National Poetry Month is here, and it’s the perfect time of year to have some fun and get creative.
What is it?
According to Poets.org, National Poetry Month has been celebrated by schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers and poets since 1996. Inspired by the successes of Black History & Women’s History Month, the Academy of American Poets sought to encourage educators to integrate poetry into their classroom instruction. They also wanted to promote poetry’s importance in our culture.
Poetry is a genre that many students and adults find abstract. The Common Core State Standards allow for poetry instruction that focuses on the structure, theme, and figurative language. However, it is important for our students to see poetry as art. Especially, as a form of free expression. Poetry is in music and in the way we speak (idioms & adages). Poetry can also be used as mnemonic devices to help students study. Most importantly, poetry is a fun way to help your students progress!
In her Proud to Be Primary blog, Elyse Rycroft explains how teaching poetry helps build vocabulary as well as reading, speaking, listening skills. She discusses how poetry inspires writing, creative thinking, and encourages a love of reading. Think back to your first experiences with reading, most likely they involved Mother Goose, Dr.Seuss, and Shel Silverstein read-alouds. Holdfast to those experiences and use them this month, and all year long.
For Your Classroom
One of my favorite poems to use with my students is “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” by Maya Angelou. The book has illustrations by Jean-Michel Basquiat, an American artist who rose to fame in the ’80s for his street art and cryptic messages.
Here are some of the ways I used the book in my classroom:
- Lessons about Rhyme & Structure
- Visualization: an important reading strategy. You can model visualizing with the first stanza (without showing the illustrations). Have your students illustrate their own visualizations for each stanza thereafter. Students should share their drawings and explain what they heard/read that inspired their drawings. Then have them compare their drawings to the Basquiat illustrations.
- Making Connections: another reading strategy. Have the students list what they are afraid and explain why. Afterward, they can discuss ways to get over those fears.
- Theme/Central Message
- Author Study: Maya Angelou
- Creative Writing: Create a collaborative poem with the younger students, individual poems for older grades. For a 3rd grade class of English Language Learners, I paired beginner students with more English proficient students. One student was the illustrator and the other the writer. To keep with the theme of the 21st Century Classroom, allow the students to publish their poems as an eBook on an online platform like Genius Plaza or Book Creator. They can use text, photos of their illustrations, voice recordings to share their masterpieces.
For more National Poetry Month resources to use in your classroom, check out the following links: