April = National Poetry Month

Of course we should fold in some extra poetry lessons in April, but who has the time? With state testing and AP exam prep, this month is a bullet train, whipping by with scary speed. But what if we slowed that roll just a bit? April’s also supposed to bring to mind warmth and new growth, the perfect time to dig some rhyme. I know we all have a lot to do, but here are a few easy options to help us celebrate National Poetry Month in our classrooms.

5 Painless Ways to Add Some Poetic Goodness to Your Class:

1. Post a fresh poem each day on your classroom door, white board space, or projector as kids enter the room. You can visit Poem-A-Day at Poets.org to grab tasty morsels or assign this task to a trustworthy student. Ask students to bring in a favorite poem to possibly be posted in your classroom and maybe even give a bonus point to anyone whose poem makes it to the board.

2. Share a favorite poem with your students (if you can deliver it from memory, even better) and then invite two or three volunteers to also share a poem each week. I have my kids present on Fridays before our SSR reading sessions and give a bonus point to each volunteer’s Quarter Trio team.

To inspire your kids, follow up your poem on the next day with this drop of sweetness from Sarah Kay:

Or this drop of inspiration from Suli Breaks:

Or this drop of awesome from Lin-Manuel Miranda:

Be sure to turn on YouTube’s closed captioning option when viewing, which’ll help kids connect even more deeply with these works.

3. Play the Pieces & Parts Poetry Game (a.k.a. Frankenstein Poetry)
Here’s how it works: Give every student three Post-It notes. On one of the sticky notes, ask students to write a noun. On the next, an action verb. On the final one, an adjective. Then, have students post their notes on your white board, grouped by part of speech. If you have a large class, you might want to have two or three separate posting areas in the room to allow students to spread out a bit.

Once all of the words are posted, assign teams of two/three students to work together to construct a poem using only nouns, action verbs, and adjectives from the sticky notes. They may add other words (articles, adverbs, “to be” verbs, etc.) to allow their poem to flow smoothly, but the only nouns, action verbs, and adjectives allowed must come from the sticky notes.

In one variation, students are allowed to choose from any of the words on the posted notes. In another variation, you choose the sticky notes to give to each team. Yet another even-tougher option is for you to choose ten nouns, ten verbs, and ten adjectives total; then, every team must stick to only those words. You can be as loose or as rigid with the poetic form as you want, giving free reign in terms of length and structure or requiring a perfect little haiku. The choice will probably depend on how much time you have available for this task.

Once the poems are written, have each team project their poem for the class to read while one member performs it aloud for their classmates. You could have students vote for the best one at the end of the performances, though that’s usually not necessary to ensure a good time with this high-energy lesson.

4. Host a creative writing day (or two?) with any/all of these activities, including:
• Blackout Poetry
• Paint Chip Poetry
• Reversal Poetry
• Acrostic Poetry
• Roll of the Dice Poetry
In this earlier blog post, I show you exactly what you need for each activity, including free printable instruction sheets. Just click here to grab these Five Ready-to-Use Poetry Activities.

Finally, I’m compelled to mention my own four-week poetry unit
that engages even the most resistant poetry haters. It’s one of the most popular items in my shop:Nice, right?
The poetry unit, which can be used as-is with one class or easily broken into separate lessons to use with different classes, includes:
• A suggested day-by-day lesson calendar.
• How to Read a Poem introductory lecture with guided notes handout to provide structure, strategy, and a reference guide for students as they work through all of the poems in the unit.
• Know the Lingo poetic terminology grid/matching game activity to help students quickly review poetry terms they already know and learn some they might not already know.
• Pop Music/Classical Poetry compare/contrast activity where students deconstruct two songs they enjoy (“Stereo Hearts” by Gym Class Heroes and “Breakeven” by The Script) and compare them with classic poems that use the same themes and structures.
• Close reading/poetry dissection activity to use with William Shakespeare’s classic poem, “The Seven Ages of Man.”
• Dynamic lecture to teach Shakespeare’s poetic sonnet structure and iambic pentameter.
• Write Your Own Shakespearean Sonnet activity with modern topic assignment slips.
• Close reading/poetry dissection activity to use with Robert Herrick’s classic poem, “To the Virgins to Make Much of Time (Gather Ye Rosebuds).”
• Close reading/poetry dissection activity to use with Walt Whitman’s classic poem, “O Me! O Life!” This lesson also includes a compelling non-fiction and media criticism activity.
• Poetry Cafe: A Spoken Word Experience activity plan, which includes detailed instructions on how to host your own student-led poetry reading, two examples of modern spoken word poets in action (different than the Kay, Breaks, and Miranda pieces above) and a student assignment sheet.
• Close reading/poetry dissection activity to use with Walt Whitman’s classic poem, “O Captain! My Captain!”
• How to Haiku student worksheet with haiku examples and visual inspiration to encourage students to write their own haiku poems.
• Close reading/poetry dissection activity to use with Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem, “The Raven.” This lesson includes dynamic, multimedia lecture materials and a Faux Poe worksheet/creative writing assignment.
• Compare/Contrast activity of two poems written about Helen of Troy.
• Acrostic poetry handout with advanced examples and a student writing challenge featuring four different teacher-choice options.
• Blackout Poetry (also known as Found Poetry) lecture and hands-on activity.
• End-of-unit exam, including 18 matching questions, 6 multiple choice, and 6 short answer questions calling on students to analyze two poems they have not previously seen in the unit. Includes detailed answer key.

