Poetry is an engaging and motivating form of writing. As teachers, we need engaging and motivating forms of writing. It can be a fight to get students who struggle or are reluctant to complete writing assignments. Poetry is different from other forms of writing, so students’ reactions to it are often different.
Take a look at my growing poetry bundle on Teacher Pay Teachers to get started in your classroom.
1. Poetry Breaks Writing Conventions
Poetry breaks so many of the normal writing conventions that are required in every other type of writing. It’s awesome to tell students that there are writing rules they don’t always have to follow. Students take some pleasure in the idea of breaking the rules. It makes writing poetry fun for them.
However, to break the rules students must know what the rules are. Writing poetry can lead to organic conversations about what the writing rules are and how different forms of poetry break them.
2. Creativity is Required
Poetry lets creativity run wild. It’s creativity that can fit any personality too. Some of the poems are silly like limericks. The class clown can stop acting out for attention and make the class laugh with his or her work. However, there are plenty of serious poems that let students get creativity with descriptions and word choice.
There are so many different formats and styles of poetry that every student will find at least one form that fits their creative style.
3. Poetry has Clear Directions and Form
In the classroom, students are often overwhelmed by writing tasks. They don’t want to create outlines or prewrites, and just don’t even know where to start.
Poetry is different. Students can often get going on writing a poem easily because there are clear directions and rules for each type of poem. There is a clear format they are required to follow.
Suddenly students who couldn’t write yesterday are the first ones done with their draft.
4. Poems Are Short
Poetry is often a short form of writing. To most students short equals easy. Really, writing poetry can be challenging, but their mindset has changed and so has their output and their confidence.
Suddenly students who struggled to get a paragraph done in an hour are finished with their poem, and it’s five times more beautiful than you expected.
My jaw has dropped many times when I’ve read the poetry of my students. It’s also amazing to see their confidence grow. They got an assignment, pre-wrote, drafted, revised, edited, and published in the timeframe given by the teacher. They did it. I love seeing their confidence soar high from writing.
5. Poems have descriptive language
Poems are short and have only a few lines, or most of them anyway. Since Poets are trying to fit so much into a short poem they must write with more purpose. The poet’s word choice and descriptions must be powerful.
I find that writing poetry helps students become more descriptive writers. It can be because it’s easier to take and implement suggestions from teachers and classmates. It’s less intimidating to look up alternate words when there are only 15 words on the page, or just because the student is more invested in what they wrote. No matter which reason I find students have better descriptive language when writing poetry.
6. Poetry Uses Literary Devices
Every teacher wants their students to use literary devices in their writing. However, every teacher also knows that’s a struggle. It must be in the requirements of the writing piece.
Every five years you get one student who loves writing. It shows because they add literary devices, descriptive language, and dialogue to their writing without being asked. Poetry brings this out in most students.
Poetry makes literary devices friendly to work with because it’s often the focus of the short writing piece. Students can really focus on understanding that one part of writing because they aren’t trying to fit it into a five-paragraph essay.
Breaking tasks down and scaffolding them. Isn’t that what teachers are all about? I am often delighted that after we work with a literary device in poetry I find it popping up in other writing assignments. It has been broken-down for students in writing a poem and now they are ready to apply it other places.
7. Poetry practices the writing process
In all of my poetry lessons, I have my students practice the writing process. When I ask students to use a graphic organizer for an essay they barely look at it. To them, it’s extra work they will do if required. They think their essays don’t need revisions.
The writing process takes so long to complete in essays because it is spread over days and weeks, so it’s hard for students to grasp and internalize the process.
However, the short form of poems helps students to practice all the steps of the writing process several times. They can learn the difference between revising and editing. They can share their poem in a couple of minutes and are often proud of their work when they share it.
8. Poetry also puts more grades in your grade book
I know this one sounds silly, but it’s true. I have gotten to the end of a grading period with only one or two writing grades before and it’s scary. Suddenly a writing assignment carries a heavyweight in their final grade. As the teacher, you were planning on several assignments, but the first one took longer than you planned.
Poems are short assignments that help struggling and reluctant writers get invested in and complete their work. Instead of one writing grade you now have five. Now their final grade is a better reflection of who a student is and what they are capable of. They would have struggled to show you what they can write in a five-paragraph research essay. They barely finished because they felt sick every day during writing because it was so stressful.
