Nurturing the Inner Poet in Lower School

April was National Poetry Month, and to celebrate, sixth grade students embarked on an extended poetry unit. The unit began with a Zoom visit by the popular children’s poet, Kenn Nesbitt. Specializing in humorous poems, Nesbitt’s work has been published in magazines, books, anthologies, text books, and on audio and TV. During the session, he led students through his poetry writing process and guided them through writing an original piece. 

“Hopefully we are going to laugh and have a great time,” he told the class. “I’m also going to show you how to make up your own funny poems today too, because it’s really easy if you just know one or two little tricks. I also want to tell you a little bit about how I wound up becoming an author, because I know some of you might want to become authors, and you can, and it’s not as hard as you think.”

During the next several weeks students penned their own stanzas and maintained a poetry journal. “They learned about a variety of poems and techniques such as simile, metaphor, rhyming, cinquain, haiku, personification, alliteration, and a variety of other devices,” explained Sixth Grade Language Arts Teacher Oyi Daniels. Once students learned various devices, they applied them through analyzing examples in existing poems or writing their own using prompts.

Throughout the process, they shared original poems with each other in groups and refined their drafts to improve their expressiveness. On April 24, students chose two of their original compositions to present to their parents at a Poetry Coffeehouse. During this special event, students read their haikus, limericks, similes, and sequence poems. After the readings, the students enjoyed a poem puzzle activity with their parents.

On the last school day before the end of National Poetry Month, Nesbitt Zoomed in for a second session and introduced the concept of imagery — using words that evoke the senses to bring more life to poems. Together with the students, he took basic sentences in a rather drab poem and encouraged the students to add words invoking taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight to allow readers to form images from the lines.

The students will continue to refine their poetry journals until May 5, when they will share them further with classmates and turn them in to their teacher. What a delightful way for the Lower School to wrap up National Poetry Month.