What is World Poetry Day?

World Poetry Day is an annual observance dedicated to reserving and celebrating the art of poetry. It is a day that is designated to the promotion of poetry in various countries throughout the world. It was first observed in 1999 at the direction of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Its main purpose is to keep the creation and practice of poetry current and draw attention to remarkable works of poetry of famous poets from around the world. Although it is generally observed on March 21st in the United States each year, some countries celebrate World Poetry Day in mid-October per its original date of observance in 1999.

What Does Poetry Teach Students?

The art of poetry is a centuries-old form of expression. Aside from it having a long-standing tradition to uphold, there are many advantages to gain from using poetry in today’s classroom. Poetry readers and writers of all ages benefit from the practice in a multitude of ways, both emotionally and academically. Although there are several other benefits that are not discussed in this article, below are some of the most important benefits that can be acquired through the implementation and practice of poetry.

Emotional Expression

Poetry is a “heart art.” Writers of poetry share their emotions and experiences with rhyme and repetition. Poetry is an outlet for emotional expression. The process of writing poetry is extremely beneficial as it helps writers to manage and organize their own emotions. When students are tasked with writing poetry, they can channel their feelings in order to cope with difficult situations or celebrate personal triumphs. This is helpful both in and out of the classroom.

Inspires Creativity

As an extension of the arts, poetry inspires creativity. Writers of poems have no bounds when it comes to the limits of expression. Generally, students flourish when creativity is in the mix of any assignment or task in the classroom. Poetry writing is no different. When writing a poem, students must explore words and feelings in order to make something meaningful. They can think outside the box and discover new ideas in their own ways.

Improves Cognitive Skills

Cognitive skills include reading, listening, memory, and focus. It is important to note that poetry improves these skills among students. Through reading and writing poetry, students are expanding their cognitive abilities. Even more so, when students memorize poetry, they are further increasing their cognitive skills.

Increases Reading Fluency

One of the best characteristics of poetry is how the text normally flows with rhythm. Poetry is practically a musical experience! Because of this, reading poems can increase reading fluency for struggling readers and strong readers alike. Due to its short structure and consistent rhymes from line to line, students learn to read with ease and develop a stronger ability to read smoothly.

Increases Reading Comprehension

Also due to a poem’s short structure, students can more accurately explain what happened in poems as opposed to longer texts. Students more easily grasp aspects of the text in poetry. This is especially useful when helping students with low reading comprehension.

Listening and Empathy Skills

Poetry typically comes from the heart of the writer. When creating poetry, the experiences shared are generally very meaningful and personal to the writer. As poems are shared with others, listeners must employ a certain amount of respect and empathy for the words of others. Not only that, listeners should place themselves “in the shoes” of others to gain a better understanding of the experiences and emotions being shared through the poetry.

Activities to Celebrate World Poetry Day

Share a Published Poem

This activity can be completed across all grade levels, and it can be easily adapted for virtual use. Students are to simply research and find a previously published poem that appeals to them that they will verbally present to their classmates. Teachers can set guidelines (especially important for older students) to narrow down the type of poem that may be selected to a topic, particular style, or author, etc.

Virtual Field Trip

Regardless of the classroom setting, students can take a virtual field trip to learn more about an influential poet. Students could visit the birthplaces of Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Shel Silverstein, William Shakespeare, or any other famous poet to learn more about their lives and experiences that helped to create their poetry. Students could also visit locations that inspired the poetry. Prior to beginning the field trip, teachers may wish to complete a poem study of their chosen poet so that students benefit more greatly from the field trip.

Write It Out

One of the simplest ways to celebrate World Poetry Day is to ask students to write their own poems. Teachers may provide topics and guidelines for the creation of poems, or students may be allowed to create a poem that is considered “freestyle.” Regardless, students have an opportunity to explore their emotions and creative sides through the writing of poetry. Additionally, this activity can be completed in all grades levels and through virtual learning.

Act It Out

For World Poetry Day, students could be tasked with the challenge of acting out a poem with a small group to be performed for their classmates. Students are essentially bringing the poem to life! Teachers may select the poem for each group or allow groups to research and select their own poem through following teacher criteria. Although this activity is more suitable for in-person learners, it can be adapted for virtual instruction. Small groups can gather and work together through the use of breakout rooms in either Zoom or Google Meet platforms.

Poetry and Music

Another way to celebrate World Poetry Day is to study the connection between poetry and music. Most poetry is written and read with rhythm. In some forms of poetry, each line must consistently use a certain number of syllables. The rhythmic elements of poetry perfectly match the rhythmic elements of music. Here are a few activities that students may participate in to connect poetry and music:

  1. Students can perform poems while keeping a steady beat.
  2. Students can determine the rhythm of a line of poetry using traditional music notation (i.e. quarter notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, rests, etc.).
  3. Students can make a poem into a song by creating a melody to sing it to.

Regardless of which activity you choose, embracing World Poetry Day in your class is a fantastic way to encourage your students to express themselves and explore their creativity.