4 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month (Even if Poetry isn’t Your Thing)


                                                                                         Roses are red, violets are blue,
                                                                                    When all this melts, I’ll need a canoe.


Welcome, April – it’s National Poetry Month! Even the business owner who displayed this poem on the letterboard sign outside his/her store in Minnesota decided to give poetry a try. After a long, cold, brutal winter with record-breaking amounts of snow, this poem made me (and I’m sure many of my fellow Midwesterners) smile in agreement.

It seems that people fall into two categories – either they love poetry, or they hate it. I used to think I fell in the ‘hate it’ category, but the more I used poetry within my teaching practices to reach and teach my students, the more I began to appreciate it. Outlined below are four fun and engaging ways to celebrate National Poetry Month (even if you don’t think poetry is your thing).

Poet Biographies

Give your students the opportunity to investigate the stories behind poems. Edgar Allen Poe was orphaned at the age of four and pursued his dream of becoming a writer, despite his foster father’s wishes for him to be a businessman. Robert Frost recited his poem, “The Gift Outright,” during John F. Kennedy’s Presidential Inauguration. Emily Dickinson loved spending time in her garden and greenhouse caring for numerous plants, flowers, and trees on her family’s property.

Sometimes learning about the background of poets will pique students’ curiosty about and will provide context around the poems they wrote. Finding out that Robert Frost was friends with John F. Kennedy might spark interest with your students who enjoy history and politics. Emily Dickinson’s poems referencing the peace and solitude she enjoyed while working in her garden might resonate with students who appreciate quiet time to themselves in the presence of nature.

Student Poet of the Day

Challenge your students to be on the lookout for poems that resonate with them to share with the class throughout the month (this takes less than 5 minutes per day). It could be as simple as a “Roses are Red” poem found on a letterboard in their community or as complex as an Italian terza rima found in a dusty book in the library – as long as students can explain their connection to or their appreciation for the poems they chose.

Poem Generator Tools for all Content Areas

The free, online poem generator tools provided by ReadWriteThink helps guide students with creating diamante poems, theme poems, and acrostic poems that students of all ages will be proud of. Have your students author a poem of their choice to demonstrate their understanding of a concept from any content area. For example, assign students to create a diamante poem that outlines the differences between viruses and bacteria.

Poetic Language Mini-Lessons

Poetry can enable teachers to strengthen and build reading and writing skills. Incorporate mini-lessons on figurative language such as simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, alliteration, and onomatopoeia to inspire students to experiment with creative writing. This video provides specific examples of figurative language used in movies and TV shows that your students might be familiar with. Give your students opportunities to practice utilizing figurative language in their daily work.

Incorporating poetry into my lessons turned out to be beneficial, enjoyable, and rewarding for my class – and I’m so glad I gave it a try. My students who were reluctant to write standard narratives seemed to appreciate the freedom associated with writing poetry – it was a chance for them to experiment with words and language without the confines of grammar and punctuation rules. Poetry provided an outlet for my students who tended to be reserved and private about their emotions and lives. And, the rhyming words of Dr. Seuss and the silly poems of Shel Silverstein always made us smile.

How will you celebrate National Poetry Month with your students? Please share!

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Jill Rockwell
Jill has over 13 years of experience as a licensed teacher in the areas of Special Education, Reading Education, and Health Education. She embraces diversity and has worked with students in grades K-12 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California. Jill completed her Master of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls while teaching full time. She fully understands the soaring demands of today’s teachers. Her courses are designed to maximize the time of all educators by providing engaging, meaningful, and applicable activities which can be used to enhance teaching practices. She focuses on research-based best practices and technology integration throughout her own instructional practices. Together with her husband and two young boys, Jill enjoys traveling, biking and the changing seasons of the great outdoors in Wisconsin. 

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