Tag Archives: poetry

Our Fifth Grade Curriculum: Spanish , History, Poetry, and Music

I’ve provided links to what texts we use.  Most of the links are from Amazon because that’s where I find the most reviews to read from other people.  I like to read reviews.  That does not mean I bought it from Amazon, though.  I don’t get any money from Amazon or anything affiliated with any of these texts.  I am more than happy to answer any questions anyone may have about any of these texts or what we do in general!


Spanish text we picked upWe continue to have the gift of a great, steady native speaking tutor who comes to our home twice a week.  She follows an old textbook that someone gave to me a couple of years ago.  Just something I picked up along the way that seems to work.  It moves a little fast over some topics, so we supplement with exercises from several Practice Makes Perfect workbooks I picked up at Barnes and Nobles and Amazon in the past.  Our goal has Practice makes perfect textbeen to transition to thinking and speaking in Spanish during class time, but it is painful coming.  One day at a time.  My daughter’s verbal comprehension is good, and the teacher speaks in Spanish for the class.  Moving through the book and worksheets is also par on course.  It is simply the speaking application which stalls, although I know this is quite normal.  Besides our formal lessons, we have  a wonderful college student who watches the girls when she can; she is also a native Spanish speaker and tries to speak only in Spanish to them.  Both our tutor and babysitter are great people whom we consider our friends.

I have lots of Spanish resources in my home that we rotate through.  This year Spanish, like most everything else in our home, was streamlined secondary to the birth of our final baby.  If you’re working Spanish into your curriculum, you may want to check out my other homeschooling posts on this topic.  Or ask me in the comments if that’s easier.

History and Geography

Story of the WorldStory of the World by Susan Bauer continues to be our “spine.”  Actually both of my girls completely read the assigned material on their own.  They enjoy reading it and move quickly through the assigned reading.  I supplemented this year with lots Gilgamesh the Heroof documentaries appropriate to the sections they were reading.  Some of the documentaries were a bit sketchy, and some were top notch.  In addition, we supplemented with audio tapes, like The Iliad, and books, like Gilgamesh the Hero and Greek Myths from Usborne.  History is such a fun, easy topic to teach.  Actually, by now, I teach little.

Geography is taught alongside history.  As the history book circles around to the same areas for different cultures, it is easy to hash and rehash geography so it sticks.  As we rehash the geography, I also take time to ask them what other named cultures existed in the same region.


This year, we took time to simply review all the old poems we have memorized.  I wanted to expand the poetry curriculum teaching poetrybeyond simple recitation by either learning about some poets and their poems or learning about poetry styles.  I probably just didn’t have time, but I couldn’t find a poetry text which satisfied what I was looking for.  I settled on Teaching Poetry:  Yes You Can! (Jacqueline Sweeeney) and Read and Understand Poetry, Grades 5-6.

read and understand poetryTeaching Poetry:  Yes You Can! is a fairly brief paperback text which unintentionally mirrors our writing program excellently (Institute for Excellence in Writing)!  Topics hit on include similes, imagery, strong verbs, nouns and adjectives, onomatopoeia, refrain and echo, choosing titles,and structure.  The author walks the teacher through how she teaches poetry, even going as far as to provide some scripting for you.  I like it and think it’s a great little find, but if you’re looking for a student-led poetry text, this is not it.  (I was kind of looking for a student-led text this year.)  If you want your kids to view poetry as an expression of self, this is your book.  If you want your kids to learn how to best make poetry express themselves in a memorable fashion, this is your book.  The author also provides lots of examples of student-written poetry to illustrate how to incorporate her topics into writing poetry.

Read and Understand Poetry, Grades 5-6 is organized by poetic themes, rather than topics to learn in poetry.  I was looking for something more structured along the lines of “Meter–what is meter?”; “Rhyming patters–what are the types of rhyming patterns?”; “Form–what is form?”; and so on.  This book hits on that, but not in a logical, sequential fashion like I wanted.  Instead, the book presents poems based around a theme, and then tells about the features used in that particular poem.  Nice, but not what I was looking for.  (At the end of the book, there is a little summary of terms, but still not what I was looking for.)  My kids actually like the book, and we will keep working through it slowly through next year.  My fifth grader felt it was just at the right level for her, and I’d have to agree.  I would stick with the recommended grade levels.  The book uses multiple choice questions and also open-ended questions to “test” understanding.  At the end there is a glossary of terms and poets.  This book is very much like what I would have used in my public school education (although now it meets the beautiful, magnificent, sure-to-make-our-kids-smarter requirements of Common Core–don’t we all feel better?).


