Best Poetry Lessons and Activities

Bokks falling through air onto tablet computer
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Since 1996, Americans have celebrated National Poetry Month throughout the month of April. Reading, writing, and reciting poetry is a great way to inspire kids' interest in words and wordplay, rhyme and rhythm, meter and metaphor. 

With these top poetry teaching tools, April need not be the cruelest month in your classroom. 

Best Poetry Lessons and Activities

The Children’s Poetry Archive (opens in new tab)
A truly wonderful site for kids to explore and learn to love poetry. The Children’s Poetry Archive is geared toward kids ages 4 through 16 years, and includes a searchable database of recorded poems, sorted by themes, poet, age, and glossary. Resources for teachers consist of listening, learning about, writing, and performing poetry. Be sure to check out simple ideas to make your classroom a poetry-friendly place.

Word Mover: Create Your Own “Found” Poetry
(opens in new tab)What’s “found” poetry? It’s a great way to create something new from existing text. As an image collage combines existing images in new ways, the found poetry format allows poets to re-make existing texts in ways that can illuminate, enhance, and broaden the meanings. Not sure how it works? Check out this informative example from Then try the word mover interactive, an easy-to-use online found poetry tool. Choose your word bank, then start composing. 

Teen Ink: Poems Written by Teens (opens in new tab)
The online magazine Teen Ink specializes in publishing creative works produced by teens. Select existing poems for your students to discuss and analyze. Or assign students to write and submit to the website. Submissions are vetted, and only the best are published. Yet the bar isn’t set too high, so it’s a reasonable goal for an aspiring teen poet. Brief videos offer sensible guidance to kids about evaluating their own work and dealing with rejection (an inevitable consequence all writers must endure). Materials for Teachers (opens in new tab)
Explore a diverse collection of lesson plans, essays, reading guides, and questions for class discussion. Your teenage students will benefit from Poetry for Teens, a collection arranged by themes including love and relationships, politics and social justice, mental health, and other topics that speak directly to young people. 

Prestwick House Lesson Plans
From the educator-run Prestwick House publishers, these free downloadable lesson plans feature notable poetry from Bob Dylan, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe, and William Shakespeare. Lessons are CCSS-aligned and include discussion  points, questions, handouts, posters and charts. Easily access lessons directly below:

Magnetic Poetry Online Fun (opens in new tab)
Creative wordplay doesn’t get any easier than this. Simply open the kids’ magnetic poetry site and arrange the digital word “magnets” via the drag-and-drop interface. Don’t like the word bank? No problem, just click “load more words.” Save your poem as a .png image file. Looking for a wider range of words? Choose from Nature, Geek, Happiness, and Original. This type of poetry writing allows everyone—including kids who aren't natural writers—to express themselves with language. Check out also this similar site, Play Magnetic Poetry (opens in new tab)

Poetry Foundation (opens in new tab)
The independent nonprofit Poetry Foundation provides a wealth of free online poetry and poetry teaching resources. Explore poems, both text and audio, by topic, author, or audience (such as children, teens, or adults). The educator’s section provides articles and guides illuminating selected texts, helping teachers home in on key teaching points. Resources for teaching poetry online add to the value of this poetry site. (opens in new tab)
Author and former Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt’s multimedia poetry site offers not only a diverse selection of searchable poetry for kids, but also lessons in poetry writing, a rhyming dictionary, videos, podcasts, free “Streamable Learning” online events, virtual author visits, and much more. Check out Nesbitt’s YouTube channel too!

Favorite Poem Project (opens in new tab)
Explore a collection of poetry lesson plans, organized by grade (cross-disciplinary, too!), and ideas for school poetry events. 

Video Collection: The Art of Poetry (opens in new tab)
Library of short lectures and conversations from The Art of Poetry, Robert Pinsky’s Massive Open Online Course. Filter by topics, poets, and poems. A good, quick way to look at themes such as “What is Great?” and “Freedom and Meaning.” 

National Poetry Month (opens in new tab)
Extensive, up-to-date poetry teaching resources include: how to celebrate National Poetry Month in the virtual classroom: Dear Poet, a multimedia education project; and more.

Rhyme Zone (opens in new tab)
More than just a rhyming dictionary, RhymeZone lets users quickly and easily find words, phrases, synonyms, antonyms, definitions, lyrics, homophones, and much more, to make their poems shine like a serpentine skyline. Need to go deeper? Try the advanced search, which provides details on meter, parts of speech, and rare words. A remarkably simple and free tool that will be invaluable to poets and songsters everywhere. Poetry Resources (opens in new tab)
Research-based lessons and activities for K-12 students. Full free access to educators with registration. The teachers’ guide furnishes step-by-step methods to use the site’s activities wisely.

Poetry Out Loud (opens in new tab)
Try this fun and dynamic way to introduce students to poetry through the thrill of the spoken word and competition. Everything teachers need to implement the Poetry Out Loud program is provided at no cost, from lesson plans to making your program accessible. 

Shel Silverstein Learning Resources (opens in new tab)
Lessons, activities, and a Common Core-aligned teaching guide to the works and world of beloved children’s poet and author Shel Silverstein.

Teaching Poetry With Student Exemplars (opens in new tab)
Excellent article by author and high school English teacher Elizabeth Jorgensen in which she shares ideas and examples for teaching poetry to high school students, and inspiring them in the process.

Reading Rockets: National Poetry Month (opens in new tab)
A bounty of resources for celebrating National Poetry Month. Watch videos of well-known poets reading aloud, and browse topics such as writing poetry with English language learners, using poetry to teach reading, and exploring haiku, sijo, and cinquain. 

TeachersFirst's Poetry Month Editor's Choice Resources (opens in new tab)
A well-curated set of top poetry teaching lessons, organized by grade. Be sure to check out the Amanda Gorman Inauguration Poem Lesson, as well as the Random Poem Generator, and The Interactive Raven.

Living Poets Digital Library (opens in new tab)
From the creators of TeachLivingPoets (opens in new tab), this digital library provides an easy-to-navigate database of selected living poets, their spoken and written work, and links to their websites.  

Diana Restifo