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Refreshing methods of introducing poetry to students

By James Harlan on 01 April 2014, 11:08am | Teaching & Learning

Great poetry can be the kind of art that stays with you forever, be it Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney or Daffodils by William Wordsworth. However, given the old-school nature of poetry means that a lot of students will need a great introduction from a teacher. James Harlan discusses some cool ideas for getting students into the artform.

Rereading and performing poetry are two of the most common techniques used in poetry-introductions. Others would require students to conduct their reading on topics, like meter and rhyme. These methods are effective.

But that doesn’t mean teachers can’t try other techniques. This piece serves to showcase some useful (and tested) creative prompts for poetry. Hopefully, you and your students will find them useful too!

The Favourite Toy

Poems are personal; it tends to show the poet’s ability to observe. To enable students to see just that, let them bring their favourite toy (without fully telling them what it’s about). For briefing, let them describe their favourite toy or have them list relevant descriptive words. These words will be used to pen the first draft of their poem about toys.

For an advance exercise, you can let them immediately compose a poem about their toy. You can provide cues that range from the physical attributes of the toy; to the ‘feel’ it lends in their hands (is it rough or smooth?). They may also create a narrative poem that tells how the toy became theirs (a travel from the toy store to their homes).

There are so many possibilities. With your assistance, students are guaranteed to wield interesting poems about their favourite toy.

If Music is a Person

A technique oft-used in a lot of poems: anthropomorphism. This technique allows inanimate objects and metaphysical concepts to possess human qualities (like a pen that waltzes in paper). In this prompt, students are encouraged to envision their preferred music genre as a person.

Perhaps, some may consider their ballads as a kind of cowboy. Those who loved rock metal may visualise the genre as the noisy seatmate. Musical attributes, like soft, melodious, or soothing, may be transformed into human behaviours (soft = soft speaking-voice).

Music is actually a good choice as all students subscribe to one or more particular genres. They have fostered deep relationships with music – such links will allow them to recreate their vision of music (in this prompt’s context, as a person).

Intense Feelings

A lot of poems convey strong feelings of sadness, happiness and in-betweens. For this prompt, let your students recall the most recent scenario by which they have experienced intense feelings.

The mission of this prompt is to allow students to pour those feelings into a poem. They may write or jot down notes about those ‘intense feelings’ before penning their poem. While students can simply adopt the confessional type of penning exactly how they felt, encourage them to also take in metaphors.

Concluding prompt

At the end of each of these, let your students read them aloud. For an interesting twist, the created poems may also be switched among classmates; thereby, allowing another student to interpret their classmate’s poem.

Teaching poetry is admittedly, one of the most difficult quagmires in the classroom. Perhaps it’s because a lot of students fear poems.  Allow them to change their minds by letting them become their very own poets.

Photo credit: Karen Cropper
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James Harlan

James Harlan

James Harlan is a researcher and statistician where he is able to give help for professionals and students in dissertation writing.

Website: jamesharl.wordpress.com/ Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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