Poetry as Service Learning

My seniors visited our district’s elementary school to teach a poetry workshop and it was awesome! Our school’s motto is “Learn, Lead, and Serve,” and I can’t think of a better opportunity for our students to live our motto and serve as role models in our school community.

How It Went Down

Two groups of upperclassmen, each with about 5 students, met with me ahead of time to plan a poetry lesson with a mentor text poem and a writing prompt. Each group was responsible for focusing on different poetic elements: one group had Metaphor and the other group had Imagery and Sound (alliteration and onomatopoeia).

Since we live in North Carolina, the metaphor group chose a poem by our state Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green as their mentor text poem, and the Imagery and Sound group used a poem by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo.

Metaphor Slides Presentation

Imagery and Sound Slides Presentation

Poems and Templates

(p.s. If you want to edit the presentations, please Make a Copy of it in order to do so. They belong to my students and I do not have the ability to give editing rights. Thank you to my students for generously sharing their work!)

Once the groups introduced their poets, reviewed the poetic element, and read the poem, it was time to write! The poetry prompts inspired by the mentor text poems were designed for elementary students, but could easily be just as successful for ALL grade levels.

The poems that came out of these young minds were so creative! The poetry world needs to get ready for these up-and-coming poets!

When it was over and my seniors returned to the high school, they told me how amazingly talented our younger friends are, how awesome their lessons went, and how we need to do this every year.

How does the saying go? The best way to learn something is to teach it? Yes, and I think my students proved it.

My daughter, 9, who was able to partake in this special day, wrote this in her journal that night:

I thank our principals (HS & ES) and our superintendent for their support. I am extremely fortunate to work in a district where I have autonomy in my classroom, where I am encouraged to take risks, and where I am respected and trusted as a professional.

I thank my students for their leadership, kindness, and enthusiasm for poetry.

I thank the 4th graders for their genuine curiosity and their bravery in sharing their poems so openly.

It is my wish that, one day, my daughter will be the Big Kid senior teaching poetry in her former elementary classroom. Wouldn’t that just be something?


As always, thank you for reading. If you have a lesson, activity, etc to share, please email me at msmith@lncharter.org or just post to social media using the #TeachLivingPoets hashtag!

All photos in this post are shared with permission.

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