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Poetry Month Ideas for Your Middle School Classroom

Do you want to teach poetry in your middle school ELA classes, but you aren't sure where to begin? Teaching poetry doesn't have to be difficult or confusing. And, you don't have to teach an entire unit on it before giving kids the opportunity to write poems. April is National Poetry Month, and I'm sharing some of my favorite activities and the best ideas to help you get started. Jump right to the list of poetry activities including the free emotion poem.

Kenning Poetry

What's Kenning Poetry, you say? A kenning poem describes something without saying what it is, much like a metaphor. Each line in a kenning poem is a simple phrase of ONLY two words. These words can be joined using a hyphen and are a combination of a noun and a verb (ing or er ending) or a noun and noun used in place of one noun. The format creates a kind of puzzle for the reader.

Directions for writing a Kenning poem:

  • Choose a topic or subject for your poem

  • Brainstorm at least four or more compound phrases to describe your subject

  • Put the phrases together in a way that is easily read and makes sense

An easy way to introduce this format is to have students use themselves as the subject. You'll want them to focus on choosing vivid verbs to keep the poem interesting. Once they understand the process, encourage students to write poems using different subjects like characters, themes, and ideas from their reading.







Poetry Squares

Another student favorite is Poetry Squares. I like to introduce this poetic form to my students because it motivates them to think critically and creatively. To begin, students create poems using a predetermined list of words that may not seem related at first. They must "force-fit" the words by coming up with a creative solution to the combination.

Poetry square poems can be 4x4, 5x5, or 6x6. For example, a 4x4 poem is created by writing four lines of poetry with four words per line. Students must also use each word in the square in the exact order it appears. They may use the words to begin or end the line of poetry.

Blue Skies Birthday

We all love birthdays

Time to celebrate me

Hoping I am happy

Skies are blue today

At first, students find this type of poetry a bit challenging, but once they've successfully written a few, they love the format and beg for more! Be sure to model the process with your class and then allow them to work in groups to create poems before trying some on their own. Download the Poetry Squares resource.

Concrete Poetry

Concrete poetry, sometimes called shape poetry, is a form in which the words create shapes that represent the poem’s subject as a picture. Try this concrete poem generator with your students.

Teach poetry with ease using some of my favorite resources below including the FREE Emotion Poetry resource!

Make writing poetry fun in the beginning with simple formats. Write and share your own poetry examples with students, too, and give them a lot of opportunities for creative play with words. Once they become more confident, it will be easier to dive into more complex types of poetry and analysis.

Comment with your great ideas for incorporating National Poetry Month in April. I'd love to hear your plans! For more ideas on teaching poetry, take a look at these posts:

Why Students Should Be Writing Poetry

Show it Like a Poet Saves You Grading Time

Happy teaching!

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