Rejoice! It’s National Poetry Month

Cultivate an interest and enjoyment for poetry in your classroom and school-wide!

By Andrea Ferrero

open book

Celebrating its sweet sixteen, National Poetry Month will be observed throughout the month of April. Established by the Academy of American Poets, the annual event presents an opportunity for writers, readers, libraries, schools, publishers, literary organizations, and others to honor the important place poetry holds in our literature and culture.

 “Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before,” Audre Lorde.

Inspiring and intriguing, the art and science of poetry can be explained in a hundred different ways. Each definition unfurls a new perspective and road to expression. Through these lenses, we can develop a great appreciation and understanding for the many forms poems take.

Bringing Out Everyone’s Inner Poet

Spoken-word poet, Sarah Kay, opens the doors to the world of poetry in her TED talk, filmed in 2011. While the talk is more appropriate as inspiration to teachers and older learners, it unveils a beautiful way to encourage even the most hesitant of future poets to dive into the art form by writing lists. Lists offer a non-threatening and simple way to brainstorm and engage in the initial crafting steps of creating a poem. Possible list ideas or assignments could include:

  • 5 things about myself
  • 10 ways to enjoy life
  • The best ways to use an I-pad
  • 10 things I wish knew
  • My classroom by sense (smell, sight, taste, touch, sound)

School-Wide Celebration Ideas

There are as many ways to celebrate National Poetry Month as there are words to create poems honoring it. Oftentimes, local libraries and booksellers will provide education outreach events and resources to local schools. The occasion provides an excellent time to create school-wide events and annual traditions.

  • Class poems: Each classroom can create a giant poem representing their room. With each piece, class members can describe their class culture, learning goals, achievements, common experiences, or even messages to the younger grades. These poems could be done in a grade level or school-wide set form (acrostic, haiku, ABC, blank verse and more) or given free reign.
  • Wordsmith bee: Using the format of a typical spelling bee, challenge participants to provide definitions or synonyms for the word rather than spelling it.
  • Hallways of poetry: Create a literature-rich environment by giving budding artists the chance to choose a background image on which to place a full poem or particularly poignant line of poetry. This can be done using numerous software programs such as Word, Photoshop, or Google docs. The finished products can be printed and displayed around the school.
  • A poem a day: Sharing a poem during morning announcements each day is a great way to provide exposure to a rich diversity of writing. Funny poems can also be used for daily oral language activities. My 5th graders giggled as they “repaired” my re-typed versions of Shel Silverstein’s work, carefully adding proper punctuation and spelling.

Explore the world of poetry with these engaging lessons:

Poetry Immersion

Developed for early childhood learners, this poetry unit introduction features a variety of poetry exposure centers. Through their time at each of the nine engaging and interactive centers (listening, reading, visualizing, listing, and more) kindergartners and first graders are able to experience the fun and joy of listening, reading, and creating poems.

Stage a Poetry Slam

Why not involve the whole learning community in the joy of poetry? Setting up a poetry slam never seemed easier when following this guide to successful implementation. Links to additional resources and assessments are included.

Everyone Can Write Poetry

Introducing 5th graders to a unit on poetry, the lesson provides step-by-step points to be shared in order to build anticipation and excitement. Although brief, it ends with a great activity in which groups craft a list of reasons why they cannot write a poem. After they have completed their reasons, they reflect on the fact that they have just begun their very first piece.