7 Great Classroom Activities for National Poetry Month
April is National Poetry Month, and we have some great ideas to help your students have fun learning about and writing poetry!
Research shows that songs, nursery rhymes, and books with rhyming text are powerful tools for preparing young learners to start reading. Poetry can also help older students understand the beauty, rhythm, and descriptive qualities of language as well as a host of other concepts such as word choice, structure, and symbolism.
Best of all, bringing poetry into the classroom can be a lot of fun. It can be as simple as starting each day with a poem or having students create short rhymes of their own. Here are a few easy ways to get the whole class reading and writing poetry.
1. Start each day with a poem.
Begin each class day with a poem. Or set aside a time when you have your students' attention to share a poem with them, such as right before or after lunch. Consider choosing a theme of the month for the poems you choose. Your theme may focus on a topic your students are learning about—such as seasons, nature, or colors—or you could focus on a specific author such as Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, Jack Prelutsky, or Francisco X. Alarcón.
For older students, you might choose a type of poetry to highlight each month. Read an example of that type of poem and discuss its characteristics at the beginning of each day. For example, you could talk about what makes a haiku a haiku or discuss the word choices and message of a lyrical or narrative poem.
2. Choose a poem of the week.
Instead of reading a poem each day, choose just one poem for the week. Make a copy of the poem and hang it somewhere in the classroom where all your students can see it. Every morning, recite the poem as a class. Challenge your students to memorize one of the weekly poems by the end of each month.
3. Use poems to teach new concepts.
To help younger students understand the concept of rhyme, choose a word family that they’re learning (-at words, -un words, or -on words, for example). Share a poem or book that emphasizes the relationships between the words in that word family, and then have your students make a list of rhyming words they heard as you read.
Help older elementary-school students understand narration and the art of storytelling by sharing longer poems that tell an entire story, like Vera B. Williams’s Amber Was Brave; Essie Was Smart, Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog, or Casey at Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer. You might consider teaching poetry novels to your older students, such as Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust, Lisa Schroeder’s Far from You, and Tracie Vaughn Zimmer’s 42 Miles.
4. Write poems.
Of course, one of the best ways for kids to learn about poetry is by creating their own original poems. This can be a lot of fun, and you might even be surprised by how easily even your youngest students can create their own poems. For younger students, have each child create simple acrostics or shape poems. You can even have them rewrite their favorite nursery rhymes with different endings, characters, or storylines.
For older students, teach the basic format and rules of shorter poems like limericks, haiku, or couplets. Then have students create their own poems and share them with the rest of the class. Collect students' poems throughout the year and students will end up with their own anthologies.
5. Invite local poets to your classroom to share their poems.
Do some research to see if you have any local poets in your town or area who would be interested in visiting your class and sharing their poems and the why and how behind their writing. Ask parents and teachers in your school if they have any contacts with poets. You can even Skype or FaceTime with a poet who doesn't live in your vicinity.
6. Have students give an oral report on the poet of their choice.
Older students can do a little research on a poet, read a collection of their poems, compare and contrast their different writings, and even give a report to the class on their poet. Students could dress up like their poet and recite some of the poet's work.
7. Organize a field trip to a local nursing home and have students read poems to the elderly.
Combining learning with service creates an incredible opportunity for students to grow. Contact a local nursing home and see if you can visit with your students to share their own poems they've written or other poems they've studied. You might even ask members of the audience to share favorite poems as well. This could be an ongoing connection with repeat visits as the students learn different units of study.
If you're looking for good poetry books to share with your class, check out our list of poetry books for Pre-K through sixth graders.