NCTE Publications on Poetry - National Council of Teachers of English
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NCTE Publications on Poetry

Whether you’re looking to celebrate poetry during April (National Poetry Month) or throughout the year, NCTE has plenty of resources to help you get started.

Teach Living Poets

The #TeachLivingPoets approach, which has grown out of the vibrant movement and community founded by high school teacher Melissa Alter Smith and been codeveloped with poet and scholar Lindsay Illich, offers rich opportunities for students to improve critical reading and writing, opportunities for self-expression and social-emotional learning, and, perhaps the most desirable outcome, the opportunity to fall in love with language and discover (or renew) their love of reading. The many poems included in Teach Living Poets are representative of the diverse poets writing today.

Lightning Paths: 75 Poetry Writing Exercises

From synesthetic poems to questioning poems to the ghazal, Lightning Paths: 75 Poetry Writing Exercises by Kyle Vaughn has something fun or fascinating for every student and teacher as they explore the possibilities of poetry writing. The exercises teach and utilize technique while also focusing on and inspiring the intuitive and imaginative qualities of poetry.

Each poem type includes an introduction explaining the exercise’s goal, detailed instructions, and a student example. The 75 activities are divided into three sections: exercises that focus on different types of imagery and ways to generate fresh imagery; exercises born out of unusual prompts and ideas that engage a writer’s experiences in the real world; and exercises related to what form might look like or how it might function.

Empowering Students’ Knowledge of Vocabulary: Learning How Language Works, Grades 3–5

Mary Jo Fresch and David L. Harrison present definitions and playful examples (in poetry and prose) to teach antonyms, synonyms, acronyms (and many more “nyms”), similes, metaphors, idioms, shades of meaning, and word origins. Practical lessons and activities for each category will engage students in joyful practice. A final chapter offers insights into language choices by eight well-known children’s poets and authors, including two former US Young People’s Poets Laureate—Kenn Nesbitt and Margarita Engle—and world-renowned Jane Yolen.

360 Degrees of Text: Using Poetry to Teach Close Reading and Powerful Writing

Whether we call it “critical literacy” or just “making meaning,” being able to read and analyze with precision and judgment empowers all students, not just in their academic courses but in everyday situations that require thoughtful evaluation and response. Through Eileen Murphy Buckley’s 360-degree approach to teaching critical literacy, students investigate texts through a full spectrum of learning modalities, harnessing the excitement of performance, imitation, creative writing, and argument/debate activities to become more powerful thinkers, readers, and writers.

Poetry of Place: Helping Students Write Their Worlds

Through his extensive work with students in grade school through high school, poet-in-residence Terry Hermsen has learned how to foster a love of poetry by taking the learning out of the classroom and into students’ real lives. With numerous lessons and activities, Hermsen demonstrates how even the most mundane, everyday items—from “stuff” to food to photographs—can spark the imagination of student poets.

Filled with student examples, this book illustrates that poetry doesn’t have to be boring. It can help students develop interpretive and creative thinking skills while helping them better understand the world around them, wherever they may live.

Wordplaygrounds: Reading, Writing, and Performing Poetry in the English Classroom

The activities in this book can constitute an entire course in poetry writing or work as individual lessons, depending on the teacher’s classroom goals. Early lessons start out with simple lists and wordplay; later lessons involve more complicated forms and subjects. Throughout the book, however, the emphasis is on fun and making sure that every student succeeds. In all, John S. O’Connor provides an impressive number of poetry models—more than 30 professional models and more than 80 models from students in his own classroom.

Studying Poetry: Activities, Resources, and Texts

In Studying Poetry, Brian Moon uses text-based activities to help students approach poetry—not in the conventional Romantic way as a mystical, heightened mode of expression, but as a form of “discourse” that can be vitally relevant to their daily lives. Activities are tied to more than 75 reprinted poems—including sonnets, limericks, haiku, free verse, and other forms—ranging from the fourteenth century to the present day and representing the likes of Shakespeare, Donne, Christina Rossetti, Frost, Plath, Levertov, Jamaican-born Jean “Binta” Breeze, and many others. Activities move from the experience approach, including poetry performance, into exploration of poetry as discourse. Step-by-step guidelines for writing about poetry are accompanied by annotated examples of student writing and sample teacher comments. 

Teaching Poetry in High School

Albert Somers offers teachers a vast compendium of resources for teaching poetry in a highly accessible format:

  • over 40 complete poems
  • a discussion of assessment issues
  • poetry across the curriculum
  • poetry on the internet

A comprehensive resource for teachers, this book presents practical ideas and myriad ways for teachers and students to discover the joys of poetry.

Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry Writing Exercises

Stephen Dunning and William Stafford, both widely known poets and educators, offer this delightful manual of exercises for beginning poets. The 20 exercises, each covering different types or phases of poetry writing, as well as the authors’ humor and nonacademic style, will appeal to experienced and novice poets of all ages.

Teaching Poetry Experiences for Readers and Writers QRG

Written and curated by some of the leading authors and voices in literacy education, quick-reference guides (QRGs) are engaging and easy-access tri-fold publications that offer brief, research-based definitions, strategies, tips, activities, and more to address many of the core topics in English and language arts classrooms.

This QRG by Maria Walther features teaching contexts for poetry experiences, reasons poetry is perfect for all children, ways to use poetry to strengthen fluency, steps for designing a poetry experience for readers, if/then for strategically selecting poems, poetic conventions, places to find poetry recommendations, and poetry anthology and picture book resources.


How are you recognizing National Poetry Month?


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