We’re hosting a “Poem in Your Pocket” day as a celebration upon completing our poetry unit in Language Arts. It coincides with the National Poem In Your Pocket Day held each year in April. It’s coming up soon! You can join us this year even if you haven’t taught poetry in your classroom yet!
First of all, don’t let the poetry celebration fool you, but we teach poetry all year long. Whether you teach it as a unit, create a theme for a month or sprinkle it throughout your year, poetry is often one of the best ways to get your students writing because they perceive it as easy (when they have an idea). It’s also a lot of fun.
Most countries celebrate their National Poetry Month in April, though the United Kingdom celebrates their National Poetry Day in October. Each year features a different theme. We encourage you to celebrate all year round!
Here are some of our favourite ways to include poetry in our school year:
- Each student has a poetry book where they collect, print, write and talk about poetry throughout the school year. We encourage students to find poems they like in books, magazines or online and collect them into a “favourites” file. We’ve done this both on paper and as a Google Slides presentation where students could take pictures of their poems, scan in their published work or create slides with their poems on them. When we create a digital version, we’ve printed it off as a book for a year end gift. We usually add a poem we’ve written for our students as the cover.
- We have a “graffiti poetry wall” where students are encouraged to write right on the wall. We put up butcher block paper (you know those big rolls of paper) on the wall (usually double thick so that students that use markers won’t run through the paper). Students are invited to draw, write or create on the wall including writing kind messages about the writing of others.
- We read poetry. Our school library has hundreds of poetry books and they are usually just sitting there waiting to be read. We’ll bring thirty to forty to our classroom each month. We read it out loud, to each other during silent reading-all the time we love the rhymes!
- We examine song lyrics and talk about how they are connected to poetry.
- We teach poetic language explicitly in our language arts class.
- We have our students create anchor charts about poetic language we’ve learned and then hang these up in the class.
- We annotate poetry. Make a copy of any poem, but print it so the text is as large as it will fit on a page. Colour code the different figurative language found in the poem.
- We write poetry. Allow poetry to be an acceptable written form. We’ve collected poems about historic events taught in social studies, how to grow plants in science and even a Ballad of the Wheel and Axle.
- We memorize a poem or two. We use these poems as our hype up-class rituals. One year it was a chant about being alive in grade five and another year it was the Beaver Call from Moose Tube on Go Noodle.
- We host a poetry fest where each day at lunch while students are eating, we have guests and our own students stand up on our “stage” to perform poetry they have memorized, written or created to perform. This is so much fun and we’ve even included other classes from our school to take part.
- We display poetry everywhere possible. We hang poems on the door, on the windows, all over desks and on the covers of our books. We’ve done a “Poet-Tree” where students write poems on leaves of a giant tree.
- We pair read (two friends reading together) or share read (the whole class reading together) poems. This is a great way to build fluency and comprehension with students who struggle with reading or are learning English. Even if these students cannot read the entire poem independently, they can listen to the ebb and flow of the poem.
- We write poems about topics we are learning in science and social studies as a way to remember information. Students get pretty creative and it can be lots of fun to say our little rhymes. We even see students mouthing the words during tests which means learning using poetry works!
- We experiment with different types of poetry like Black Out Poetry where students highlight words on a printed page of text creating a poem. Found Poetry is where you give students a handful of words (they can be from anywhere like cut from magazines or printed off the Internet) and they turn it into a poem. Concrete Poetry is always fun as students try to make their poems look like the words in the poems.
- We look at how poets break the rules we learn in grammar. This always seems to get a big buy in from students because they like the idea of breaking the rules.
- We dramatize poems. We find our favourites and then act them out for the younger classes. It can be a lot of fun to sort out costumes or make simple puppets. One student is usually the narrator while others act out the actions in the poem. You can link several poems together to create a showcase.
- We do a unit of Poetry and Drama Activities where students get to act out poems and different aspects of poetry writing. Our students inspired this unit and they love it. If you are looking for more ways to add drama you should read our blog post: Add Some Drama to Your Classroom.
Don’t forget to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day!
