If you have been looking for lessons, new ideas and resources, and maybe a little inspiration to ignite your celebration of National Poetry Month, check out the ten sites I’ve listed below. I’m betting you’ll find at least one activity you can use tomorrow!
#1 - Scholastic’s April Is National Poetry Month - Tons of ideas and resources to jump start your poetry unit. For the younger students, what could be more fun than having Jack Prelutsky, our Nation’s first Children’s Poet Laureate, sharing his voice and providing a little mentoring? There are plenty of resources for secondary students too, from Using Poetry to Explore and Change to interviews with Maya Angelo to awarding-winning 17-year old poet Meredith Weber, who invites you into her poet’s workshop. For cross-curricular ideas, check out Mr. Tang’s Math Riddles samples.
#2 - Read/Write/Think – I’ve been a long-time fan of this NCTE (National Council for Teachers of English) site and have come to expect outstanding teacher-tested, research based resources like the ones posted for National Poetry Month. I recommend checking out the “interactives,” such as Diamonte Poems or What’s an Acrostic Poem? and then move on to sample some lessons, such as Poetry Portfolios for your primary students, Composing Cinquain Poems with Basic Parts of Speech for elementary students, or Is a Sentence a Poem? mini-lesson for secondary students. In addition to hosting the Read/Write/Think site, NCTE also posts a National Poetry Day page with podcasts from last year’s entries.
#3 – National Writing Project – If you’re looking for links sure to inspire, encourage, and support you in your efforts to nurture a love for poetry in your students, the NWP’s National Poetry page will not disappoint you. Their continually expanding resources include categories that range from Spotlight Poetry Programs for Teachers to Teachers as Poets, Poets as Teacher.
#4 – Edsitement – Not be outdone by NCTE or NWP, the National Endowment for Humanities has also assembled some outstanding resources on their National Poetry Month: Forms of Poetry site. If you are looking for a unit on Langston Hughes, I recommend The Poet’s Voice – Langston Hughes and You, a scaffolded lesson that will address two central questions: What is meant by voice in poetry, and what qualities have made the voice of Langston Hughes a favorite for so many people? You might use this lesson as a starting point, and then revisit the NWP site to introduce Gavin Tachibana’s creative idea to combine Langston Hughes’ poetry with Tibetan prayer flags in the inspiring Dream Flag Project.
#5 – PBS’s Poetry Everywhere – From Robert Frost’s reading of Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Night, to/watching the stunning version of Emily Dickenson’s I Started Early, Took My Dog, this site is amazing. The site’s PBS NewsHour Extra: Poetry includes lesson plans, links, rules and tools, teacher favorites, student poems, poetry submission and more. Links to Minstrel Man and and I’m Nobody provide windows into the power of poetry to impact our students’ lives.
#6 – Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month – The New York Times Learning Network is an outstanding resources, both for its content and for keeping newspapers alive in the classroom. What a great assortment of ideas for hooking students on poetry! The concept of illustrated chapbooks, complete with a template from Microsoft, via seasonal greetings from Robert Frost is but one of over 20 ideas for celebrating the month. Be sure to checkout the Learning Network’s Second Annual Found Poem Challenge. What a great activity for kick-starting the week! The challenge includes links to samples and tools for scaffolding students through the process of building powerful “found poems,” such as NCTE’s Found and Headlines Poems article.
#7 – Poetry 180 – From the Library of Congress, “Poetry 180 is designed to make it easy for students to hear or read a poem on each of the 180 days of the school year.” I recommend starting with form Poet Laureate Billy Collins’ An Introduction to Poetry.
#8 – Favorite Poem Project – Listen to and watch volunteer readers from across the nation sharing their favorite poems.
#9 – Poetry Forge – Tapping into visual appeal of Flash, Poetry Forge is “an open source archive, designed to allow teachers and student writers to explore, manipulate, create and develop innovative tools for the development of poetry.”
#10 – Poets.org - From the Academy of American Poets, this site offers resources and a call to action – with Put a Poem in Your Pocket Day. The idea is simple: “Select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends on April 29.” But wait, there’s more…for the busy educator…how about Poet’s in Your Pocket, Poet.org’s mobile poetry site. Download the Poem Flow app from iTunes and you’ll be able to browse over 2,500 poems by author, title, occasion, or form. Imagine the possibilities! You too can “read a poem, anytime, anywhere—whether to fill a spare moment, woo a darling, toast a friend, find solace, or recite a few immortal lines—verse is now at your fingertips.” Readers will also want to checkout a few more great pages on this site, such as the Teaching Poetry Curriculum and Lesson Plans and the Tips for Teachers (on making poetry a more important part of the school day).
#11 – Voices from the Fields – Interested in poetry as a tool for teaching for social justice? Check out the Voices from the Fields website. The website is an extension of the book, which pairs poetry with personal narratives/oral histories. If you are looking for additional first-hand accounts of the migrant farm worker experience, here’s a link to a project from eight years ago that connected a group of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders from Barbara Comstock Morse with CSU, Sacramento, students who spent their childhoods working the fields of California.
#12 – Carlos Andres Gomez – And just for fun, how about the exuberance and humor of poet Carlos Andres Gomez, whose style (appropriate for older students) might serve as a call to high students who thought they were not into poetry:
Whether you weave poetry into your year-long English/Language Arts curriculum (as a number of state content standards currently mandate), use it for making cross-curricular connections (how about a Periodic Table Poems), or save it as a treat for “when testing is done,” please join the conversation and share your questions, ideas, and best practices for igniting a love of poetry.