Great Poems for Teaching Kids About Poetry

Oh, the best laid plans…I was really hoping Poems for Kids: Over 600 Poems for Teaching Poetry Terms & Poetic Devices to Children in Grades 3-6 was going to be published in March just before National Poetry Month in April, but sometimes projects just take a little bit longer than expected. It’s now June, and the school year is over, but happily, Poems for Kids is finally out and available on Amazon.

Some people collect shells, or stamps, or art, but I’m a long-time collector of poems, especially ones from vintage children’s poetry books. Since about 2012, I’ve actively been collecting exemplar poems for teaching poetry terms and poetic devices, and every year or so, I’ve added a dozen or more of the best poems to the growing collection.

My feeling is, if you’re teaching poetry, you need poems, lots and lots of good ones to SHOW kids examples of poems with similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, and so on.

I think you just can’t have too many exemplar poems…which is why this children’s poetry anthology has grown to more than 600 poems and over 370 pages! I figure teachers know their students best and if there isn’t time for them all, then it’s always nice to have a choice.

Choosing the best poems for teachers & kids

Teaching poetry in the elementary grades can be intimidating for some teachers, so I’ve selected very accessible and relatable poems. I personally don’t think an elementary introduction to poetry should take itself too seriously. Kids can learn a lot about the elements of poetry and still have plenty of fun at the same time.

Most poems in this collection are short or “shortish” which makes them ideal for teaching mini-lessons. I included a title index, first lines index, and author index in the back of the anthology to make finding poems easier. Did I mention there are over 600 poems?

The poems are also very child-friendly because I want kids to love poetry. I hope kids will enjoy marinating in the rich vocabulary and figurative language of poetry.

I also included plenty of simple picture support, because it improves reading comprehension in all children, but especially English language learners. Figurative language is particularly tricky for new speakers of English.

Okay, but what about classic poems for kids?

I have included some “adult poems” by Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg and several others, but it’s really more of a classic poetry appetizer plate, rather than a full-course meal. I’ll leave the really intensive study of classic poetry to high school English teachers.

This children’s poetry anthology is meant to provide a painless and hopefully enjoyable introduction to the elements of poetry. As kids read many poetry examples from a wide variety of poet voices, they will be much more more likely to want to write their own poems. I’m all for building poetry confidence!

Poems for Kids is a teaching anthology organized by poetry terms and poetic devices

I prefer to teach by example, so let me share a few of the poetry exemplars from the anthology used to teach poetry terms and poetic devices:

Alliteration Example: “The Pirate’s Parrot” by Unknown

Alliteration is the repeated beginning sound (not alphabet letter) of words that are close together.

In the poem, “The Pirate’s Parrot,” there are four different alliterative sounds in the poem:

  • p-pirate’s parrot
  • s-sail seven seas
  • b-bird both brave bold
  • h-his hoard

Some poems with alliteration can be tongue twisters, but as this one shows, alliteration is sometimes used simply to make language much more memorable!

alliteration example

Assonance Example: “Moses” by Unknown

Assonance is the repetition of long or short vowel sounds (a, e, i, o, u) that are close together.

Helpful tip: The word assonance starts with the letter a (a vowel).

In the poem, “Moses,” the inner long o vowel sound is repeated many times within words of the poem.

assonance example

Consonance Example: “Old Man Pelican” by Elizabeth Gordon 

In contrast to assonance, which focuses on vowel sounds, consonance is the repetition of mostly inner and ending consonant sounds that are close together.

Remember: If a letter isn’t a vowel (a, e, i, o, u), it’s a consonant.

Helpful tip: The word consonance starts with a letter c (a consonant).

In the poem, “Old Man Pelican,” the inner and ending consonant sounds repeated in the poem are:

  • l-old, Pelican
  • m-famous, fisherman
  • t-not, wet, feet

consonance example

Internal Rhyme Example: “Jack and Jill” -Traditional Nursery Rhyme

Internal rhyme occurs when there is more than one rhyming word inside a single line.

In the nursery rhyme, “Jack and Jill,” the examples of internal rhyme are:

  • Jill/hill
  • down/crown

I intentionally included Mother Goose nursery rhymes whenever possible, because kids have often had exposure to them.

With some targeted teaching, kids will gain a whole new perspective as they begin to recognize rhyming couplets, eye rhyme, internal rhyme, near rhyme, anaphora, and other poetry devices “hidden” within these very familiar poems.

example of internal rhyme

Near Rhyme Example: “Hope” by Emily Dickinson

Near rhyme is also called slant rhyme, approximate rhyme, half-rhyme, imperfect rhyme, and more. Poems with near rhymes contain word pairs that are close to a perfect rhyme…but just not quite.

American poet, Emily Dickinson, is well-known for her use of slant rhyme (near rhyme).

In the poem, “Hope,” the words soul/all are examples of slant rhyme (near rhyme).

example of slant rhyme

Hyperbole Example: “Summer” by Ralph Bergengren

Hyperbole is the use of extreme exaggeration.

In the poem, “Summer,” the poetry line, “You smell a million, million flowers,” is an example of hyperbole.

Could you really smell a million flowers, or are you exaggerating?

hyperbole example

Simile Example: “Oh, Look at the Moon” by Eliza Lee Follen

Similes compare two unlike things using the words like or as. Check out my blog post, “So…what are similes?” for even more simile examples.

In the poem, “Oh, Look at the Moon,” the moon is compared to a lamp, a bow, and an alphabet letter O.

I particularly like this exemplar poem because it contains three similes–two using the word like and one using as:

  • like a lamp in the air
  • shaped like a bow
  • round as an O

simile example

Metaphor Example: “A Modern Dragon” by Rowena Bastin Bennett

A metaphor says or implies that one thing IS something else. It doesn’t use the words like or as the way a simile does.

Unlike a simile, an entire poem can be a metaphor.

In the poem, “A Modern Dragon,” the poem says that a train is a dragon with a tail and a yellow eye that makes the earth tremble as it rushes by.

Metaphors allow us to see things in new ways. I’ve never thought of a train as a dragon before, but it’s so descriptive and creates some wonderful visual imagery.

metaphor example

Personification Example: “Early” by Dorothy Aldis

Personification humanizes non-human things and concepts.

In the poem, “Early,” flowers waited in their places for the sun to dry their faces. Notice the very human words used to describe the non-human flowers and sun.

These non-humans are being personified through human word choice. Personification is another type of figurative language that makes writing more descriptive and vivid.

Check out in my blog post,  So…what is personification? for even more personification examples.

personification example

Anaphora Example: “This Little Piggie,” -Traditional Nursery Rhyme

Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of verses, clauses or paragraphs. It’s used to show emphasis.

In this familiar nursery rhyme, the phrase, This little piggie repeated at the beginning of each line is an example of anaphora.

example of anaphora

Fable Example: “The Tortoise and the Hare,” by Lorrie L. Birchall

A fable poem is a story poem that is meant to teach a moral lesson and is often based on Aesop’s Fables. I chose to write my fable poem in a limerick rhyme scheme.

Fables don’t all share the same moral at the end. The Tortoise and the Hare sometimes offers the moral, “Slow and steady wins the race,” but I prefer “Talent doesn’t guarantee outcome.” It’s not unusual for the same fable story in different books to provide different moral lessons.

fable example

poems for kids
Poems for Kids: Over 600 Poems for Teaching poetry terms & poetic devices to children in grades 3-6

Available as:


Please follow and like us: