5 ways to teach poetry in the classroom

Simi Rai

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Poetry – some love it, some hate it. But today is World Poetry Day and a reminder to celebrate our favourite poetry.


Poetry has always had a place in the English curriculum and is studied at all ages, so it is only fitting that we help bring it to life in our classrooms.

Here are some ideas to make poetry fun and meaningful for your students:

1. Poetry By Heart

This pioneering national competition is designed to encourage pupils aged 14 – 18 to learn and to recite poems by heart. The competition successfully engages young people from diverse social backgrounds to appreciate and find pleasure in reciting poetry.

Each pupil is challenged to memorise and recite two poems – one published before 1914 and one in or after 1914. During the process, pupils foster deep personal connections with the poems chosen and bring their poems to life.

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2. GCSE Poetry Live!

Give pupils the opportunity to see and hear live poetry by inviting some poets to perform their poems in school. Poets from the GCSE anthology are often asked to read their poems in assemblies followed by a question and answer session. GCSE pupils love to learn about the poet’s intentions and enjoy comparing these to their own interpretations, so allow time for class discussions following the performances.

It is also fascinating to learn about the context and purpose of the poems they are studying and hearing it directly from the poet themselves. So, invite Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy, John Agard or Daljit Nagra to your school and prepare to fall in love with poetry all over again!

3. Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award

The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is an opportunity for any young poet aged 11-17 to accelerate their writing career. The competition is completely free to enter and class entries can be sent via post using an easy class entry form.

Allow pupils enough time to plan, write and redraft their poems before submitting and provide anthologies of previous winners to inspire them. The rules are easy to follow and the closing date is on the 31st July 2019.

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4. Publish an anthology of your class’s work

Read inspiring poems with the pupils and first model the poetry writing process. Brainstorm some themes and ideas to start with and give pupils ample time to complete them with high quality. Ask pupils to perform them in front of the class and then copy the poems and bind them yourself.

Pupils and parents love seeing their work published and will definitely line up to buy one, so any money raised can go to charity. Be sure to keep a copy in your class library!

5. Be creative

Poetry is written in various forms, shapes and sizes so encourage your pupils to find their style. Show them examples of acrostic and haiku poems. Use iambic pentameter, or rhyme and vary the punctuation. All poems are not the same, so their topics should be unique too – they should make them relevant to their lives. You could also write a poem yourself and share it with the class!

Although poetry is becoming extinct in our daily lives, we can strive to keep it alive in our classrooms, so get creative and love poetry!

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About our Community Expert

SIMI_RAI_Circle

Simi Rai
Community Expert

Over 5 years of experience in educational settings throughout London, Madrid and Barcelona. Whilst studying English Literature and Language at King’s College London and the University of North Carolina, she fell in love with her subject - both the study of literature and craft of writing.

After graduating, she completed the Leadership Development Programme with Teach First, whose mission is to provide equality through education, and attained her PGCE in Secondary English at Canterbury Christ Church University. She was then appointed as Deputy Head of English at one of the highest performing schools in England in a London inner-city academy.

Following this, she completed her Leadership and Management MA at University College London (Institute of Education) and became the director of an English Language company based in Barcelona.

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