Writing Poetry in the Classroom

How can poetry be used in the classroom?

April is National Poetry Month which is an opportunity to expose middle and high school students to reading poetry in the classroom but what about writing poetry? Reading poetry is an often off-putting task and writing it even more. But writing poetry in the classroom doesn’t have to be daunting because it doesn’t need to be from scratch. 

If you have followed me long enough, you know that I can’t stand chapter questions and same- old type of assessments. I have written other blogs about this issue that you can check out.  Partly because I  love to see the creativity of what my students accomplish even though at the beginning, they look at me crazy. These poetry activities serve so much bang for the buck that I use them throughout the year and not just for April’s poetry month. Writing poetry in middle school and high school will be so much easier with these poetry strategies. 

Writing poetry can also be used as a teaching tool to assess for reading comprehension. 

Keep reading as I share some ways to incorporate writing poetry in the classroom all year long.

#1 They Say/ I Say Poem

Being able to contrast characters and points of views is an important ELA skill. They Say, I Say poems allows for students to make distinctions. One example of how we used this in my classroom was as both a pre- reading/ post reading activity during our Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza unit.

Before reading, students read and watched a news report and analyzed political cartoons regarding immigrants and then completed four stanzas based on what they learned that started with “They Say”. At this point, they did not complete the “I Say” part of the stanzas but until after they finished reading the book. Then for each stanza, they wrote from the perspective of one of the immigrant characters to respond to the initial “They Say” statements. This allowed to check for understanding of who the characters were and their experiences in the book. Also, students were able to connect real world events to what was happening in their books thus making text to world connections. 

Sanctuary is a new diverse novel unit and I hands down recommend it for any teacher looking to revamp their unit. In my TPT store, you will find a pre- reading unit that can get your students ready to read the book and it includes this poem lesson.

#2 Poem Restructuring

Not technically a poem, but from chapter in the book in verse, The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen, you will find the following excerpt:

I am a runner.

That’s what I do.

That’s who I am.

Running is all I know, or want, or care about.

It was a race around the soccer field in third grade

that swept me into a real love of running.

Breathing the sweet smell of spring grass.

Sailing over dots of blooming clover.

Beating all the boys.

After that, I couldn’t stop. I ran everywhere.Raced everyone. 

I loved the wind across my cheeks, through my hair.

Running aired out my soul.

It made me feel alive.

And now?

I’m stuck in this bed, knowing I’ll never run again. (what does their “thing” look like now?)

At the end of reading memoirs as part of their 20 book challenge, students practiced text restructuring by applying what they know about the main character and restructuring this excerpt to be about that character by replacing the bolded words. 

student poetry sample

#3 Found Poem

One way to make a found poem is to have students select words, lines, and phrases from a chapter in a novel that they feel project strong images and show the impact ther chapter makes on the overall text. They will then arrange these details into a poem. This requires more critical thinking and high-order skills for students, but the reward of what they produce will be worth it. 

Hopefully these activities show you how easy it is to use poetry in the classroom. These writing poetry activities allow teachers to check off a number of skills and standards with their secondary students while creating something memorable. 

There are lots of other poems such as I am Poems or Where I’m From poems that are classics when it comes to starting off points for students’ own writing of poetry and these poetry activities that I have shared will also become beloved classics in yours too. 

Leave a Comment