Let students experience the wild world around us through poetry!
As educators, we know that students love nature! Learning about the environment allows students to build a connection with the natural world. As they do this, they'll learn key reading comprehension skills to help them analyze poetry.
These six poems for grades 3-5 teach students how to ask big questions about the natural world.
"One of a Kind" by J. Patrick Lewis (3rd Grade)
In this poem, the speaker describes a turtle that believes it has seen everything. The Sky drops a single, meaningful, snowflake down to the turtle. This is a great poem for teaching theme because the turtle's experience shows that there is always something new to see and learn.
After students read this poem they can watch the video "How Snowflakes Form" from the Related Media tab. Ask your students to discuss how the idea that every snowflake is different furthers the theme of the poem. Why does the snowflake prove that the turtle cannot ever truly see it all?
"Tsunami" by JonArno Lawson (3rd Grade)
This beautiful poem describes the contrast of the silent, and sometimes unpredicted, approach of a tsunami with its unstoppable, destructive force.
Have students read the poem multiple times. This will reinforce the layered meanings and experiences of poetry.
"Mountains" by Rukiye Henderson (4th Grade)
In this awe-inspiring poem, the speaker describes the feeling of being surrounded by mountains on a hike. The evocative imagery helps the reader understand the enormous size and beauty of the mountains.
As students read, have them follow the annotation task, which asks them to take notes on how the speaker feels about nature. Then, have students use their notes to discuss how the speaker’s use of imagery conveys the poem’s message.
"A Jelly-Fish" by Marianne Moore (4th Grade)
In this expressive poem, a speaker watches a jellyfish float through the water. The use of imagery makes the jellyfish come alive to the reader. Poems about nature can establish your unit about the mysteries of the outside world.
Teachers can pair this lesson with a Ted Ed video from the Related Media tab titled, "How does a jellyfish sting?" This video provides students with additional information about jellyfish and how they defend themselves. After students watch the video they can discuss what might have happened if the speaker had been successful in touching the jellyfish and why it is best not to touch wild animals in nature.
"April” by Bobbi Katz (4th Grade)
In this poem, the speaker describes what the world looks like during spring. The descriptive imagery in this poem helps students place themselves in the fresh and new world of springtime in April. This is a great text for a unit about the wonder of nature.
After reading, have students share some of their favorite experiences in nature. Ask Discussion Question 2: “How can simple experiences bring people joy?” Students can cite the text, their own experiences, or other media to emphasize their points.
"Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost (5th Grade)
In this beautiful poem, a crow shakes snow from a tree onto the speaker, which improves the speaker’s mood. This poem captures a simple but significant moment in nature. Students will relate to the narrator’s realization that the natural world provides joy.
After reading, teachers can assign a Paired Text, prompting key discussion questions that vary from “Do people have control over their own happiness?” to “Do each of the speakers associate more negative or positive feelings with winter?” Ask students to cite evidence from the text to support their answers.
When shaping a thematic unit on the environment, you can do a filtered search in the CommonLit library for the theme human vs. nature.
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