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 to 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 my 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 last 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!

Read and Write Funny Poems
Seriously… there are some fantastically funny poems you can use in class.  Shel Silverstein (check out his website HERE for many great ideas and resources)  is one of my favourite authors and all of your students should be familiar with him and Dr. Suess.

There's nothing wrong with using a funny children’s poem to start a lesson in rhyme or alliteration… it’s a fun and easy way to get your students’ attention at the start of a class. Even though they're "big kids" they still love being read to... and it's soooo fun to read a Dr. Suess book and then use it to introduce rhyme, onomatopoeia and other examples of figurative language.

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 a 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!
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 know 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.

Use the headlines from a tabloid magazine as titles for student poetry.  Find headlines online or just buy a cheap tabloid the next time you get groceries and use it as inspiration.

Challenge your students to look up nonsense words and work them into a poem.

Be sure to check out my best selling POETRY PACK HERE. It includes five 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.




12 comments

  1. LOVE the parody of "This is Just to Say" (sounds like my sister during high school)! Thanks so much for sharing very usable ways to get the kids engaged in poetry.

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  2. The whiteboard idea is a great way to get students active and engaged! Thank you for sharing these ideas!

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  3. Addie! Thank for for sharing these tips for poetry! It's such a tricky concept to teach.

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  4. It's really incredibly fantastic and informative website. Good to discover your site Very well article! I’m simply in love with it.

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  5. I think this has become my new favorite idea I've seen today. Think I'll follow.

    resurface whiteboard

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  6. I love the survey, mainly because kids who dislike poetry usually have VERY different, personal reasons for that attitude that the teacher can then pick apart and combat. Thank you!

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  7. I LOVE poetry, and so any tips for helping students get hooked are really appreciated. :) Thanks, Addie!

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  8. So many great ideas here. I will be starting poetry soon and will definitely be putting some of these ideas into practice! Thanks for sharing.

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  9. So many fun ideas in this post! My students always cringe at the idea of poetry, so these ideas will be very refreshing to add to my poetry repertoire :)

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