9. Poetry is fun
Okay, so poetry is not as amazing as going to the theme park on a day where there are no lines and you got to ride the superman roller coaster seven times in 30 minutes. (Yes, this really happened to me). But it’s more fun than other forms of writing.
It creates conversation about writing. It creates humor and love of writing. It creates community. It creates learning.
How to Implement Poetry in Your Classroom
There are two formats that I like to use to make poetry part of my classroom. Which you chose could depend on your personality, the students you have a particular year, or school administration. Ultimately it’s up to you, but here’s what I have used.
Why Teachers Fail to Implement Poetry
Do not plan to add it in where you can, or hope you remember to complete the couple of poems you really like.
Why this loose plan fails:
- You will forget it. I worked with a teacher who did this and sometimes the Halloween poem would get done after Halloween.
- The Common Core or other standards will overwhelm and pressure you. There is so much that has to get finished to meet state standards that poetry gets pushed back, continuously. It’s a form of writing that can benefit our students so much we can not let it get pushed back to next week.
- If you value it and keep it in the schedule your students will value it too. Our students know when something is important because we make it a priority. Then they make it a priority too. They will be more invested in it knowing it’s important.
Format 1 Dedicate an ELA block to poetry each week.
This sounds simple, but when you have so many other assignments you are trying to teach, complete, this is hard.
I like a two-week rotation:
- Introduce the poetry assignment
- Continue revising if necessary (If I leave something alone for a week then I often have brilliant new ways to improve it)
- Publish and Share
Why I like a weekly block
Having poetry scheduled as a weekly block helps me to ensure it stays on the calendar. With all the other demands the schools place on teachers having poetry scheduled in helps me keep it a priority.
I also like that it gives the students and myself a break from essay writing, research, or revising their narratives again. It becomes a break they know they can count on.
When I write, even a simple email, I will often let it sit for a day before sending it. I sometimes think of something new or decide something doesn’t work well because I let it sit for a while. I feel the same thing is true by letting students’ poetry drafts sit for a week.
Why I don’t like a weekly block
Sometimes I also feel it interrupts the other work we are doing. We might be working hard on a creative writing story and sometimes I feel like taking a break from the current project to write a poem interrupts our flow. However, then they are letting that story sit for a day so it might be beneficial.
Format 2: Devote a month to writing poems
April is national poetry month. (You may also want to consider October or November so the benefits of writing poetry spill into the rest of the year.) Why not write only poems for the entire month? Imagine your students’ reactions when you tell them there will be no essays for a month. It could be a real “O Captain, My Captain” moment (from The Dead Poets Society).
Plan to write a new poem every two days. You would still follow the rotation we talked about earlier, but the days would be back to back. You would be able to write two poems a week.
Monday: Poem 1
- Introduce the poetry assignment
- Continue revising if necessary (if I leave something alone for a week then I often have a brilliant new ways to improve it)
- Publish and Share
Wednesday: Poem 2
- Introduce the poetry assignment
- Continue revising if necessary (if I leave something alone for a week then I often have a brilliant new way to improve it)
- Publish and Share
- Complete anything that is incomplete
- Also a great idea to leave this day open on your calendar because of holidays or state testing.
Why I like scheduling a poetry month
This format means that you are devoted to a month of poetry writing. It can really help students get in the poetry zone and develop a love for it.
I don’t feel like I’m interrupting other projects because this is the complete focus for the month.
Why I don’t like scheduling a poetry month
I feel there are so many benefits from writing poetry and I like students to experience this throughout the year.
Students don’t get to let the drafts of their poems sit for a week while they think about them.
I don’t get to put poetry grades in my grade book throughout the year. So their grades may not be an even reflection of what they can accomplish with different forms of writing.
Poetry is underestimated by most. It’s a beautiful art form that benefits our students. Let’s use it more.
Poets.org has posters for National Poetry Month as well as a student poster competition for high schoolers.
Look for other poetry competitions for your students to enter. Sometimes scholastic has them.
Check out my growing poetry bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers. All of these poems are listed individually too.