I decided to take on a poetry project with my students. I was inspired by Poetry 180, a program established by Billy Collins while he was the Poet Laureate of the United States. He deliberately chose poems with high school students in mind. I have kept some of those poems to read to my elementary school students. I have not considered any poems that seemed inappropriate to be read to a ten-year-old. Thus, many of the poems that deal with romantic relationships, which are apropos for high school students, just wouldn't interest fifth graders, or would embarrass them. But, generally, I've been much influenced by the choices that Billy Collins made. I've steered away from poems that seem too old-fashioned, definitely dipping often from the modern era. And I've chosen mostly free verse. I want to broaden what students think of poetry, and steer them away from some of the sing-songy rhymed poems that are frequently aimed at them.
I also discovered another teacher had a similar idea for middle school students. Tom Darling has a poetry blog called Middle School Poetry 180. I have borrowed liberally as well from the poems he has posted on his blog.
I have a number of poetry books as well, and I have been finding delightful poems there as well to share with my students.
I would welcome suggestions from anyone who is interested in poetry. Feel free to contact me about poems you think every fifth grade student should know before they go off to middle school. And if you're a teacher, I'd be interested in hearing any stories you have about sharing poems with your students.
In the meantime, I hope the poems I have listed and linked here as Elementary School Poetry 180 will inspire teachers and school administrators to share poems with their students, and with students to read poems as well, in school and out.
Update: In the 2010-2011 school year, I only made it to forty poems before I ran out of steam. This summer, for the 2011-2012 school year, I have already prepared up to fifty poems to share with my students. I'm hoping to keep adding poems as the school year begins. I may not make it all the way to 180, but I should be able to do ninety.