Poetry in the Classroom: Welcome to the Poetry Zone!

Posted on by Dodge Poetry Staff


Once a month throughout the school year, our Poetry blog will feature ideas and activities for classroom use.  All these posts will focus on creating opportunities that invite students to experience a personal connection to poetry.  An easy way to start is by making your classroom and your school a Poetry Zone.

Name of Activity: Make Your School a Poetry Zone, Part One

CONCEPT:  Sadly, many students only encounter poetry as part of a language arts lesson where they are required to analyze and interpret poems, or demonstrate their knowledge of literary terms. This activity gives them an opportunity to experience poetry as part of everyday life, as one more art, like music or dance, that they can dip into, sample and enjoy as and when they choose.

HOW TO:  Poets Dorianne Laux and Joseph Millar have a small wooden box in their front yard, which they keep stocked with poems to share with passersby.  Their neighbors have come to expect a new poem each week.

Think about what’s on the door to your class and how you would like students to enter the room.  What would it be like if students grabbed a poem on their way in, and immediately sat down and began the class focused on quietly reading?  That’s it. They don’t have to do anything but spend five minutes once a week reading a new poem for the sheer pleasure of it.

Perhaps this “poetry box” could be something as simple as a manila envelope marked “Free Poems” taped to the door.  It could be attached to your bulletin board, or set up in a corner of your room so that anytime a student had a little down time they could dip into it. That student who always finishes the vocabulary quiz first could spend that time reading a poem.

It’s easy to imagine that students would soon come to anticipate receiving a new poem once a week.  Remember that the poems should not be written by anyone from the school, or by any of their personal acquaintances. The poetry boxes should never invite personal attacks on the poems’ authors.  You can use poems that you’ve discovered in your own reading or that students may encounter in the curriculum.

If you’d like, we can send you one or more of the Teachers Kits from the 2010, 2012 or 2014  Festivals.  The Teachers Kits contain poems which we’ve selected from every poet who read at the Festival for that particular year.  They are licensed only for educational use, and we can only distribute them to teachers. Email us at poetryprogram@grdodge.org and we will send you a PDF.

If you turn your class into a Poetry Zone, share some photos with us! You can send them to the above email address, and we may share them on our social media!

Common Core Standards:

Reading: Literature

  • Key Ideas and Details: RL.9-10.2, RL.11-12.2
  • Craft and Structure: RL.9-10.4, RL.9-10.6, RL.11-12.4, RL.11-12.5, RL.11-12.6
  • Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:  RL.9-10.10, RL.11-12.10

Speaking and Listening

  • Comprehension and Collaboration: SL.9-10.1, SL.11-12.1


  • Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: L.9-10.4, L.9-10.5
  • Knowledge of Language: L.11-12.3, L.11-12.5

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