Poetry can be a valuable genre to teach structure, figurative language, and syntax. It can also be fun! However, some students come to poetry with a fixed negative mindset. Some think it’s too hard. Others assume it’s boring. Use these 6 techniques to engage students with fun poetry lesson plans.
Start Without Rules
School is often about rules. Students follow steps, repeat procedures, and work hard to meet expectations. What a delight to have an assignment with no restrictions! Give students a blank sheet of paper and ask them to express themselves. Not only will this encourage self-expression, but it will also let you know who the reluctant students are. You’ll see the visual artists, the wordsmiths, and the out-of-the-box thinkers, too.
Read Then Write
Great writers are great readers. Begin a poetry unit by exploring lots of samples of a variety of different poems. Read haiku, rhyming couplets, narrative poems, concrete poems, and free verse. Students with preconceived notions about poetry may have one type of poem in mind. Open their minds by showing students the huge variety of forms available to poetry writers. If students are still reluctant, ask them to volunteer their favorite songs for a class list. Then read the lyrics together. Draw attention to the similarities between song lyrics and poetry.
Front Load Figurative Language
Don’t stop in the middle of a poem to talk about onomatopoeia, interrupting the flow of the poem. Instead, pre-teach the important terms. Give lots of examples. Keep these examples and terms in a place where students can reference them again and again. Then, when students read a poem, they can notice the figurative language as it comes up. If they don’t, think aloud and share what you’re noticing. Noticing figurative language is a habit that develops over time. Don’t be discouraged if your students don’t see the connections right away.
Celebrate the Genre
As you read model poems, post them in an area where students can see them and refer back to them. This could be a bulletin board in a physical space or a collage board in a digital space. A word wall (or virtual word wall) of poetry terms, awesome words, and techniques can give students ideas when they get stuck. It also gives the class a common bank of references to use for discussion.
Some students view poetry as a musty, old practice. There are plenty of ways to engage students in poetry in a modern way. Create a class poetry blog. Have students write twitter-style poems with word limits. What about a poem as a Snapchat update? What does a selfie look like in words? As an alternative approach, after reading an older poem, ask students what the poem would look like in a modern form (social media). What would Edgar Allen Poe post on his Facebook page? This can be a great way to compare and contrast tone, word choice, and structure.
Use Online Planning Tools
Teachers want to create lessons that are as engaging and fun as possible. Unfortunately, it can sometimes feel like you spend more time planning your lessons than students spend enjoying them. Give yourself a helping hand with online tools. Adobe Education Exchange provides resources for poetry close reading and analysis. You can find everything you need to write your own poetry activities, lesson plan, and exercises.
Writing poetry can be fun. Teaching with excellent poetry lesson plans is fun for the teacher, too. The ultimate reward comes when your students experience pride in their work.