Young boys, Matt Whitling points out, often associate poetry with sappy rhymes about flowers and pigtails. He provides a particularly offensive example by Edgar Guest entitled Little Girls are Best that is actually more creepy than sentimental. What if boys were given good poetry about knights and dragons to read instead? The rest of Poetry Primer is more or less an answer to that question.
Not that only boys will benefit from this text; the poems discussed are simply good poems, not just good poems for boys. In the first lesson Whitling defines poetry as "a language of pictures and music." While in the world of literary criticism this definition is woefully inadequate, for the 4th-7th graders Poetry Primer is aimed at it is sufficient. Seventeen lessons cover the basics of poetry, wrapped up at the end with a comprehensive exam.
Students are introduced to tropes (figures of speech, poetic devices), rhyme scheme and meter. A variety of written exercises at the end of each lesson cement information and give kids a chance to write their own metaphors and lines.
While students will write some poetry of their own, the exercises are intended rather to illustrate important points than to create a bunch of little poets. A brief anthology of poems is included in the back of the book; many are used in conjunction with the text.
There is an accompanying teacher's edition providing answers to all objective exercise questions. No supplementary notes, lesson plans, etc. are included. While the teacher's edition can help streamline the grading process, it isn't necessary. However, for exercises requiring students to scan lines the answers can be very helpful as this isn't a commonly taught skill.
This is an excellent introduction to reading and understanding poetry for elementary students. It is clear and while it does use technical language the author is careful to explain it thoroughly and plainly with plenty of examples. It doesn't have to be a teacher-intensive course, either (though the more interaction/support you can provide the better). Whether your student loves poetry already or can't stand the sight of metered lines, this is a great place to start them on the road to independent analysis.