As we near the end of the school year, this is a fantastic time for a poetry unit! Poetry is excellent when used as a reflective tool because it allows students the chance to express their thoughts without the constraints of grammar and mechanics. It also allows them to step away from formal academic writing and explore their own unique writer’s voices. Besides that, students tend to really enjoy writing poetry and have a lot of fun with it!
To get started with poetry, I issue my students a “Poetic License.” It’s a way to formally “let their hair down” and step away from a year spent mostly on academic writing in preparation for standardized testing. By this point in the year, everyone—teachers and students—are “over it.”
You can find a FREE copy of my “Poetic License” at the Bespoke ELA Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking on the photo below:
There are several activities you can do with poetry, and you can find these ideas at the Bespoke ELA TpT store for FREE by clicking on the photo below:
Here is a summary of the FREE poetry activities from Bespoke ELA:
1. Invent a NEW Poetic Form—Just like Haiku or Sonnet, students can get into groups and create the rules for their very own form of poetry. This activity allows students’ imaginations to run wild. I have seen everything from “Projectile Poetry” (duck!) to “Black Light Poetry” to “InstaPoetry” to “Celebrity Poetry” to “SAT Vocab Poetry” and on and on! To this day, students come back to me with fond memories of this activity.
2. Metacognitive Poetry—For this activity, students reflect back on the most meaningful memory from the year. This can be ANY memory—a group project, a funny moment in class, a character from a piece of literature, a quotation, an assignment—anything that transpired in the class. There is a reason why we remember the things we remember, and students are to write free verse in order to discover why this memory was worth remembering.
3. Where I’m from—For this poem, students are to write an autobiographical poem about where they’re from. This can, of course, include geographical information, but it can also include the people, places, things, and ideas that defined their childhoods, ranging from foods, to vacations, to life-changing and life-challenging events, and onwards.
4. Life Store Poem—If there was a physical store that existed that encapsulated everything about YOU, what would be in you store? What would your store be called? What would it look like? Where would it be located? What would you sell there? What kind of people would visit your store? Write a poem about your store.
5. Opposites Poem—Write a poem that contains as many opposites as you can possibly think of! Use famous songs such as “Hello, Goodbye” by The Beatles and “Hot, Cold” by Katie Perry as inspiration. But your poem has to go beyond the opposites. What “life truth” is revealed by these opposites?
The sky is the limit when it comes to poetry. Take this time at the end of the school year to really enjoy your students. It’s time to appreciate all of the hard work you and your students have done!
About the Author
Meredith is the founder and creator of TeachWriting.org and Bespoke ELA. She has taught high school English for 10+ years in Dallas, Chicago, and New York City and holds a M.A. in Literature from Northwestern University. She has always had a connection to the written word-- through songwriting, screenplay writing, and essay writing-- and she enjoys the process of teaching students how to express their ideas. Meredith enjoys life with her husband, daughter, and sweet pups.