I frequently try to weigh up the benefits of providing material for a class and getting them involved. My choice or theirs? When it comes to choosing poems to read aloud, I know that I have in mind a variety of poems that I want children to experience. I want to introduce them to things they may not think of themselves in terms of ideas and style. I may have future writing projects in mind. On the other hand, my choices are always set within the bounds of my preferences and experience. When children choose poems to be read aloud, I have the chance to look at poetry from a different angle. I do believe I have a responsibility as a teacher both to draw on my knowledge and experience and to nurture the community of writers and readers with whom I am working. I learn from them.
One way of approaching this is to have a poetry jar. You need a narrow, open-topped container -a jar or pot or tin or box; strips of card; a collection of poetry books. Children have the chance to choose poems that they would like to be read aloud. They write the name of the poem, the title of the book where it can be found, and the page number. The strips are put in the jar. Each day a strip is picked from the pot and the poem found and read aloud. You can decide together whether you will remove the strip or put it back in the pot so it is there for a second reading.
You can decide whether or not children may write more than one strip. Some children really love poems and may have plenty of ideas for readings, You can write on some of the strips yourself, so that your choices are there too. Once you have got the idea going, you can invent many different ways of organising the pot. You might decide to look for poems on a theme, or very short poems, or poems that cry out for performance. The poetry jar can really involve everyone..