5 Ways to Make Poetry Fun and Accessible
Students don’t get too excited when we begin teaching poetry. In fact, we often get a lot of groaning and eye-rolling when the poetry lessons start. Turn this around with 5 ways to make poetry fun and accessible to your students:
1. Play Figurative Language Bingo:
I never dive into analysis with a difficult poem, that’s for sure. In fact, I don’t even start with analysis. Instead, I scaffold the skills they will need to feel confident and successful when it comes time to do an analysis. But, I try to do it in a way that makes poetry accessible and fun!
This is something you can do even before you start a unit on poetry. When your students are reading fiction and non-fiction, begin the practice of identifying poetic devices in their texts. As they read, have them record examples of any devices that they find in the text.
You can create a bingo card by making a 5 x 6 table and filling it in with the different devices that you want your students to find. I repeat the most common ones, like metaphor, simile and personification. Then, I throw in just one of the least common ones like synecdoche. Students can fill in their cards by recording quotations that match each device.
I step my figurative language bingo up a notch, so the students also have to analyze the purpose of each device they discover. I provide them with folded-over cards where they record the quotation that illustrates the device. On the inside, they write a brief statement about what they believe the author’s purpose is.
They check with me before they put it on the board, which builds in some formative assessment too. Once someone gets a row, I give them a little prize, so the competition is fierce! You can check out my ready-made bingo board here.
2. Have Poetry Scavenger Hunts:
I use these in a couple of ways. If I want students to write a poem, I’ll send them to different locations around the school to “find” inspiration. You can read about this here and grab an editable copy of the scavenger hunt here.
I also use poetry scavenger hunts when I’m ready to get the kids analyzing poetry. However, when we do this we are still scaffolding, because I want the kids to get used to identifying devices in poetry before they have to write an analysis.
I choose five different poems that, together, contain a range of poetic devices. One poem might have a number of metaphors and allusions, another might be full of imagery, etc. I enlarge each one and place it at a different station; then, I give the kids a task sheet like this one, and they have to go to each station to “find” the devices on the scavenger hunt.
3. Do Figurative Language Challenges:
A few years ago, I discovered that my 12th grade students – who could easily identify a metaphor – could not write one. So, I created The Metaphor Challenge to teach them how to do so.
This was such a hit that I created challenges that teach them about other figurative devices like personification, allusion, and imagery. Each challenge is designed to give students practice with the process required to create their own figurative devices which, in turn, will help them better understand it in the poetry you will give them to read.
Each one of these challenges is available in this bundle.
4. Create Collaborative Poetry:
One way to remove the mystery from poetry, and make it more fun and accessible, is to have students create their own. However, many lack the confidence to do this, so I usually begin with some collaborative poetry that allows them to work together to create a free-verse poem.
To do this, give them an interesting topic that they will eventually write their poem about. I usually choose something they can all relate to like a location in the school or a topic like love, friendship, etc. I instruct them to brainstorm phrases, images, or ideas that they associate with the topic. Then, I give each student strips of paper and ask them to write their best ones on the strips.
Finally, I group students and have them use their strips to create a free verse poem on chart paper. You can read more about this process here.
5. Do a Group Poetry Analysis:
I give my students several opportunities to collaborate when they are learning to analyze poetry, so they can help each through the process. One of my favourite activities lets them work in groups to focus on only one element of a challenging poem; after, they get to see how each element works together (you can grab the free lesson plan here).
If you would like more lessons and activities that make poetry more accessible and fun, check these out: