April is National Poetry Month. One of my favorite parts of the celebration is Poem in Your Pocket Day. The idea is simple: Select a poem you love and carry it with you all day to share with classmates, family, and friends. You can learn about the history of the event at the Academy of American Poets website. They took the original idea and encouraged people all across the country to join in the fun of sharing a favorite poem.
Besides their own inherent beauty, poems can be great educational tools. They introduce children to verse, rhythm, rhyme and meter, as well as countless writing styles and literary devices. Best of all, the simple, pure language used in many poems can be appreciated by readers of varying abilities, providing a perfect forum in which to teach a variety of language arts skills.
The world of poetry includes limericks, ballads, sonnets, verse, free verse, odes, epitaphs, narrative poems, nonsense poems and a whole lot more. Here are a few of my favorite types of poetry, which kids seem to love too:
Many children are drawn first to poems that RHYME, of course. These are fun for kids because they flow like music and are often silly in nature. Couplets are made up of two lines whose last words rhyme. An example is:
Hip, Hip Hur-ray, It's Poem in my Pocket Day!
I made a short video about my Big Yellow Cat so you can hear me read a rhyming poem. I hope it will inspire you or your students to write your own!
Another beautiful type of poetry is a haiku. It originated in Japan and often reflects on nature and feelings. There are three lines with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second, and five syllables in the third. This is a great way for children to use their observation skills to write about what they see in a new or different way. This example of a haiku is by Basho Matsuo, the first great poet of haiku in the 1600s:
An old silent pond...
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.
Another kid favorite in the world of poetry is the “acrostic” or name poem. In acrostic poems, the first letters of each line are aligned vertically to form a word. The word often is the subject of the poem. In the following example, I’ll use the word “poem” as my example.
Often in rhyme
Easy to write
Made in no time
What I like about this type of poem is they are easy to write; they don’t need to rhyme, and you don’t need to worry about the rhythm of the lines. Each line can be as long or as short as you want, and the form gives you a concrete structure in which to write. To help your students create an acrostic poem, encourage them to follow these four easy steps:
- Decide what to write about. It can be about anything: your name, a friend’s name, your pet’s name, your bike - or even soccer, music, your favorite food, etc.
- Write your word down vertically and capitalize the letters. If you are using colored pencils or crayons, use a bright color to make the letters stand out. These will be the first letters of each line of your poem.
- Now start writing the lines of the poem, building on the letters. You can use single words, phrases, or even full sentences in your acrostic poem.
- Brainstorm words or phrases associated with your theme to come up with unexpected and fun places to take your poem.
So give it a try and see what your students can come up with! You can show them my Poetry Fun playlist for a little inspiration.