Words are everywhere. They are on our toothpaste tube when we rub the sand out of our eyes and brush the scum off our teeth in the wee hours of the morning. Words are on our cereal box, our t-shirt, and the signs that mark our neighborhood streets. Words are even in our heads, as we internally tag each object around us with its corresponding name.
So if words are all over the place, why is it that we can often sit down to attempt writing- a poem or a story or an essay- and we can’t find the words? Well, it’s not that the words aren’t there. It’s just that for whatever reason… maybe we had a bad day, or we’re distracted by that upcoming test, or we’re excited about a birthday party… sometimes we aren’t feeling inspired.
March 21st is World Poetry Day, so don’t miss out on your chance to celebrate all things poetic with the rest of the planet!
In 1999, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation – or UNESCO for short – decided to establish an event that would recognize the impact poetry has had on the arts and cultural life throughout human history, and so, in 2000, the first World Poetry Day took place!
It’s a time to support poets, who often work very hard with very little recognition, but is also a time to appreciate poetry from around the world.
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, a country known for shamrocks, leprechauns and lucky charms. People celebrate St Patrick’s Day on 17th March, by wearing green clothes, and pinning a shamrock to their outfit. A shamrock is the Irish name for clover, and it’s always been considered lucky to find one with four leaves instead of the usual three!
This year, I’m going to show you how to make your own lucky shamrock charm to wear on St Patrick’s Day, or to give to someone you love!
The word ‘charm’ comes from the French ‘charme’, which means song. Here is an ancient charm poem from Ireland that explains why a four-leaved shamrock is so lucky:
One leaf is for fame,
And one leaf is for wealth,
And one is for a faithful love,
And one to bring you glorious health.
Hands-on projects help bring poetry to life for young children. In the poem “The Armpit of Doom,” the speaker is experiencing the horrible sights and smells of her brother’s disgusting, stinky bedroom. Have you ever smelled something so bad that it literally makes you want to vomit? All you want to do is smell something good to erase that odor from your mind! In this project, we’ll create homemade air fresheners that you can keep for your own self-defense, or give to that stinky-room person in your life as a special gift from you to them. They may not appreciate it… but everyone else will!
Often when they’re asked to write a poem, children can get stuck at the first hurdle: What to write about. By using a familiar starting point, you can kick-start your class’s creativity by giving an easy way in—and a great place to begin is with the fairy tales they’ve grown up with!
Many fairy tales are even older than the printing press. Originally, they were passed on from person to person and generation to generation only orally. (Once books became commonplace, people such as the Brothers Grimm were able to collect the stories from people and commit them to paper.) A great way for people to remember stories in those days was to turn them into rhyming poems or songs—often called ballads—so they could pass them on from one person to the next. This meant that each person could also change the story when they told it, to keep it interesting and relevant (or if they had forgotten a bit!).
Once the stories were written down, they weren’t as easy to change, because the printed word was there for everyone to see. This activity is all about creating a rhyming version of a well-known fairy tale story, and memorizing it at the same time.
There’s nothing so exciting as a secret! That’s why private messages written on folded paper, passed to friends who you know will keep your secret, are so thrilling… There’s a chance the note might get intercepted, and the information will get leaked!
The following poem is about a poem that nobody is supposed to read. It’s a secret, but not a very good one, because everyone keeps reading it, even when the author asks them to stop!
Kids love to get up and get moving, which is great because movement can help reinforce learning. Most children also love games. Put movement and games together, and you have a high energy activity that can be done quietly in any classroom: Charades!
The following game of charades uses the twenty-seven activities found in the poem “I Don’t Know What to Do Today.” It’s simple to prepare, exciting, and teaches children that poetry is fun while helping them reinforce important skills like memorization, cooperation, and word association.
When people hear the word ‘ballad’ today they often think of mushy love songs, but ballads have a much greater history. While most poetry is concerned with evoking emotions and feelings, the ballad is a vehicle for story-telling, and has been with us since medieval times.
The words are set to music to become a song, and follow a simple rhyming pattern and a set meter (or rhythm).
Each verse has four lines, and the poem can have as many verses as necessary to tell the story. Some famous examples are ‘Beowulf’, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and ‘The House of The Rising Sun.’*
Because a ballad can tell any story, they are a great way of fitting creative writing tasks into your curriculum. Here are some exercises you can use to explore the form:
Getting young children excited about poetry is as simple as emptying your recycling bin! Here’s a creative craft idea inspired by the poem “My Robot’s Misbehaving” that will capture the attention of boys and girls alike.
First, read the poem aloud to the kids. You could also hand out a copy of the poem for them to read silently.
My Robot’s Misbehaving
My robot’s misbehaving.
It won’t do as I say.
It will not dust the furniture
or put my toys away.
My robot never helps me
with homework or my chores.
It doesn’t do my laundry
and neglects to clean my floors.
It claims it can’t cook dinner.
It never makes my bed.
No matter what I ask of it,
it simply shakes its head.
My robot must be broken.
I’ll need to get another.
Until that day, I have to say,
I’m glad I have my mother.
Then, ask them if they’d like to build their very own robot with interchangeable magnetic parts, kind of a like a Mr. Robot Head! When they’re done squealing with excitement, take them to the table where you have all the supplies ready.