You can learn more about this unit, which includes 58 pages and 147 slides, by clicking here.

Hope some of these ideas will find a place in your classroom. Get some poetry on, everyone!

11 thoughts on “April = National Poetry Month

  1. I’m finishing a Poetry March Madness bracket. Our anthology had a crazy number of poems together, and we just got off the hype of the Boys’ Hockey Tournament Brackets. (Honestly, no one care much about college basketball here.). Using Google forms and “expert opinions,” we have match ups. Tomorrow is the final four… Robert Frost has 3 of the 4. Emily Dickinson has the last one.

  2. Ivy Byron says:

    Were you spying on me today? 😉 I just made copies of your poetry unit (so excited to do it for the 2nd time!) and I’m planning on doing poetry stations. THEN I open my email to find this timely post? Lucky me! Bring on April & let’s read/write/recite some poetry!

  3. So cool, Rebekah! And, oh that Robert Frost, he’s always a ringer. Awesome job helping kids gets psyched about poetry. Loving this! 🙂

  4. ‘Tis the season for poetic goodness, Ivy! So glad we’re on the same page. (Oh! See what I did there?) 🙂

  5. Thank you for your amazing poetry unit!! I purchased it last year to use with my 9th graders, and we all loved it! I’ve raved about your products to all of my colleagues. I’m also a 10th grade English teacher, and I was wondering if you were planning on creating a Four Week Poerty Unit vol. 2 in the future? Goodness knows that we have so much on our plates as it is, but I figure it never hurts to ask 🙂

  6. Thanks for this post–reminds me to get out my magnetic poetry words and put on the whiteboard. Kids write poems and sometimes we have an ongoing poem that changes as the day goes on. I just have to watch for pranksters who think it’s funny to put certain words together for a laugh!

  7. Awesome, Dani! So glad you’ve enjoyed the materials with your classes. Yea! For now, I have a bunch of other projects on my to-do list, so I’m doubtful I’ll be able to circle back around for another full poetry unit anytime soon. Sorry about that – time is just not my friend these days. Oh…

    Rho, love that magnetic poetry idea, though I’d definitely have to heavily edit any of the blocks up on my board. Some of my boys are incredibly…um…inventive in turning anything (everything!) into something inappropriate. Just last week, my sophomores were learning vocab. and “gall” was one of our words. One of my boys blurts out, “Look at the galls on that kid.” Uh, no…that’s not right on so many levels. #facepalm

  8. Mary OConnell says:

    Laura: Just wanted to thank you for all of your help this school year. Coincidentally, I am starting my Poetry Unit and – Eureka! – there is a post from you about Poetry Month. You are an amazing educator who I admire and envy!! I hope you get the chance to relax during summer break! Thanks again! 🙂

  9. Perfect timing, Mary! I love that we’re moving into April with the same plan. And thanks for your kind note. “Relaxing” is definitely high on my to-do list! 🙂

  10. Love the post it idea- I’ll be using it for sure!

  11. Sweet, MamaWolfe! Glad this’ll find a place with your middle schoolers. 🙂

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