April is National Poetry Month, and I wanted to celebrate at my library with more than just a display of poetry books. There are so many fun poetry activities out there--magnetic poetry, mad libs poetry, writing and decorating haikus (just to name a few)--so many options for engaging school-age kids with poetry.
My Poetry in the Library program featured three core elements. The kids and I first shared some of our favorite poems; I shared Lewis Carroll's "How Doth the Little Crocodile." One program attendee recited for us from memory--she's involved in a speech competition and regular recites poetry for her events.
Next we flexed our creative muscles with an adaptation of a random word poetry challenge from YA author John Corey Whaley and his friend Randi Anderson. I had chosen five "random" words for our flash poetry exercise: library, book, read, imagine, and listen. (The idea was that, should they choose to, kids could leave one of their reading-themed poems in the library for the rest of National Poetry Month; thus those five words.) We spent a solid twenty minutes experimenting with using these words in poems. We talked about rhyming versus non-rhyming poems, haikus and syllables, acrostic poems, etc., and all the kids' creative juices really seemed to be flowing. They produced some great flash poems! I've included an example that is currently on display at my library.
We wrapped up the program by wandering the stacks for book spine poem inspiration. Have you ever made a book spine poem? It's lots of fun, and kids of every age and reading level seem to get really into it. Find an assortment of books whose titles, when arranged deliberately one on top of the next, create a poem when the spines are read top to bottom. Travis Jonker over at 100 Scope Notes is a big proponent of book spine poetry for National Poetry Month--you can check out some really fabulous kid-created book spine poems on his blog. I love that creating book spine poetry works the brain in a completely different way than writing poetry from scratch or even from a few buzz words--suddenly the activity becomes more explicitly like a puzzle. The resulting poems are always so much different than what the kids create freehand!
All in all, while my Poetry in the Library program was not as well attended as some of my science and theme-specific programs for school-age kids (think Star Wars, Lego Club, or American Girl Club), it was a really enjoyable time in which kids could be totally free and creative. By the end of the program, they were all so proud of the poetry they had produced--as they should be! I highly recommend encouraging play with words at your library in celebration of National Poetry Month.