The Academy of American Poets instituted National Poetry Month in April 1996 to “celebrate poetry and its place in American culture.” Check out the Academy’s website: http://www.poets.org/ for tons of ideas, links and even a “National Poetry Almanac.” Try to schedule poetry into your day at least once this month. These activities are good year-round. After all, a poem a day keeps boredom at bay!
You need to think “outside the box” to create poetry, but an actual box of “poetry props” can ignite a variety of poetry activities. Help your child decorate a large box with a lid. Explain that inside this box, you will keep poetry props—idea starters for writing poetry. These props will vary, depending on your child’s abilities, but can include easy-to-rhyme words or colorful pictures mounted on index cards of a cat, hat, mat, or small objects such as a ball, a cup, a clock, a toy, and so on. Once your child has decorated and filled his prop box, try these activities:
1. Shake or mix up the contents of the poetry prop box. Ask your child to draw one prop and read or say the word aloud. Think of a word that rhymes with the prop and say it out loud. Take turns picking props and thinking of rhyming words.
2. Ask your child to pick a prop and write a simple, two-line poem with it. The poem can be funny or serious. Remind your child to give each poem a title.
Fingerplay is a perfect way to put poetry in motion. Check your library for books on fingerplays and make sure your child is familiar with at least a dozen or so.
Here is one to get you started:
Here is a baby all ready for a nap. (Hold up finger.)
Lay him down in Mommy’s lap. (Place in palm of hand.)
Cover him up so he won’t peep. (Wrap other fingers to cover him.)
Rock her till she’s fast asleep. (Rock hands to and fro.)
Help your child create his or her own rhyming fingerplay with corresponding gestures.
Captain Hook must remember
Not to scratch his toes.
Captain Hook must watch out
And never pick his nose…
Many elementary-age kids are familiar with wonderful poems like “Captain Hook” by Shel Silverstein (from Where The Sidewalk Ends). Jack Prelutsky is another popular and favorite children’s poet. If your child hasn’t heard of these poets, this is the month to introduce them! Check your school or local library for volumes of their work. Their pithy poems are particularly good for memorization and recitation. This month have your child pick a favorite poem to memorize and recite. Encourage your child to dramatize and use props.