It’s April … and that means it’s National Poetry Month in the U.S. National Poetry Month is a celebration of poets and poetry. The Academy of American Poets started this event in 1996. Since then, it’s grown to include millions of readers … students, teachers, librarians, book sellers, poets, and more.
You and your students can celebrate National Poetry Month, too!
Why teach poetry?
This isn’t just another celebration like National Donut Day. Celebrating National Poetry Month and bringing more poetry into your classroom has big benefits for students.
Poetry helps develop language skills. Poetry relies deeply on sounds. We think first of rhyme, but poets also play with repeated vowel or consonant sounds. They use rhythm. Students can listen for these things in poems or work with them in their writing. Because poems are often concise, writers need to be particularly careful with word choice, so you may find interesting vocabulary.
Poetry nurtures creativity. Poetry makes creative use of language. Notice the ways poets play with words on the page. Have students look at the shape of poems. Concrete poems take on a shape related to their subject. Other poems use space and line length as part of the creative expression. For students used to words moving line by line, left to right across the page, this can be intriguing. And poetry is about expression. Students can explore new ways of expressing themselves.
Poetry can motivate readers. Here’s the thing: most poems are short. For readers daunted by a whole novel or even a story or a page, poetry may be less intimidating. Because poetry is often short, it’s easy to work in poetry reading during the day. And poetry lends itself to being read aloud. The sounds and the rhythms often shine during read alouds.
We sometimes have the impression that poetry is hard to understand. If we bring that attitude to the classroom, students will pick it up. If we bring a curious or joyful attitude to reading poetry, students are likely to pick that up too.
7 poetry activities for your classroom
There are lots of ways to celebrate National Poetry Month in your class. Try:
- Reading a poem aloud to start your day every day. You can find poems for kids from poets.org or at your library.
- Creating a poetry board where students can post poems they find in their reading or that they write.
- Sing poetry. Songs are poems set to music. Sing a song and then look at the lyrics. How does it sound if you read it instead of singing it?
- Fill your classroom library with poetry books for the month.
- Chalk poetry on the playground or post poems around the school.
- Have students read poems aloud to the class or in small groups.
- Have students write poetry!
Poetry writing prompts
Kids often get into writing poetry. Remind students that poems don’t have to rhyme.
Some kinds of poems, like limericks or haiku, have specific formats to follow. Before assigning a specific type of poem, read some examples of that type of poem. Write one yourself and model it for the class. Give students “the rules” to help them remember. But mostly, encourage them to get creative, to play with words, to express themselves.
- Write a haiku about nature. (Haiku have three lines with 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables.)
- Write a poem that describes your favorite place.
- Write a concrete poem about a favorite activity. (Concrete poems use a shape related to the subject.)
- Pick five words from the word wall and include them in a poem.
- Write an acrostic about spring. (In an acrostic, each line starts with the first letter of the main word. In this case, there would be six lines, starting with the letters S-P-R-I-N-G)
- Write a back and forth poem with a partner. Take turns writing lines.
- Write a rhyming poem about a pet (real or imagined).
- Write a poem about homework.
- Choose a sound and emphasize it in your poem, while still saying something that make sense. (For example, see how many S-sounds you can work into the words of your poem.)
- Use a list of questions to make a poem.
- Make a list of words related to a subject (for basketball, you might list dribble, defense, layup, foul). Write a poem for each word. Use shape, line length, pace, and sound to make each poem different and express the meaning of the word.
- Start with the line: Have you ever seen a …. And write a poem about an imaginary creature.
Get more FREE writing prompts here:
If you want to build more phonics practice into your writing activities, try the Phonics Writing Prompts with Word Bank Bundle.