Thursday 6th October 2016 is National Poetry Day, a celebration of all things poetical. A great excuse to take your students on a captivating journey of literature, this international event showcases poetry's diversity and energy, how it breaks boundaries, and its reflection of world events and emotions. For your students, National Poetry Day subliminally highlights that this 4,000-year-old practice is topical and current, while building on their present understanding of literature.
We've found 5 of the best ways to inspire your students during National Poetry Day, using a variety of online teaching resources.
1. Teaching the differences between pre-war and post-war poems. John Cooper Clarke and W. H. Auden
Language may have changed and how we find and share poems has evolved, but the ideals behind each poetical piece have not. A great way to show the changing face of poetry is by comparing two fantastic works of literature: ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ by John Cooper Clarke and ‘Stop All the Clocks’ by W. H. Auden, establishing the difference between pre-1945 and post-1945 poems. How has the structure of each poem changed? How has the language differed? Comparing both allows students to use their analytical skills, while being swept up in great written work and looking at the stories behind each.
Teaching resource: Poetry assessment task
Tip: Why not play Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ to accompany John Cooper Clarke’s poem?
2. Highlighting the links between war poetry and modern music
Want to really excite your students? To get them thinking independently, encourage your class to look at song lyrics. This teaching resource draws similarities between war poems and a number of pop songs, including Mumford and Sons’ ‘I Will Wait’. Print out the lyrics and ask your students to conclude what they think the words are highlighting; this allows you to build on the format of poetry and song in a fascinating, intriguing way.
Teaching resource: Poetry through song lyrics
3. Teaching poetry techniques and applying them to an everyday object
How do poets find inspiration to write? Although popular topics for poems include historic events and strong emotions, such as war, love and loss; showing poetry’s diversity is a great way to impress your class. Focal poetry encourages students to write about a form of stimulus - a photograph or a piece of art. By honing in on a focal point of the subject matter, describing what they see in front of them, and applying poetry techniques, students will have the ability to create verses about anything.
Teaching resource: Focal poetry
4. Highlighting how poetry is used to describe home
We’ve focused on comparing different times, but what about contrasting upbringings? Comparing ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ by W. B. Yeats, from Ireland, with James Berry’s ‘Childhood Tracks’ describing Jamaica, students can really get a feel for how poetry has been used to define home. Why not get your students to describe their ‘special’ place; thinking not just about their surroundings, but also how they feel, what they’re doing and who they’re with? Using a template of Childhood Tracks, emulating its rhythm and style, allows students to build on this broad theme in a personal way.
Teaching resource: Different Writers, Different Times
5. Showing how poems can be interpreted to reflect modern times
The beauty of poetry is its ability to be interpreted entirely differently depending on who’s reading it. A great way to highlight this is by showing students this dramatisation of Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Ruined Maid’. A funny performance, the video clip takes the 1866 poem and brings it into the modern-day, creating a hilarious, relatable and interesting take on the iconic work.
Teaching resource: ‘The Ruined Maid’ dramatisation
Looking for further ways to inspire your students? AT WST, we can arrange exciting school trips for English Language and English Literature students to a number of destinations, including London, Ypres and Somme, and Stratford Upon Avon. Each trip can be tailored to fit the curriculum, helping to build on your pupils’ learning, including poetry, and leading to invaluable experience of the subject matter.