Do not go gently! Teach poetry!

Poetry instruction seems to fade more and more from ELA instruction every year, but it's so important for students to read, write, and hear poetry! This blog post provides five ways for you to teach poetry, whether you just want to supplement your unit of instruction with some poetry or if poetry IS your unit of instruction!
Why is it that students LOVE reading and writing poems in elementary school, but often lose that love by the time they graduate?

Do not go gently into that good night! Show your students why poetry matters and why it's still fun.
If we truly believe in the idea of creating "life long ____" (learners, readers, writers, poets, etc.), then we have to act like it by fostering their enjoyment as much as their learning
Here are five ways to EITHER add poetry into your April after all, OR supplement the poetry exploration you're already doing!

#1: Play (or read aloud) just your favorites. 
Part of the allure in kindergarten was that the teacher read it TO you, usually with enthusiasm. It's obvious when a teacher does (or does not) love a text. As much as your curriculum allows (or in spite of it), try to read one a week or one a day, either by reading it aloud yourself, letting students read, or playing a video of someone else doing it.

If you need help getting started (or remembering some good ones that are out there), look at the starter list in the preview of my Poem of the Week kit.

#2: Make it feel like a game. 
Don't get me wrong - analyzing poetry is important on many levels, and I am NOT suggesting that we abandon that. But there's also a time and place for making it fun.

For example: here's a sneak peek at one page from my American Lit Poetry Mad Libs. Can you imagine letting students parody "The New Colossus"? It's a legitimate challenge in rhyming, parts of speech, extended metaphor, and theme! (I also have a Brit Lit one, too.)

Click here for a FREE download of a mad lib for Shakespeare's "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"

Poetry instruction seems to fade more and more from ELA instruction every year, but it's so important for students to read, write, and hear poetry! This blog post provides five ways for you to teach poetry, whether you just want to supplement your unit of instruction with some poetry or if poetry IS your unit of instruction!


#3: Let experts prove why we should still care. 
One thing I've learned this year is the power of letting an article author tell my students something FOR me (to increase my odds of having them believe it).

For example, excerpted from my "Why Poetry?" Mini-Unit, here are three articles that explain the power of poetry:



#4: Let students write (and share!) their own!
Student engagement (and sometimes effort) double if they know they will get to share their work out loud (and get to hear others). Using your favorite methods, try to emphasize that poems are historically read aloud!

Digital Poetry Slam
Slam poetry is super fun, but I think some teachers hesitate because they don't have the time or resources to through a full-blown event. Remember that it can be done in just your class period!

First, watch this TED talk on how to write a slam poem.

One way to do this activity to try my Digital Poetry Slam project. Students write their own poems and then have the choice to EITHER read it out loud live, OR record themselves saying it so that all they have to do in class is push play. (This is a great option for those with anxiety or stage fright!)


#5: Sneak it into "unrelated" topics. 
Author Sarah Holbrook is a genius in her book Practical Poetry about ways to sneak poetry into topics across the curriculum, including math, science, history, and ELA vocabulary (as seen in her book By Definition, which might be out of print now?).

One way I try to do this is with my Grammar Poetry assignment. Though my 7th graders struggled at first, they were really able to come up with cool metaphors for grammar concepts and choose their own form.

Could you have students write poems personifying objects? Can you ask them to write eyewitness poems from the perspective of an author or historical figure? Can't students write haikus to summarize what they learned, or how they feel about it? (Big time.)


No matter what, remember this: people who self-identify as "literary" do so because they like it, and the students who don't naturally dig poetry need to be shown how.

1 comment

Back to Top