From Page to Stage: Hosting a Poetry Cafe for Poem in Your Pocket Day

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Poem in Your Pocket Day is celebrated annually as one of the culminating events of National Poetry Month. Observing this day is an excellent time to teach about and celebrate poetry. The premise is simple, carry a poem with you throughout the day and share your poem with others.

This TeachersFirst collection of poetry resources includes many assets for creating, learning about, and sharing poetry. It provides an excellent starting point when planning National Poetry Month lessons. 

As your students learn about poets and poetry, they also become creators and write poems. One way to encourage students to become excited about poetry is by sharing their work with others through an event known as a Poetry Cafe.

Why should I consider a Poetry Cafe? Hosting a poetry cafe event allows your student poets to share their work in a safe, supportive environment. Poetry Cafes allow even the most reluctant authors to share their work without being judged.

Although Poetry Cafes are relaxed and supportive, a successful event takes some planning and time. Here are some ideas to include with your planning resources that are available for all grade levels:

  • Build background knowledge. Begin by sharing examples of poetry and learning about poetry techniques throughout National Poetry Month.
    • ArtsNow (reviewed here) – This resource offers many learning modules that teach poetry through fractions, music, and dance. Use the keyword “poetry” in the search bar to find available resources.
    • ReadWorks (reviewed here) – ReadWorks includes lesson activities accompanying poetry passages and audio readings of each poem. Free registration is required to access all of ReadWorks’ materials.
    • CommonLit (reviewed here) – CommonLit is another incredible resource for teaching poetry. After selecting a grade-level appropriate poem, use the many tools to share and guide students as they read poetry. CommonLit provides links to shared texts, has an annotation tool for shared writing and discussions, and includes questions available through a Guided Reading mode that prompts students to answer questions and only reveals additional content after recording the correct response. 
  • Get students writing. Once students learn about different kinds of poetry and explore many examples, they can unleash their creativity by writing their own prose.
    • Google’s Verse by Verse (reviewed here) – This tool uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to compose poetry inspired by American poets. First, follow the prompts to select three poets as muses, design a poem structure, then write the first line of your poem. Next, Verse by Verse suggests lines to add based on the style of your poets. When finished, add a title to complete your poem and download it as an image if desired. Although this isn’t an original work, it provides inspiration for students to consider the type of poem they want to write.
    • ReadWriteThink (reviewed here) – Investigate the many different lessons and interactives available to guide students through the poetry-writing process. Search for poetry and then narrow the results by grade level, learning objectives, and topics. For example, Writing with Rebus and Rhyme includes rhyming activities for early elementary-aged students, and Poetry Circles: Generative Writing Loops Help Students Craft Verse guides students through the poetry writing process through poetry circles and peer support.
    • Power Poetry (reviewed here) – Give students a head start on poetry writing with Poetry Power which provides fill-in-the-blank activities. The printables are available for ten different poem formats, including alliteration poems and haikus.
  • Hone presentation skills. Writing poems is followed by working on improving the students’ presentation skills.
    • Flip (reviewed here) – This is an excellent tool for students to practice presenting poems. Students can work on their recording until satisfied using the camera and included features. It also allows students to share their creativity by adding filters, stickers, images, backgrounds, and more. This Flip group includes several topics with ideas for getting students started.
    • Online Voice Recorder (reviewed here) – Presenting their original works is a snap with this simple-to-use video recording tool. Just click the record button to begin; when finished, download the recording to your device as an MP3 file.
    • Vocaroo (reviewed here) – Vocaroo is another easy-to-use video recording resource. Click the button to begin recording and stop when finished. Download completed recordings to your device, use the provided links to share via QR code, embed them onto a website, or share the URL by email.
  • Invite an audience. When ready, invite parents, friends, and classmates to visit your poetry cafe.
    • Create flyers using Canva for Education (reviewed here). Choose from the many templates to add and personalize information as a class or ask students to create a flyer inviting viewers to your event, including their work as featured poets.
  • Set the stage. The day of your Poetry Cafe set the scene to appear as a real poetry cafe.
    • Use mood lighting, create a stage for the performers, and include low-playing jazz music before beginning your event and between performances.
    • If your event takes place on Poem in Your Pocket Day, ask students to have a printed copy of their poem in a pocket or purse to pull out after going on stage for their performance. If space is available, create a bulletin board with pocket shapes, then add printed versions of each poem in the pockets to share with audience members.
    • Instead of clapping, audience members snap their fingers to show appreciation for the performers at most poetry cafes; introduce this tradition to your students to include during their special day.
    • Ask students to dress as they believe a poet would dress for a performance.
    • Choose someone to video record your event, then include the recording on your class website for students to view and share with those unable to attend.
  • Make the memory last. Create a lasting memory of your Poetry Cafe by creating a class digital book that includes student poems and recordings of their participation during the Poetry Cafe. Book Creator (reviewed here) makes it easy to create multimedia books that offer lasting memories to read and watch over and over again.

Participating in a poetry cafe engages students in learning about and creating poetry from the page to stage through supportive and nurturing activities. These examples share some more information on what this method of sharing poetry might look like:

  • 2022 Poetry Cafe at Center School – This video provides an authentic example of an elementary school Poetry Cafe.
  • How to Perform a Poem – this video shares advice given by poet, actor, director, and writer of the poetic stage play, SP!T, Alex Alpharaoh, on how to perform a poem versus reading a poem.
  • Become a Slam Poet in Five Steps – Gayle Danley shares five steps to becoming a Slam Poet; each idea offers examples of how to create and perform a poem and master the art of public speaking.

Hosting a class poetry cafe for Poem in Your Pocket Day is an excellent way to celebrate the beauty of poetry and encourage a love of language among students. Take this opportunity to create an engaging and memorable experience for your students while fostering a sense of community and creativity in the classroom. This event will leave a lasting impression on your students and inspire them to explore the world of poetry in new and exciting ways. So, grab your favorite book of poems, prepare your snacks and decorations, and prepare to create a fun and educational poetry-filled day for your students!

Have you ever hosted a poetry cafe? We would love to hear about your cafe and favorite activities and resources you have for Poem in Your Pocket Day in the comments below!

About the author: Sharon Hall

Sharon Hall was a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math teaching. With over 15 years of classroom experience as a National Board Certified teacher, Sharon shares her content knowledge and reflections on ideas for basic classroom technology integration with us.

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