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Celebrate Poetry with Meaningful and Engaging Activities

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In April, those of us in the literature world come together to celebrate National Poetry Month, a time to recognize the value of poetry and teach our students to appreciate the art form. 

For these last weeks of the month (and even challenge yourself to break away from the mundane rituals of just assigning students research reports on famous poets like Langston Hughes, Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. We love these creative souls, but we can incorporate them in more meaningful ways that will drive better comprehension and engagement.

So what can we do to make sure poetry remains in the minds of our students for years to come? Here are a few ideas for your classroom:

  • Have a weekly message that rhymes. Each week, I present an encouraging weekly message in rhyme. I read it the first day of the week, modeling fluency, rhythm and word pronunciation. Each subsequent day, I ask a different student to read it out loud, giving them the opportunity to practice the same skills. The rhyme helps students remember meaningful lines and the theme of the message. I also always include a current vocabulary word. Below is an example:

Week 25 – Let Your Imagination Come Alive

The second week of April has come. Will you face the music or will you run?
Spring is in the air. A blooming future is on the way. Do you care?
Time to do great exploits for your community. Time to bring back unity.
Take accountability for your actions. Give off positive instead of negative reactions.
Checkpoint testing is this week. Ace it and stay on the winning streak.
Be proactive and study daily. Learn a new language or instrument like the ukulele.
Get involved in an after-school program. Bring your talents to light and jam.

  • Have a poetry battle. Rap battles are where two rappers demonstrate how creative and elaborate they can be with their rhythm and rhymes. Bring this same energy to your students with a poetry battle. Provide a topic for students to write their poems about or give them complete creative freedom, then make it an event. Students can flow in person or through Zoom. If it can’t happen live, have them create videos of their poetry reading. Even staff members can join in on the fun, battling one another or students. After all the battling, make sure to decide on a winner. Use a cheer meter for in-person voting or set up an online poll for students to cast their votes.
  • Put on a partner poetry slam. Another poetry-related event you can organize is, of course, a classic poetry slam. Start by deciding on a theme for the poetry slam with your students, then decide the poetry or readings you’d like to include. Give students the opportunity to share an original poem close to their heart or do a dramatic group reading. Don’t be afraid to get other people involved, like staff members and parents.
  • Revise your favorite poet’s poems. Use important poets and poems to teach themes and literacy devices, but in an interactive way. Have students find a poem and revise it, but in a way that retains the meaning. They’ll have to be mindful of poetic style and be able to articulate the poem’s meaning.

There is still time to make National Poetry Month an epic celebration of words, talents and school community. Start the celebration now – and keep it going throughout the school year!

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.

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