Thirty Poetry Project Ideas for National Poetry Month!

To celebrate National Poetry Month (April), I thought I would make this month’s blog all about poetry by sharing some fun poetry ideas to get those creative juices flowing!

Years ago, while sifting through paperwork I happened upon my old “Poem Report,” dated May 24, 1989!  While the memories of working so hard to perfect my original poetry (not to mention my handwriting, since I didn’t own a computer then) came flooding back, I was able to flip through the pages with different eyes at that time—the eyes of a new teacher.  I was blessed to have so many great teachers, and although I never could remember which teacher assigned the Poem Report, I was finally able to honor her by assigning my students their own project to explore great poetry and discover their own inner poet.

Some ideas for a Poetry Project:

1)    Have students create a bio-poem.  As you can see from this site, bio-poems also work from others’ perspectives (like a character in a book) as well.

2)    Have students create “I Am” poems.  Really great activity for the beginning of the year or semester when you have new students.

3)    Have students create an “I Do Not Understand” poem. Some great examples.

4)    Also, the same blog has some excellent Found poems (anyone teach Touching Spirit Bear?)  The same can be done for any piece of literature.

5)    Have students create an “All-Lies” poem.  This is important because in order to write lies, you must know the truth.  These can be as many lines as you decide, and are generally non-rhyming.  To help students with this, you may have them write one poem all about themselves, then switch it up on them and tell them that the real assignment is to create all lies—or non-truths—about themselves.  For example, “I do not care about my friends, my room, or my iPod.  In fact, I wish I could throw away all electronic devices forever.”

6)    Have students free-write listening to music.  Or have them rewrite the lyrics of their favorite song, changing the story, or ending, or choosing better words by using a thesaurus to see what they come up with.

7)    Have students write poems in pairs—one person writes a line, then back and forth.

8)    Have students create a group poem…passing the poem around and having each one create a new line as it moves around (like the old game of telephone).  To be sure students don’t sit long without anything to do, have them work on several poems at once.  One of the rules, however, is that each line must be new and original and cannot be repeated within the same poem or in another poem!

9)    Give students a list of 6-10 random words and have them create a poem based upon your guidelines.

10) Have each student bring a photo to school.  This can be a personal photo, or a picture from a magazine or newspaper.  Have students create a 15-line poem telling the story of the photo, or from the perspective of the person in the photo.  If the photo is of a place or thing, have students write a poem from the perspective of that place or thing.

11) Have students turn a short story, tall-tale, children’s story, etc. into a poem.

12) Have students choose an article from the newspaper and create a poem based upon the information.

13) Have students create a poem in which every line of the poem must begin with a certain letter of the alphabet, i.e. all lines begin with the letter “s.”

14) Have students create their own epitaph in limerick form (I always used this one at Halloween—the kids loved it!)

There once was a teacher, Mrs. Bowers

Who lies here pushing up flowers

Her students drove her to death

Until her last breath

And now she’s out haunting for hours

15) Have students write a eulogy in poetry form for something they value, i.e. iPod, cell phone, their room, their car, their privacy.

16) Have students create a poem from headlines in newspapers, magazines, etc.  Be sure to indicate number of lines and whether it should rhyme or not.

17) Have students create a Sestina (six-stanzas, unrhymed). Challenging and fun!

18) Have students create their own sonnets.  Be sure to give the rules!

19) Have students write either a Tanka or a Haiku.

20) Have students create an Up and Down Poem.

21) Have students create a Five Senses Poem.  First, describe an emotion by assigning it a color (sight), then tell how it smells, tastes, sounds, and feels.

22) Have students create a synonym poem.  See Colin McNaughton’s “I’m Talking Big!” which begins “I’m talking big!  I’m talking huge! I’m talking enormous, immense, tremendous!”

23) Have students create a 5-6 line tongue-twister (this can be a good exercise in alliteration as well)

24) Have students create Cinquains.  Short and sweet!

25) Have students create a Pantoum, a Malayan poem invented in the 15th Century.

26) Have students create acrostics.  I am sure they have done this for their own name at one point in their lives, so have them create an acrostic using a more challenging word, such as their favorite sport, subject in school, or—even better—a character from literature!

27) Have students create an “ode” to one of their favorite things.  This can be a tangible object, like their cell phone, or something intangible, like exhaustion or frustration.

28) Create poetry across the curriculum!  Have students create a poem about a figure or event they are studying in history or social studies, or have students create a poem using at least 10 math words or concepts.  For science, have students write a poem based on the biology of a frog or other concept they have been studying.

29) Have students research a poet and write a biography—or better yet, a poem—about the poet!

30) Have students choose a famous poem, then create a copy of the poem.  They can create a copy by imitating the style, rhythm, and rhyme of the poem.

Although in the “old days” I put my report together in a couple pieces of construction paper and a few brads, times have obviously changed.  Have students compile their poetry projects in an original blog.  Blog hosting is free and gives a perfect opportunity for students to share their work.  Or, at the very least, have one of your more tech-savvy students create a blog for sharing each class’s work.  Students can also create work on their technological skills by compiling their work in a PowerPoint presentation or on CD.

Be sure to outline the guidelines and expectations for their poems. At the very least, let them know when they can or cannot rhyme, and how many lines minimum (or maximum) the poem should have.

Other ideas:

National Poem In Your Pocket Day is April 14.  Celebrate the written word by sharing your favorite poem with friends and colleages! See Poets.org for more info.

Start a Poetry Slam at your school.  Info available at Poetry Slam, Inc. at http://www.poetryslam.com/ or http://nps2011.com/

Other fun stuff is available at Scholastic.com including an interactive poetry machine, poetry writing workshops, tips for reading and analyzing poetry, poetry unit plans, and more!

Links consulted/referenced:

http://ettcweb.lr.k12.nj.us/forms/iampoem.htm

http://www.studyguide.org/bio_poem.htm

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5792

http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~leslieob/updown.html

http://academics.uww.edu/cni/webquest/Fall02/Poetry%20Webquest/fivesensespoetry.html

http://home.earthlink.net/~jesmith/Acrostic1.html

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/writing-a-sonnet.html

http://literacyworkshop.org/wpmu/rallen/category/i-dont-understand/

http://literacyworkshop.org/wpmu/rallen/category/found-poem/

http://www.theteacherscorner.net/collaboration-projects/poetry-power/printables/Haiku.pdf

http://www.poetryslam.com/

http://teacher.scholastic.com/poetry/index.htm

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