Five Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Day in School
As dates for the autumn term diary go, few hold more creative potential than National Poetry Day. This year, the theme for the UK-wide celebration is ‘Choice’ – so we’re encouraging teachers and pupils alike to choose to take part in the action! To help you along, here are Five Top Tips to encourage your pupils' engagement on Thursday 7 October and beyond.
1. Open them up to a world of diverse voices
There’s arguably no better medium to foster empathy and understanding than poetry – with explosions of language and meaning encapsulated in just a few lines. Make the most of what poems can do by sharing work that opens up a wide range of experience through different voices, such as the Belonging Anthology, which spans continents and eras to explore what it means to be part of something larger than ourselves. Ask students to reflect on what they find and create their own imaginative work in response. For extra inspiration, you can also check out this case study on teaching Belongingfrom George Stevens at the Bristol Free School.
2. Springboard to new conversations
Want to dig in to a new topic with your students? The immediacy of poetry can help you get going fast. Whatever the subject, there’ll be a poem to unlock it. Take Pride in Education by Trudy Howson, for instance, which discusses the influence of educators when teaching LGBTQ+ issues. What do your students think about when they think of Pride as a topic? What issues does the poem raise that apply to their own lives and experiences? If you’re active on social media, share your diverse conversations with us @PearsonSchools using the #DiversityInLit hashtag. By following us you’ll also be the first to hear about upcoming collections and conversation starters, such as our new additional Unseen Poetry Preparation Anthology for A level which includes global majority poets, launching soon…
3. Give them free reign to find their inner poet
How much free time do your students have to explore creative pursuits? Make space on National Poetry Day and give them free reign to write without any rules or expectations, inviting them to write on this year’s theme – ‘Choice’ – if they’re keen for a prompt. If students wish to share their work with others once they’re finished, great, but try not to apply pressure to anyone who doesn’t want to. This is a brilliant chance to practise self-expression – and for students to develop new talents in their own time.
4. Connect with the wider community
National Poetry Day isn’t just about reading and writing. It’s also a day for sharing ideas between peers and communities. Consider how your students might benefit from sharing the poems they love. Could your school host an event like a Poetry Slam, where pupils perform in front of a panel of friendly judges, to boost their confidence? Could you partner with a community service, such as a local nursing home, allowing students to read or send work to a new set of people outside of their normal circle? The National Poetry Day website contains a range of ideas and signposting to help sharing happen – including details of the #NationalPoetryDay hashtag, enabling work to be shared and seen more broadly on social media.
5. Help their love of poetry last beyond the day
One day in a year to celebrate poetry is only the tip of the iceberg. Once you dig in to the medium with your students, you’re bound to find an appetite for more. So how can you make the learning last? Perhaps you could plan for students to start each morning by picking a favourite poem to read at registration time. Perhaps your class wants to go beyond the day by making an anthology – something that could even be produced and sold for a charitable cause. Is there an area in your school that lends itself well to creative writing – somewhere comfortable pupils can go to write in peace and quiet? Do you have enough enthusiastic writers for a creative writing group to be established after school or during lunchtimes?