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Celebrating World Poetry Day

As a classroom teacher, at this time of year I always looked forward to April and to teaching poetry during National Poetry Month.

I was usually successful in finding some poets and specific poems that resonated with my third and fourth graders. Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky were class favorites, as was the poem “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll. The students loved the fun nature of poems by these poets. Their reactions were in line with one of the goals of National Poetry Month—to celebrate the art of poetry and poets.

My students often used poets and poems as inspiration in their own writing, and they certainly enjoyed performing their poems for others. One year, I worked with some colleagues to organize a “Poetry Day” for our classes, in which we spent all day reading, writing, and performing poetry.

Looking back, although we all enjoyed the poems we read, there were certainly more poets we could have explored and included from around the world. And that’s where World Poetry Day comes in—what a great opportunity to discover poets that may be new to you and your students!

World Poetry Day is held annually on March 21. It was originally declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1999, with a purpose of promoting the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world—”to give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements.”

There are so many possibilities with poetry. Reading, writing, and performing are obvious choices.

How else can poetry be part of the curriculum? Find a poet unknown to the class and engage in an inquiry project, learning as much as you can and sharing with each other. Find poets and poems that students can make personal connections to—how do they see themselves represented? Much like the celebration with my students, how can poems be used to celebrate language and all of its richness?

So as March 21 approaches, invite students to share their favorite poetry, go out into the community and attend poetry readings, or find books of poetry at the library or bookstore that can help you celebrate World Poetry Day.

Also consider joining us for the second year of NCTE Verse, which lets you sign up to get an email every weekday in April celebrating poets!

We’d love to hear your poetry suggestions for World Poetry Day and National Poetry Month!