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April 15, 2013 A Schoolwide Celebration of Poetry By Julie Ballew
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    April is National Poetry Month, and I could not wait to join in the celebration. Scholastic has gathered an impressive collection of poetry-themed lessons and activities here. Students at my school have been participating in a variety of activities in their classrooms, but I really wanted to host some sort of schoolwide celebration of poetry. After much consideration, I decided to invite parents and family members to an evening poetry jam. What better way to celebrate poetry than by sharing it out loud?

    Poetry Jam Flyer

    The Setup

    We filled our cafeteria with café-style tables, covered them in black tablecloths, and dimmed the lights. I ordered brownies, cookies, punch, and plenty of coffee to make it smell like a real coffee house. (Don’t worry — it was decaf!) Our cafeteria has a stage, so we set up a microphone for anyone interested in sharing and some chairs for those waiting in line.

    I also ordered multiple copies of each of the poetry anthologies below from Scholastic's Book Wizard. (Click on any book cover for more information.)

    Dirt on My Shirt Book Cover Pocket Poems Book Cover  It's Raining Pigs and Noodles Book CoverZoo Doings Book Cover

    Shout! Book Cover    Scranimals Book Cover

    I spread the anthologies out over every table so that parents and students who didn’t come with a poem already chosen could still have an opportunity to share. In the weeks leading up to the event, students were told that they could share a favorite poem they had read, or they could write an original poem to share. All forms of poetry were welcome at the microphone!

    A Celebration of Poetry

    Our principal, Dr. Susan Silva, agreed to share the first poem. Before she began, she taught the students that in many coffee houses, guests show appreciation for poetry by snapping instead of clapping. The students loved this and snapped enthusiastically after she shared a poem by E. E. Cummings.

    I’ll admit that I was slightly worried that no one would want to share a poem in front of a room full of people. I even asked all of the teachers who could attend to have a poem picked out in case the students had a little stage fright. As it turned out, this was not a problem at all! Student after student filed onto the stage with poems by Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, Lee Bennett Hopkins, and many others.

    Student reading poem on stage   Student reading poem on stage   Student reading poem on stage   Student reading poem on stage   Student reading poem on stage

    Student reading poem on stage   Teacher reading poem on stage   Teacher reading poem on stage


    Some students shared poems they had written in class, and several of them even recited their favorite poems from memory. More than half of the students who shared a poem picked out another one and returned to the stage to share again. Everyone was met with a round of appreciative snaps, and the students' faces were beaming as they returned to the audience. Fourth grade student Brooklyn told me, “It was really exciting reading a poem on the stage because everybody in the room was listening, and they all really liked it!”

    At the end of the night, I gave away all of the poetry anthologies to students who had shared a poem. They are always happy to take home a brand new book, and I’m happy that I could send a little more poetry into their houses.

    The next day, I sent thank you notes to every student who read a poem. (You can download the thank you notes here — just add their name and your signature!) I am hoping this experience will encourage them to keep celebrating poetry by sharing it with others.

    How are you celebrating National Poetry Month? Leave a comment below!


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