Dyan Branstetter | April 2016

Arts-Inspired Ways to Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day

This Thursday, April 21, 2016, is the American Academy of Poets’ Celebrate Poem in your Pocket Day. I love this event because it works for all ages, and it is one of the easiest ways to celebrate poem or poetry during National Poetry Month. The concept is simple: keep a poem in your pocket throughout the day. Read it to anyone who wants to hear it. My students have a great time pouring through poetry books to find the perfect poem to keep in their pockets.

Some students can’t choose just one, so they wear pants with multiple pockets just so that they can fill each pocket with a different poem! We invite the other students and staff in the school to participate as well. The day before the holiday my students help with the school-wide morning announcements. We explain the event and invite everyone in the school to celebrate poem and to keep in their pocket. We also duplicate short poems to leave near our sign in sheet in the office, so any visitors can pick up a poem and participate.

In addition to simply copying a poem out of a book, here are a few of my favorite ways to kickstart integration of the arts with poetry:

Create a Pocket for your Poem:

One year, our art teacher led students through a lesson on creating an origami “pocket” purse to carry their special poem in.

Here’s one activity that could be modified to become a pocket-book for poems: Pocket-book out of paper bags. Or, have students sew two square scraps fabric together leaving a pocket-like opening at the top. Add a ribbon or yarn as a strap, and students have a “pocket” to carry.

Music and Poetry:

Analyze song lyrics. Compare the structure of a poem to the structure of a song. Celebrate Poems have stanzas and songs have verses. Do poems have a bridge? Do ALL songs have a bridge? Think about patterns in poetry and in songs. What similarities and differences do they have?

Read song lyrics as a poem, and then listen to the lyrics when they are sung. How does the rhythm change when the poem is read vs. sung? Did the artist change the meter or possibly the rhythm to accommodate the syllables needed to use? Consider the different patterns of rhyming lyrics vs. free verse poetry and song. Which is easier to set to music? Which is easier- to write lyrics first and set them to music, or to write a melody and write lyrics to match? Experiment with each.

Looking for a STEAM related poetry project? Read about musical insect-inspired poetry here.

Dance and Poetry:

Set dance movement to poetry. Have students create movement to match a recorded poem. Or, have students work in pairs. One partner reads a poem aloud while the other partner interprets it in movement. The reader must incorporate changes in tempo and volume to convey the message of his poem while the dancer must use multiple levels and multiple types of movement (fluid vs. staccato, etc) to express the poem.

High School examples: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/literacy-through-creative-dance,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXHicOFEG3o

Create Found Poems out of Text:

There are so many ways to connect poetry and visual art. Found poems can be similar to a collage of words, or can be a form of blackout poetry, where students “black out” much of the text on a page leaving only specific words, which form a new message. Read more about integrating art with found poems here.

Theater and Poetry:

Work with students on articulation, enunciation, and expression. After working on this independently and with partners, have students perform poems in front of an audience.

How will you celebrate poem? Whatever you choose, it is bound to be a poetry-filled day!

About the Author

Dyan is a fifth grade teacher in a public school district in Lancaster, PA and has over 16 years of classroom experience. With a Masters of Science Education and a passion for dance and music, she strives to integrate the arts into the curriculum whenever possible. Dyan has a background in teaching advanced learners, and is devoted to using project based learning to help her students achieve 21st century learning skills and master the PA Core Standards.