Violin was a new endeavor, and my daughter loved it.  She has lessons once a week.  They’re loosely Suzuki method.  She continues to dabble in piano on her own, moving forward in spurts.  Last year we used piano theory books, and I liked them a lot.  But this year, although we still have them, I didn’t make time for them.  They got a little advanced for me, and so I need to find the answers or someone who can tell me the answers!  My daughter is also playing guitar now this summer.  It really all just sounds so beautiful.  I’m so lucky to have such music in my life.


We kept it narrowed down to dance, ballet and tap dancing.  And of course the music lessons.


That’s about it for our fifth grade curriculum!  This was the year where independence took off!  It was refreshing for me!  Take care and may your homeschooling endeavors flourish!


Our Poetry Collection

We do a lot of poetry reading and reciting in our homeschool.  Never underestimate the power of a poem!  Its utility spans grammar, phonics, vocabulary, art, and imagination.  Memorize the poem to stretch the neuronal pathways of the frontal lobe and provide beautiful phrases to bring to mind in life’s times of beauty, pain, love, or sadness.  Copy the poem and find long E phonics patterns.  Discuss the usage of commas, colons, and hyphens.  Find exceptional vocabulary used in context.  Illustrate the poem.  Just enjoy the poem’s words flowing around the recesses of you mind.

I have purchased some poetry collections, and I want to give a brief review of them in case others are interested in acquiring poetry material for their homes and children.

wpid-IMAG1519-1.jpgThe Barefoot Book of Classic Poems compiled and illustrated by Jackie Morris is a favorite in our collection.  The poetry selections contains all the classics you remember enjoying, from Shakespeare to Hughes, and the watercolors evoke as much emotion as the poem on the page.  Just leave this book around on the living room footstool, and it is sure to draw some human spirit into its bursting pages.  About 75 poems in all with accompanying illustrations for each and every poem, some magical and some natural, honest depictions.  This book is worth buying to keep in your library.  The poems are diverse, and they are NOT all geared for children, thus the attraction of the book for me.  It is not a book that will be outgrown.  My children and I will always be able to come back to it to find something to mull on.  See on Amazon.

wpid-IMAG0563-1.jpgWhere the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein delights my children and I to no end.  His simple drawings paired with his poems are genius and never fail to bring a smile, except on the serious ones, which may bring a sad little smirk.  Really, his work is amazing.  No childhood is complete without hearing Shel Silverstein read aloud.  We also have A light in the Attic, but we like Where the Sidewalk Ends best.  See on Amazon.

The Best of James Whitcomb Riley: Riley, an Indiana poet, helps me share my Hoosier roots with my children. wpid-IMAG1517-1.jpg If you have any farming heritage or rural, small-town background, you’ll enjoy his poems.  He uses native dialect which sounds like our Uncle Ron, and he uses strong rural imagery which takes us to visit Papa Bear’s farm.  Riley’s poems depict common people and themes, often rural based, which tug at your heart.  “Little Orphant Annie”, “Granny” and “When the Frost is on the Punkin.”  Riley’s poems touch a string.  A simple string.  He reaches back into childhood and pulls the happy memories (of swings, stories, and watermelon) and the bittersweet memories (growing up, dying, and changing).  I would not part with my Riley collection.  His words bring smiles and tears to my eyes, and I hope my children come to love his works as I do.  A must-read to get you started on Riley is “The Bear Story.”  These are real poems, for real life, spoken on a real level.  See on Amazon.  The Amazon link is in paperback, but I much prefer the hard cover.

wpid-IMAG1520-1.jpgPoetry Speaks to Children, edited by Elise Paschen and illustrated by Judy Love, Wendy Rasmussen, Paula Zinngrabe Wendland is a pearl because it provides a CD with poems read by the poet!  The poems chosen are comprehensible to children as young as, maybe, three years old, and the illustrations are simple and straightforward, appealing also to the younger crowd.    However, there are many cultural selections and many poems of various length and depth to be enjoyed by all ages, and the fact that you can actually hear the author’s own reading of the poem makes this book and CD appeal to all ages.  The CD has some background noise on older readings and some of the readers’ voices aren’t clear, but hearing the writer’s own vocal interpretation is stirring.  There are 95 poems, and 51 of them are read.  The book is not physically beautiful, but here is the perfect example of, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

wpid-IMAG0564.jpgWhisper and Shout:  Poems to Memorize (edited by Patrice Vecchione) is a book I’d probably borrow from the library to peruse, make copies of the poems we want to memorize, and to find poets I and the kids liked.  I don’t feel this one adds much to my collection above.  There are very few pictures to draw in unsuspecting children.  Just plain black and white.  The poems are to be for memorization, but many of them are poems without rhyme scheme.  For beginners, lack of a rhyme scheme makes memorization much more challenging.  I do like that the back pages provide a paragraph or two about each authors and a couple of their works.  And the works themselves are adequate.  See on Amazon.