favorite. Point out the style and tone that particular authors gravitate toward. Look for rhyming patterns, line syllable and stanza counts, and emphatic variations in structure. Inquire as to what they believe the meaning of the poem is and if there are any lessons to be learned from it.
- Memories: Enjoy the snacks and tea while listening to your family (and maybe even friends) read a varied selection of poems! Remember to take pictures so those precious memories will last forever.
5. Consider other Teatime Tips.
- Schedule your tea time for no more than an hour. Both brunch teas and afternoon teas work equally well.
- Check out the Spotify playlist titled “English Tea Party” for some nice instrumental background music to set the mood.
- You may want to read a funny or unique poem as an ice breaker. Consider “The Duck and the Kangaroo” by Edward Lear for an outlandish dialogue of a wildlife tale.
- If you want to work on poetry memorization, watch the video by IEW Founder Andrew Pudewa on How to Memorize Poems.
- Ask the children to recite any poems they already have memorized.
- Get the students involved in setting the table and cleanup so that they can feel the full appreciation of the event! You can even recommend that they dress up a bit and encourage them to practice their best etiquette during your Poetry Teatime.
Sommer Morris has written hundreds of articles on a variety of topics as a communications professional. But as a homeschooling parent, she is passionate about mentoring, sharing novel ideas, finding the next adventure, and adding a bit of comic relief to spice up life! You can connect with her at simplyinthecity.com.
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