April is National Poetry Month. What are you teaching in April?
One of the best parts of teaching poetry is seeing how creative students interact with the process. Poems hold different meanings for everyone, and their language can inspire and connect.
The ten lessons below are what we use during National Poetry Month to teach poetry with our students. Modify and fit the activities into your poetry lessons.
Poetry can intimidate some students. When I begin poetry lessons, I frontload information and encourage students to sketch their notes. Doing this gives students freedom in how they express themselves, but also provides them with important details, definitions, and examples. Students enjoy the freedom and makes poetry’s introduction fun and relaxing.
I love teaching both poetry and writing during fourth nine weeks. Because students have made it through a majority of the writing standards, we have room to breathe…to play…to enrich…to challenge. Often, during fourth nine weeks, I’m in the middle of a multi-genre research project, a poetry unit, or reading The Odyssey (depending on the grade level). In all of these instances, it’s fun to incorporate a poetry writing assignment that is based on nonfiction research…and 100% creative!
Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare’s play has beautiful, poetic language. I celebrate the language throughout the play in a variety of ways. We study alliteration, enjambment, and sonnets with quote analysis and one-pagers. We also use bookmarks and task cards to study the language.
I teach figurative language throughout the year…with short stories, plays, and novels. During fourth quarter, and especially during National Poetry month, it’s fun to throw in some figurative language review. Using games like Figurative Language Truth or Dare during learning stations is always a great way to incorporate group work, critical thinking, and laughter.
In “10 Poems To Teach Figurative Language,” I outline literary devices and potential talking points for teachers. The free download includes a graphic organizer for teaching poetry. Since I listed ten poems, you’ll have plenty of room to provide student choice.
Mood and Tone
Mood and tone can be challenging to teach. I wanted to create a metaphor that would allow students to visually see these literary devices, so I created the mood and tone equalizer. It’s an engaging visual that incorporates color to symbolize tone and mood. Plus, students can visualize levels of intensity for each element.
As you read or study poetry, ask students to add ideas to digital brainstorming slides. Sure, students need to know definitions and examples, which are great to add to those brainstorming slides! But. . . students should also have fun with poetry: adding pictures, envisioning themes, and relating concepts to their lives.
I like scaffolding poetry analysis so that students can view a poem one standard at a time. We may read the poem the first time for enjoyment and comprehension, the second to analyze figurative language, and the third to study structure. These poetry analysis organizers help to chunk thinking to organize a written response.
Poetry from Plays
If a poem is part of a play, it has purpose. My favorite example is from A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry uses Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem” to set the mood and setting for her play. If you are uncomfortable teaching poetry, pulling poetry from other forms of literature is a great way to become comfortable with talking about poetry.
Music Graphic Organizer
I use FREE this graphic organizer to introduce a poetry unit. Students often think they “hate” poetry, but that’s because they don’t understand one of their very favorite genres — MUSIC! — falls into this category. I usually pick a song to share with the class. We discuss it together, and then I allow students to complete the activity with a song of their own choosing — either with a partner or individually.
If you’re feeling uneasy about teaching poetry during National Poetry Month, consider adding some simple additions to your lessons:
- Read one poem per day. Take the opportunity to introduce lesser covered authors and time periods
- Suggest time period for students to explore, like the Beat Generation.
- Play a short video of a poet reading their poem.
Find a few methods of celebrating National Poetry Month with your secondary students. Soon, you’ll have them naturally built into your curriculum.