One school librarian explains the methods she has used to challenge negative perceptions about poetry and get pupils excited about reading and writing poems

I run an annual poetry week at my school, a celebration of all types of poetry in which we try to involve all year groups and run across the curriculum. Here are my tips for getting students engaged — for poetry week and beyond.

1. Get students writing

One of the most important parts of the week is getting the students writing and editing their own poems. We do an exercise in “writing with their ears” — they begin to listen more to the words they write, which helps them when they do read poetry to gain a different interpretation of the words on the page.

Another of my lesson plans uses our sense of smell rather than our sight and hearing as a way to understand the poem and to help us with our own poetry writing. Smell invokes a strong human reaction that contributes to imagery, metaphor and structure.

2. Use competition

We are a large academy, made up of four schools. We run a poetry competition in which the schools compete against each other to see which one can submit the most or the best entries. Tutors and headteachers become very competitive, which creates a buzz around poetry week.

Though prizes are not everything, I have found that simple recognition as a winner or getting on to the shortlist really does enthuse even the most reticent students. If you also decide to enter external competitions, aim high. An international competition like Foyle offers 100 top winners; reaching that top 100 is a realistic aspiration to give to a class.

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