April was National Poetry Month, and since many students are poetry-phobic, I saw an opportunity to create a buzz around one of my favorite genres of literature.
Each week of April, I selected three short, easy-to-read poems, printed them out on colorful paper, folded them up, and offered them in a jar outside my classroom door with a sign inviting students to take a poem to keep with them. I selected fun little poems such as William Carlos Williams’s “Red Wheelbarrow”, Lewis Carroll’s “The Crocodile”, and Nikki Giovanni’s “Possum Crossing”. These poems are colorful, relatively easy to digest, and accessible to my students, who range from grades 5 to 8.
I put the cupcake jar out on Monday morning on a little desk beside my door, and issued an announcement about National Poetry Month, and for students to visit my door for a surprise pocket poem. Then I waited. Would the students care to check the cupcake at all? Would a troublemaker take advantage of the jar and poems? Would I find the little poems littered all over the halls?
Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised, as I had to refill the jar by fourth period! I stood outside my door during passing time, as I always do, and witnessed students talking about the poems.
Some would come back with their friends during later periods and encourage them to take poems, too. The fifth graders were the most enthusiastic about this little experiment:
“Which one did you get?”
“Did you get the crocodile one?”
“This one’s funny!”
“I don’t get this poem.”
“I want to get the other two poems.”
“Can I take more to give to my friends?”
“Wait– these don’t rhyme?”
I didn’t find any poetry littered in the halls. I was approached by students asking if there were any new poems because they had already taken and read the three I offered that week. I was asked if there’d be more when the jar ran empty. This carried on all four weeks, and I was surprised and more than satisfied. I plan to do this again each year because maybe, just maybe, this activity will help cure some of the poetry-phobia among the student body.