What is Poem in Your Pocket Day? Well, you can search anywhere online to find the specific day, but generally in Canada it is held in April. Students are encouraged to find a poem and keep it in their pocket. Then, throughout the day ask students to share the poem they have. Keep a poem in your pocket too because students will ask you to say it to them.
Have students find a poem they enjoy or write their own. There are lots of poems online, in magazines or in books. They can write it down, photocopy it or print it off, but be sure they keep the name of the author so they can give proper credit. Students keep it their pocket (or some other clever storage solution-one student clipped it into her hair).
It’s even more fun if you involve students from other classes or get teachers on board and it takes very little preparation. In fact, we printed out a few extra poems so students who forgot could still have a poem to share.
We decided to create pockets for our students and got a little carried away, creating an entire product for teachers like you. We want to help spread a love for poetry. You can find it in our store. Students from your class and all over your school can get involved with this project.
The best part about an activity like Poem in Your Pocket is that anyone can participate without having to know how to write a poem. Our students who are learning English can find a poem that works for them (even if it’s a little one or just one in their own language).
Poetry is for everyone and it’s not meant to be taught all in one day.
Why should you be teaching poetry?
Reluctant Writers: For those students who struggle writing large amounts of text, poetry offers a more slimmed down approach. It doesn’t seem as daunting to write a Haiku or limerick. Poetry is often a way to get those writers to take a chance on writing.
English Language Learners: Syllables, rhythms and patterns are all prominent in poetry which can help your English Language Learners hear the sounds and how rhyme works. They can learn how certain words flow together and if they are just beginning to write in English, poems are short and they can stick to free verse without worrying about how to write. Anything goes in a poem!
Your Creatives: You have those students in your class that could probably write every single thing they write as a poem if you would let them. There are some students that thrive writing poetry and it’s time to let them shine.
Figurative Language: Understanding figurative language in poetry leads to understanding in all other forms of writing. This improves overall comprehension for students as it teaches them to infer, understand symbolism and use imagery. Poetry is often a visual experience which helps students learn to visualize as they read.
What are some great poetry books?
You would be surprised if you spent some time in the poetry section of your school or public library. There are hundreds of poetry books published each year. We are constantly adding to our collection it’s very difficult to just list a few, but here is a list of some of our favourite poetry books:
- Mabel Murple by Sheree Fitch
- Sleeping Dragons All Around by Sheree Fitch
- Don’t forget to visit Sheree Fitch’s website.
- Noisy Poems for a Busy Day by Robert Heidbreder
- Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee
- Garbage Delight by Dennis Lee
- Lasso the Wind by George Elliott Clarke
- Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems by Marilyn Singer
- The Hockey Song by Stompin’ Tom Connors and Gary Clement
- Boy Soup by Loris Lesynski
- Up Home by Shauntay Grant
- Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk
- Nokum is My Teacher by David Bouchard
Some of Our Silly Ones
- Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka
- Once, I Laughed My Socks Off – Poems for kids (Volume 1) by Steve Attewell
- Dogku by Andrew Clements
- My Life as a Gold Fish and Other Poems by Rachel Rooney
Oldies but Goodies
- Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
- A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
- It’s Raining Pigs & Noodles by Jack Prelutsky
- A Pizza the Size of the Sun by Jack Prelutsky
- Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Outside the Box Poetry
- Love that Dog by Sharon Creech
- Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech
- Booked by Kwame Alexander (His books are for a slightly more mature audience, but anything by Kwame Alexander tends to get the boys in the class writing poetry!)
Poems Talking About History
- Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan
- Canadian Railroad Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot and Ian Wallace
- Kids Pick the Funniest Poems by Bruce Lansky
- Technically It’s Not My Fault by John Grandits
- The Random House Book of Poetry for Children by Jack Prelutsky and Arnold Lobel
- The Llama Who Had No Pajama: 100 Favorite Poems by Mary Ann Hoberman
What are some of your favourite ways to teach poetry? Did we miss it? Leave us a comment so we can add it to our list.
So, what poem will you carry in your pocket?