Poetry - Fun and Engaging Lesson Ideas for Secondary Students

When I tell my students we’re going to read a poem, start a poetry unit or write poetry there is usually a collective groan from the crowd.  My heart sinks a little and I try to put on a bright face and tell them it is going to be “fun”.  The groan gets a little louder…  Anyone else experience the same thing? Fear not my teacher friends… I promise I can make teaching poetry fun!

First Things First…
I like to gauge my students’ interest in poetry with a quick one-page survey – grab a copy here FREE.  I ask them what poetry means and what they do and do not like about studying poetry. The interest survey acts as an icebreaker and allows students to share their previous experiences with poetry.  Use the survey as a launching pad for a class discussion, have students share with each other, and then use the results to help you plan your lessons.

Can It Really Be “Fun”?
Yes… yes, it can!  Poetry is all about the power of our words, the ability to use words to convey an emotion, to paint a picture in our minds, to provoke thought, to make us laugh, or to make us cry.  Teaching students that their writing carries power is incredible and if you can include creative and humorous lessons… I promise you can make it fun. Don't be afraid to be a little (or a lot) silly, use examples from children's literature, and be willing to have a laugh or two!

Figurative Language
One of my favourite activities to do when we’re learning new figurative language is to have students share their ideas on the whiteboard.  I pass out 3-4 whiteboard markers and ask students to write an example on the board, they then pass the marker on to someone else. I give them 5-10 minutes to add their ideas to the board.  I end up with at least 30 (often more) examples… many of them are so creative and funny we all end up getting a good giggle.  And… it seems no matter how old they are, they still get a kick out of writing on the whiteboard.

Grab a FREE Figurative Language Reference Sheet HERE.   Another fun and engaging way to start a lesson on figurative language is to watch one of the many videos on Youtube that show examples of figurative language in movies and songs.  Check out this fun one HERE!

Write a Rant - Let Out Your Frustrations!
Another fun poetry activity is to have students write about their pet peeves!  Students love to share and brainstorm all of the little things that irritate and annoy them and then using my Pet Peeve Poetry resource write a poem to share their frustrations. Using similes and other figurative language, this activity is an easy introduction to writing their own poem.  This is an activity I look forward to doing every year and I LOVE to read what they come up with!  Their writing is usually hilarious and it's so fun to listen to them share their pet peeves as they work through their ideas.  The 9-page resource includes everything you need to get started right away! This activity is also included in my full Poetry Pack - a bundle of 9 ready-to-use poetry writing activities.

Rewrite Well Known Poems 
I always get hilarious results when I ask students to write their own version of William Carlos Williams’ poem “This Is Just to Say”…. You can link to it HERE.   My students love to admit what they’ve done, why it was wrong, and then the last line that rubs it all in.   We post them on the wall in my classroom and all have a good laugh.  I often have students write 2-3 versions of this type of poem... it is a great way to get out their frustrations and ties in nicely with the Pet Peeve poem mentioned above.

Some More Fun Ideas
Check out this LIST of some humorous poems you can share with your students – many of them written by some well-known poets.  Use them as examples and encourage your students to share their own.

Limericks are another great way to introduce humour into your poetry lessons –  download a FREE Limerick Lesson HERE.

Be sure to check out my best-selling POETRY PACK HERE. It includes nine different poetry writing activities that have always engaged my students.

I hope I have given you some poetic inspiration to mix a little fun into your poetry unit!  Don't be afraid to be silly - even with your seniors!  Sometimes I think we take poetry too seriously and it becomes intimidating for our students.

Be sure to check out more POETRY ACTIVITIES from my 
Secondary English Coffee Shop friends.

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