Teaching poetry can be a fun and engaging way to help students develop their language and critical thinking skills. I have fond memories of being introduced to poetry (anyone else have childhood memories of reading Shel Silverstein poems?). You could say they hold a special place in my book-loving heart. Naturally, I like to recreate those experiences for students. So, I decided to share a couple of easy and fun poetry activities for kids to incorporate poetry into your writing instruction. Here are some tips for teaching poetry in the classroom:
Books: I recommend gathering as many poetry books as you can find (your school or public library will have some). Introduce students to different types of poetry. This can include traditional forms like sonnets and haikus, as well as more modern forms like free verse and slam poetry. Once you’ve gathered a handful of poetry books, skim through them and find examples of the following types of real poems (I recommend that you make a copy of the page so you don’t lose it and will only have to do this part once) to use as mentor texts.
Take a closer look at poems: Encourage students to read and analyze poetry. This can include identifying literary elements such as rhyme, meter, and imagery.
Incorporate modern skills: Use technology resources, like videos, audio recordings, or interactive apps to make the learning experience more dynamic. If your school allows it, visit Youtube to see real poets reading their own work. Students can use Flipgrid to read their own poems or recite other published poems that they find.
Make connections to other subjects: Bring poetry into history, science, or current events, to show students how poetry can be used to explore a wide variety of subjects and themes. For older students, explore how poetry can impact and also help people process current events around the world. Watch Amanda Gorman’s inauguration here and hold a discussion with students after to share thoughts and impressions.
Have students write their own poetry: This can be a great way for students to express themselves creatively and develop their writing skills. Poetry can be a powerful tool for helping students understand and express their own feelings and experiences. Use poetry as a tool for self-reflection, by inviting students to write their own poems and share them with their classmates, or to discuss how they relate to the poems they read.
Encourage students to share their poetry with the class: This can be a great way for students to build confidence and get feedback on their writing. A fun way to culminate teaching about poetry is to host a Poetry Cafe event. The basic idea is that students read their own student-written poems in front of an audience (similar to a “poetry slam” or open-mic night). In addition to students sharing their own poems, you can let them choose a few favorites from the books you’ve gathered to read aloud as well. Keep it super simple and just have your students be the audience themselves, invite another class to come and listen, or take it up a notch and invite families for a wider audience.
One of my favorite things about teaching poetry is that it doesn’t have to be formulaic and shows how writing can be expressive and flexible. Kids need to learn that literature doesn’t always follow a formula, and poetry is a great example of this, whether you’re reading it or writing it. If you’re looking for a comprehensive way to introduce and teach poetry, I’ve put together a set of lessons with both reading and writing poetry that includes everything you’ll need to teach the various poetry elements and the common types of poetry. You can find the Poetry Unit here.
- Teacher Binder cover
- Set up tips
- Class poems cover page (color or b/w)
- Poetry Notebook cover
- Poetry Poster
- Common Elements of Poetry Posters and Minilessons: Line, Stanza, Rhyme, Rhythm, Theme, Mood, Repetition
- Common Types of Poetry Posters and Minilessons: Rhyme, Acrostic, Concrete, Ode, Cinquain, Haiku, Limerick, Free Verse
- Everything you need to host a Poetry Cafe (publishing party at the end of your unit)
- Bulletin board letters banners (POETRY and POETRY CAFE)
- and MORE!