Best Poetry Lessons and Activities

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Since 1996, Americans have celebrated National Poetry Month throughout the month of April. Reading, writing, and reciting poetry is a great way to inspire kids' interest in words and wordplay, rhyme and rhythm, meter and metaphor. 

With these top poetry teaching tools, April need not be the cruelest month in your classroom. 

Poetry Foundation (opens in new tab)
The independent nonprofit Poetry Foundation provides a wealth of free online poetry and poetry teaching resources. Explore poems, both text and audio, by topic, author, or audience (such as children, teen, or adult). The educator’s section (opens in new tab)  provides articles and guides illuminating selected texts, helping teachers home in on key teaching points. Be sure to visit the page dedicated to teaching poetry online (opens in new tab).

Poetry4kids.com (opens in new tab)
Author and former Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt’s multimedia poetry site offers not only a diverse selection of searchable poetry for kids, but also lessons in poetry writing, a rhyming dictionary, videos, podcasts, free “Streamable Learning” online events, virtual author visits, and much more. Check out Nesbitt’s YouTube channel (opens in new tab) too!

Poetry180 (opens in new tab)
From the Library of Congress and aimed at high school students, Poetry 180 makes it easy for kids to read or listen to poetry every day of the school year. The program is designed to be simple for schools to implement. 

Favorite Poem Project
(opens in new tab)Explore a collection of poetry lesson plans, organized by grade (cross-disciplinary, too!), and ideas for school poetry events. 

Video Collection: The Art of Poetry (opens in new tab)
Library of short lectures and conversations from The Art of Poetry, Robert Pinsky’s Massive Open Online Course. Filter by topics, poets, and poems. A good, quick way to look at themes such as “What is Great?” and “Freedom and Meaning.” 

National Poetry Month (opens in new tab)
Extensive, up-to-date poetry teaching resources include: how to celebrate National Poetry Month in the virtual classroom; Dear Poet, a multimedia education project; how to participate in Poem in Your Pocket Day 2021; and more.

Wednesday Night Poetry Virtual Open Mic, Poetry Through the Pandemic
(opens in new tab)Challenge your students to take their writing and speaking skills to the next level by performing their poetry as part of a virtual weekly poetry celebration on Facebook. Since 1989, Wednesday Night Poetry has been a regular event in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, and the tradition continues online, uninterrupted by the pandemic.

20 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month (opens in new tab)
(opens in new tab)Try these 21 (with bonus) simple ways to celebrate poetry with your students. Many can be easily accomplished virtually. 

Rhyme Zone (opens in new tab)
More than just a rhyming dictionary, RhymeZone lets users quickly and easily find words, phrases, synonyms, antonyms, definitions, lyrics, homophones, and much more, to make their poems shine like a serpentine skyline. Need to go deeper? Try the advanced search, which provides details on meter, parts of speech, and rare words. A remarkably simple and free tool that will be invaluable to poets and songsters everywhere.

Readworks.org Poetry Resources (opens in new tab)
Research-based lessons and activities for K-12 students. Full free access to educators with registration. The teachers’ guide (opens in new tab) furnishes step-by-step methods to use the site’s activities wisely.

Poetry Out Loud (opens in new tab)
Try this fun and dynamic way to introduce students to poetry through the thrill of the spoken word and competition. Everything teachers need to implement the Poetry Out Loud program is provided at no cost, from lesson plans to making your program accessible. 

Shel Silverstein Learning Resources (opens in new tab)
Lessons, activities, and a Common Core-aligned teaching guide to the works and world of beloved children’s poet and author Shel Silverstein.

Teaching Poetry With Student Exemplars (opens in new tab)
Excellent article by author and high school English teacher Elizabeth Jorgensen in which she shares ideas and examples for teaching poetry to high school students, and inspiring them in the process.

Reading Rockets: National Poetry Month
(opens in new tab)A bounty of resources for celebrating National Poetry Month. Watch videos of well-known poets reading aloud, and browse topics such as writing poetry with English language learners, using poetry to teach reading, and exploring haiku, sijo, and cinquain. 

TeachersFirst's Poetry Month Editor's Choice Resources
(opens in new tab)A well-curated set of top poetry teaching lessons, organized by grade. Be sure to check out the Amanda Gorman Inauguration Poem Lesson, as well as the Random Poem Generator, and The Interactive Raven.

Living Poets Digital Library (opens in new tab)
From the creators of TeachLivingPoets (opens in new tab), this digital library provides an easy-to-navigate database of selected living poets, their spoken and written work, and links to their websites.