Thinking Ahead to National Poetry Month
National Poetry Month doesn’t begin until April 1st, but it’s not too early to start planning (or even celebrating! Why wait?)
Here are a few ideas and resources as we think ahead to Poetry Month, when we celebrate one of the often underutilized sections of our collections.
Read Poetry Aloud
One of the simplest things we can do with poetry is to read it aloud. Many students, especially those in high school, may think of poetry as primarily something to be analyzed. When I hear resistance to poetry, I try to remind students that poetry is experimentation with language. Sometimes playful, sometimes poignant, poetry is meant to be enjoyed.
I read poetry aloud in my classes every time we meet. It seems strange to many of my students at first, but they quickly come to anticipate the experience of listening to poetry read aloud.
Here are a few books I’ve read aloud from recently:
Animal Poems by Valerie Worth (with excellent collage illustrations by Steve Jenkins)
- I read each poem but leave out the name of the animal. Students can guess the animal, based on the wonderfully descriptive words in each poem.
This is Just To Say, Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman
- This book is written as a riff on the famous (some might say infamous) poem by William Carlos William entitled “This is Just To Say.” From the silly to the deeply painful, this book of apologies (and responses) strikes a chord with many students.
The Blacker The Berry by Joyce Carol Thomas
- This book celebrates all the different shades of blackness through lush descriptive verses and beautiful illustrations.
Poetrees by Douglas Florian
- Simple, enchanting poems about all kinds of trees and their virtues. Florian also wrote the delightful Dinothesaurus, Insectlopedia, and many others.
In addition to reading aloud from published books, there will likely be many students writing poetry throughout the month of April. Why not invite a student to read their poem aloud during the daily newscast, or set up a recording station in the library and have students create poetry podcasts?
Speaking of writing poems, there are a number of online tools that connect to poetry. One of my favorites is piclits.com, which features striking pictures and your choice of drag-and-drop words or a freestyle “type your own” option. Strong words are an important part of poetry, and pairing them with images add another layer of meaning. (Note: some of the images provided on piclits.com may be better suited for older students, but this idea would be fairly easy to adapt to a younger age group with some creative commons images and a bank of clever words).
Tagxedo is a site familiar to many of us, but we may not think of word clouds as poems. Tagxedo reminds me of concrete poetry. Concrete poems are great fun to write by hand or online, once again using the visual as a layer of meaning for the writer to consider. (Check out Paul Janeczko’s A Poke In The I for a great collection of concrete poems). As students create concrete poems, we can help them think about what image would work best to share their ideas with an audience. These poems would be easy to collect and post on a website.
For More Ideas…
These are just a few ideas I’ve used to inspire the reading and writing of poetry. There are many other resources you can look to for inspiration.
I hope this post gets you thinking about all the different ways you might celebrate National Poetry Month in your library. Please share your own favorite ideas and resources in the comments!
Department of Language and Literacy Education
The University of Georgia