Teach Your Students to Write Poetry

Not only am I a teacher with probably too many years experience, but I am also a poet who has published in many English-speaking countries. For that reason I have a very strong belief that teachers and students need exposure to this discipline.

I taught one student for three years of high school English. My favorite and probably most successful unit is about teaching poetry writing. He had to do it for three years. (Different lessons but the same outcome.) The culmination of the lesson was a poetry booklet the students prepared for their mothers. I talked to his mother recently... and she still has the "stupid poetry books," as he called them. They are some of her most favorite Mother's Day presents. And my poor student still has an appreciation of poetry.

Two fears too often keep teachers from presenting poetry-writing lessons to their students. The first is many teachers are not secure in their own abilities. This is not something that is normally taught in education classes. With the help of lessons now available on the web, teachers can effectively teach students to write poetry. Some states even have writing poetry as part of their state writing standards.

The other fear has to do with students themselves. Many of them are afraid they won't "do it right." Examples written by students give them the confidence they need to try. Poems written by both the class "brain" and the "jock" prove to them that poetry is for everyone. Some of the webquests provide poetry about different professions. There are even poetry contests about specific sports.

The links below provide teachers with lesson plans, examples and different methods to teach poetry units. When I started there were none on the web. Today there are enough online lessons to provide all teachers in K-12 with lessons that can be used for years without repeating a lesson.

Outta Ray's Head
The site provides lesson plans with links to supporting materials on the web. This is one of the best lesson plan sites on the web, with lesson topics ranging from "The Imagist Love Poem" to "Using Rap in the Classroom," and lots more.

World of Wonderwords
Sponsored by BBC Learning, Wonderwords is an interactive site for younger elementary students to play with words. The site teaches word choice and the use of precise words to be more descriptive.

The English Room: 30 Days of Poetry
The goal of this site is to provide teachers and students with patterns in poetry,. It culminates in the publishing of a Mothers Day Present of poetry. This is my personal site. I have used it successfully and it has been used by teachers across the nation. Even some professional writers have used the exercises here.

ProTeacher: Poetry Lessons for Elementary Kids
With over 50 links to good poetry sites, such as "Pizazz: Sausage Poems" or "Friendship Cinquains," this site will keep teachers busy for many years.

Young Poets Org
Sponsored by Creative Communication, a company claiming it is devoted to poetry in education, the site has archived newsletters full of creative techniques for teaching poetry. Teachers can subscribe to a newsletter that provides short lessons. The tips are good enough I have subscribed myself.

Poetry Lessons
The author calls them lessons but they are really simple examples of topics such as assonance or concrete poetry. The goal is to introduce students to many different poetry forms, including acrostics, haiku, and tanka among others. The goal is for students to exercise skills that can lead to writing poetry. There is also a no-name mirror site which covers the same topics but looks quite different.

Language Poetry Lessons
Part of the edHelper.com site, this page is a portal to many fascinating and creative poetry lessons, including a link to a NASA site that has students write poetry about the Wright Brothers (appropriate for this Centennial Year), Charles Lindbergh, and others.

Poetry Express
There are 15 clickable links to exercises designed to help students write poems. Exercises are "student-centric" in that they provide clear instructions and speak to the learner with instructions such as "Write a poem of 4 to 9 lines containing the words "mustard," "piano," "elastic," "moat," "notorious."

Poetry Aloud: A Directory of Poetry Readings on the Internet
What could be better than hearing a poem read by its author, especially if that author is Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, or T.S. Eliot. These, and many other choices, are available through this portal whose goal is to let students hear poetry. Many of the sites also offer the text version so students can read along (silently).

Teen Poetry
Sponsored by "The Student Center" this site allows students to read poetry created by other teens and to submit their own original work. It is one of the few sites that provide examples of peer-written poetry. But teachers worried about Acceptable Use should be aware that the frame at the left offers distractions: links to "Teen Hotties," live chats, and other teen-oriented material that someone could find possibly inappropriate. It might be advisable to examine the site for yourself before using it in class.