It is no wonder why April has been deemed National Poetry Month. Early spring is filled with inspiration. The longer days and warming temperatures seem to improve my mood and stir my creativity. What a great time for reading and writing poetry! There are numerous ways to celebrate National Poetry Month through the school library. Last year, my students and I experimented with a digital poetry slam. The joyous process is open to whatever resources and strategies best suit your learner and school library needs.
I had always dreamed of having my younger primary school students perform in our own version of a poetry slam. Last year, my school library brought the event to life for the first time. How did we conduct such an event at a time when most in-person events were to be replaced with virtual alternatives? Fortunately, my students and staff had become skilled in using digital presentation tools. Instead of hosting a single live poetry slam, we created a digital poetry collection readily available for a wider audience of family and friends.
Students in the early grades seem to love poetry. They may not understand all of a poem’s figurative language, structure, or symbolism, but they get excited discussing their interpretations of the piece’s meaning.
School librarians can help expose learners to various types of poetry using picture books, anthologies, and digital collections. The Children’s Poetry Archive is a free website for listening to the world’s best poetry read aloud. The site lets you explore poems by theme, literary glossary, and age group.
Shortly after listening and reading to poetry in a safe setting, students will be eager to craft their poems. I had my students use a program called Poetry Machine to help them create original poems. After some practice writing different styles of poems offered on the site, each homeroom came together to write a class poem. Some classes chose to write free verse poems, while others created acrostic and concrete poems. Each class poem was “published” to our school-wide digital poetry slam eBook. You can find Google Slides eBook templates from Slidesgo, SlidesMania, or create your own. Our classrooms’ published works were accompanied by a student art piece that somehow captured the poem’s topic or meaning.
Digital poetry slams can really come to life with recordings of students reciting the poems. The Mote Chrome Extension is a great tool for adding voice notes directly on pages in Google Slides. Teachers and family members will enjoy hearing students read aloud their original poems as they “flip” through the digital compilation of class poems.
There are many fun and creative ways for school library users to experience poetry. Inspiration for creating original poems can come from many places: nature, conversations, and other people’s work. As a school librarian looking to engage students in writing poetry, I find inspiration from my colleagues, favorite authors, and online networks like AASL, ALSC, PBS LearningMedia, and Future Ready Librarians. I hope you will be inspired to celebrate National Poetry Month with new and exciting ideas!
Author: Sam Northern, Ed.D.
Sam Northern is a National Board Certified Teacher-Librarian at Simpson Elementary School in Franklin, Kentucky. He currently serves as President of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians. In 2014, Sam was selected for the Fulbright-Hays Summer Seminars Abroad Program where he spent four weeks in China. Since then, Sam has voyaged to Antarctica as a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow and worked aboard a research vessel on the Atlantic Ocean as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. From January to April 2018, Sam traveled to Finland as part of the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program to research best practices for project-based learning. Connect with him on Twitter @Sam_Northern and Facebook @themisterlibrarian.