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Empower Young Poets: A Teacher’s Guide to Boosting Poetry Writing

By Lauren Gould

The essence of teaching poetry lies not just in the analysis of words and metaphors, but in witnessing the growth and discovery of your students–in strengthening student voice, inviting reflection, and creating a space for self-expression. This makes the study of poetry well-suited for wrapping up the year. 

Whether you’re teaching poetry with our resources like our “Poetry: Writing, Thinking, and Seeing More” in the Grades 3-5 If…Then… Curriculum Guide, “Poetry: Immersion and Innovation” in the Grades 6-8 If…Then… Curriculum Guide, using our Grades 7-8 Curriculum Calendar, “How to Eat a Poem,” or designing your own poetry unit, we’ve got tips to help! 

Here, we share five strategies to invigorate your poetry units and inspire student writing:

  1. Read poetry: Poetry is meant to be heard, seen, and read! To launch a poetry unit, curate a text set with a diverse range of voices and styles. You might include written poetry, spoken word videos, and songs and song lyrics.  As you prepare, you can decide which texts you might share with students to read aloud, and which texts they might read on their own. You might even coach poetry discussion groups, inviting students to read and analyze poems together.

  2. Model your own poetry writing: Demonstration is a powerful way to invite students into the writing process. Use your demonstration writing to share your thinking process, show how you get started, and model vulnerability. You might keep a teacher demonstration notebook, or draft on the computer, chart paper, or whiteboard so students can watch you write. 

  3. Get students writing poetry: We all walk around with poems within us. Rather than only analyzing poems, engage students in writing poems, too, using poems they study as mentors. To support students in writing poetry, you could introduce some poetic forms like haiku, but encourage kids to focus on their ideas more than a particular form each time.

  4. Hold poetry slams: Creating space to share poetry can help build classroom community. Reserve time in your schedule for students to share their poems with one another. This can be low stakes, like sharing with a partner or small group, or more formal, like holding a poetry slam with the whole class. You might use an author's chair, dim the lights, or set up your room in another way to make the moment–and your students–feel special.   

  5. Publish a poetry anthology: Authentic audience is key to student engagement. Work with your colleagues to determine how students will share their poems, and let students know from the very beginning who they are writing for! Will students create a class website that will be shared with other students in the grade and with parents? Will students use Book Creator to publish a poetry chapbook? Might students film spoken word poems and create a compilation to send home to families? How can you imagine your students sharing their work?

Planning for a mixture of poetry read alouds, poetry writing practice, and poetry performance can help create an environment that encourages student expression and fosters classroom community. 

Interested in learning more? Use this page to download our middle school curricular calendar, “How to Eat a Poem,” or check out the If….Then… Books that accompany the Grades 3-5 and 6-8 Writing Units of Study. 

Published on May 22, 2024