April is National Poetry Month. Here are a collection of ideas for using poetry with students at home:
Writing poetry can help students document this moment of history-in-the-making. Ask students to compose their own poems in their journals. Students may free-write poetry, or you can use the following strategies to help guide their writing:
Activity for Middle School: Ask students to read George Ella Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From” and then to create their own poem inspired by this poem called “Where I am Right Now.” Students can use this handout as a guide. Just change the phrase in the first box from “I am from . . .” to “I am now . .”
Most students around the world are now studying from home. Ask students to read Pablo Neruda’s poem “Ode to My Socks” (“Oda a los calcetines”) and then to write their own “ode” to an object in their space, as a way of recording what they see and how they feel as they learn from home.
Activity for Middle School: Reading poetry can help students identify, express, and process their emotions. Ask students to browse the poems collected on Poetry 180, a website which contains a list of poems curated by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins for high school students. Ask students to select a poem that captures something they are experiencing or feeling right now. Students can reflect on the poem they chose in their journals using the following prompt:
How do you feel when you read this poem? What new words or images does the poem offer that help you express that feeling?
Activity for Intermediate and Middle School :Listening to poetry can help students take a moment to cultivate mindfulness and empathy. Ask students to pause each day to listen to poetry readings using either the Poetry Unbound podcast from On Being or the podcast The Slow Down, featuring poems selected by former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. As they listen to the poem, students can illustrate what they hear and write down key words. Afterward, students can reflect on the following questions:
What experiences might have prompted the poet to write this poem? How do you imagine the poet felt while writing this poem?
Activity for Middle School: Poetry plays an important role in strengthening our democracy and civic life. Ask students to read the following quote from author James Baldwin:
“The poets (by which I mean all artists), are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets.”
Then, ask students to choose a poem they have read in class, or from the website Poetry 180. Students can reflect in their journals on the quote and their chosen poem, using the following prompt:
What “truth” does this poem tell? How does the James Baldwin quote shape your understanding of poetry in general and this poem in particular?