9 Ideas for Challenge classes during National Poetry Month

My students in the Challenge III program of Classical Conversations study five Shakespeare plays, and work on poetry through the year. But because they are so busy, poetry gets put aside, and we sip a thin broth on poetry sharing days. Each week I read aloud a poem or I present a poem form with some models to imitate, giving them some guidance and inspiration for writing during the week.

April is National Poetry Month and I have found fantastic ideas to use with my students. I share a few ideas here:

  1. The first week in April, have the students choose a poem to memorize. Tell them to be prepared to recite the last week in April, close to Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 27 in 2017). It can be short. One of my favorites is Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost. Robert Louis Stevenson is another good source.
  2. Assemble sandwich bag collections of Magnetic Poetry magnets with a variety of parts of speech,  30-50 words. Hand one out to each student. Tell them to scatter the words around, play with them and see what happens.* Give them 10 minutes or so to create something using what they have, employing images to say more than the words themselves. Perhaps they can create a haiku. Share. Vote on one or two to post in the hallway on the magnetic board (see below). If you don’t have magnet words, type up a list of words and cut them out for your student packets. I have seen word lists on Pinterest.
  3. Have students create a Reversal Poem using this template. This is based on a Jonathan Reed poem, which was in turn inspired by a campaign commercial in Argentina. Very, very clever. Even my hard-bitten students got excited about this one. It took all of ten minutes in class.
  4. Put out in the hall a magnetic board with a lot of Magnetic Poetry word magnets. Encourage students to play during lunch break. Acknowledge truly outstanding art.
  5. You and your students post a poem on your Facebook page every day of April.
  6. Do you know how to add a “signature” to your email? Encourage your students to change it to a poem or a quotation about poetry for the month of April. Some ideas:
    • “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.” Carl Sandburg
    • “Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.” Dylan Thomas
    • “The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” G.K. Chesterton (For the joker in your class)
  7. Collect student poems (or student-choice master poems) to be printed up in a booklet to hand out at the end of the year. Include author photos and space for classmates to sign. This could be your class yearbook.
  8. For Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 27 in 2017) have your Challenge students prepare, a couple of weeks ahead, a page of poems for children, so that in total you have enough for every Foundations child on campus. Duplicates are okay. Make sure you count the babies and toddlers too. Cut these out and fold them into envelopes, one per child. Get help from the Foundations Director so that you know what names to write. On the campus day nearest Poem in a Your Pocket Day, give them out. On my campus, we will tape these on a wall for the classes to find when they come downstairs after Opening (with the knowledge of the Director and tutors!) If I have time, I will make card stock pockets, with names, for the envelopes and tape those up instead. You might include the parents too, and the other Challenge classes, so every single person gets a poem.
  9. Also on this day, all Challenge III students will carry in their pockets the poems they have memorized this month. Children (and adults!) will be encouraged to go up to a Challenge student to ask for the poem to be recited.

It is important for students to understand that writing poetry is like playing baseball or painting with oils; it is an art that takes years to mature but gives pleasure early. Take the pressure off. Let them know this is about playing with words.

My hope is that every student will see the power of succinct and compressed language to color and flavor all their persuasive communication. Happy Poetry Month!


About lettersfromheartscontent

Mother of six, wife to a forester and educator, former homeschool teacher and tutor with Classical Conversations. Now retired from teaching music at a small Christian school. In my retirement I am quilting, decluttering, and calling country dances--contra dances and more for people in my community who want to get out again.
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