Do you want to make poetry so fun and engaging that your students will ask for more? Here are some simple activities to get you started.
1. Blackout Poetry
There are so many reasons blackout poetry is great: kids love it, it's creative, and it forces you to clean the falling-apart books from your classroom library without the guilt of tossing them in the trash.
What is blackout poetry? It's simple. Rip out the pages of old books. Give the students some basic instructions, then watch the creativity flow!
Blackout Poetry Examples:
2. Poet VS Poet
College basketball's March Madness is the perfect time to pit poet against poet for some exciting classroom debates, but any time of year teachers can create a similar feel by putting poets head to head and comparing their power.
Kids love competition. Creating competition with poetry naturally adds excitement and connects a sometimes intimidating genre with something familiar.
How do you implement a poet vs poet match up in your classroom? You could use an already created tool ( see Poet Vs Poet here ) or create your own match ups. For example, after a simple lesson on figurative language, ask your students to read the poetry of two different poets and rate their use of metaphors, similes, personification, and imagery. As a class, debate the poet's ratings using text based evidence.
If you are at all familiar with the basketball brackets of March Madness, poetry brackets work the same way (and you can find and download blank brackets by doing a simple Google search). I like to start with a sweet sixteen of poets, then narrow down to an elite eight, a final four, a championship, and a winner. Poets advance by having classes vote on the better poet in each match up. The reward of listening to kids debate poet's skills like the poets are athletes is worth any time it takes setting up this activity.
3. Found Poems
Found poems give language to students who may struggle to find the right words. Found poetry is easily accessible, hands on, and fun. Easy to set up, all you need to do to implement found poetry in your classroom is gather together stacks of old magazines, scissors, glue, and colorful paper.
First, instruct students to find powerful words in the pages of magazines, cut them out, and make piles on their desk. You could also assign cutting out powerful words from old magazines for homework and save yourself the time and mess in your classroom.
Next, students arrange and rearrange the words on their desk into meaningful poetry. This is a great opportunity to reinforce the power of form, shape, and line breaks in poetry and encourage students to be thoughtful in their choices. Talk to your students about choosing the best words, eliminating unnecessary words, and playing around with word choice.
Finally, instruct students to glue their poem into place on a colorful piece of paper and decorate your room with the beauty and power of poetry.
4. Poetry Escape Room
A poetry escape room is the most engaging and fun way to introduce or review poetry with your students. Escape rooms by nature are hands on and engaging. Combine the fun of an escape room with poetry and your kids will be hooked. (Check out the poetry escape room I did with my students here.)
Escape rooms, or breakout rooms, are a new trend similar to scavenger hunts. In a poetry escape room, students put together clues based on poems, poets, figurative language, poetry form, rhyme scheme, or any other poetic element. Then, students work to unlock the clues using their poetry knowledge.
Poets are experts at hiding meaning within the lines of their poetry, so use that to create clues that ask students to interpret, make inferences, and analyze. Escape rooms are a great method of turning tasks that can be intimidating to kids and making them into interactive challenges that students are motivated to engage in.
To create a poetry escape room, first choose the poetic elements or reading skills you want to target, a specific poem you want students to read and reread several times in different ways, or a theme or poet to design your escape room around.
Next, gather the materials and tasks that you would normally share with students in a traditional format, but think of creative ways to turn the tasks into clues. For example, if you want students to identify the figurative language in a poem, create task cards that students have to place in the order that those poetic elements appear in the poem. Hide small letters on the task cards so when students place the cards in order, the next clue appears. See the example below:
Get creative and hide clues within poems with bold words, put clues on task cards that students have to place in a certain order based on analysis, or choose clues based on symbolism or inferences that students can find only when they do a close read of the poem.
Although escape rooms require a lot of preparation and thought, the end result is worth the time. Students will be more engaged, thoughtful, and active in reading poetry than you could ever imagine. Escape rooms are a great way to review poetic elements or kick off a new study of poetry when you really want to catch students' attention and get them motivated.
Check out my step by step guide to creating your own escape room here.
5. Poetry Mash Up
Create a poetry mash up by writing poetry forms on slips of paper and placing them in one jar, types of figurative language and placing them in a second jar, and sound elements and placing them in a third jar. Pass the jars around the classroom and have students choose from each one, writing a poem based on what they chose.
For example, a student might choose haiku (poetry form), imagery (figurative language), and onomatopoeia (sound element). That student would then be challenged to write a haiku with imagery and an onomatopoeia. There are endless combinations and kids will have a blast writing, sharing, and seeing what poems are created in your poetry mash up.
Play over and over and model your poetry writing with students as well. Have fun laughing at the ridiculous and enjoy the surprise when students create some really amazing pieces with different combinations of poetic elements.
Making poetry fun and hands on is not only possible, but with a little creativity, it's really easy to implement at any level. Help your students to find the joy in creating magic with only a few words in different shapes and forms. Take the intimidation factor out of poetry by connecting poetry to fun challenges, familiar activities, and hand on learning.