Teaching Ideas

13 Creative Poetry Month Lessons to Engage Middle Graders

Creative Poetry Month Lessons for National Poetry Month atop a photo of several young students in a classroom. the student closest in view is raising their hand while a blurry teacher in the background smiles at the student.

Bring poetry month lessons to the classroom this April (aka National Poetry Month)! We specifically chose these 13 meaningful poems to appeal to middle-grade students.

Creative Poetry Month Lessons for National Poetry Month. a stack of brightly colored books (blues, pinks, reds, greens, and yellows) are stacked on top of grass with a blue sky background.

April is the month we celebrate poetry and verse. What better way to introduce middle graders to the joys of lyrical expression than with 13 purposefully selected poems? From repetition to thematic analysis, these lesson ideas will help students discover the wonders of poetry.

Note: I used the WONDERFUL resource, CommonLit, to find these inclusive middle-grade poems. My district pays for the full CommonLit version, but the free version is incredibly beneficial as well.

Poetry Month Lesson on SYMBOLISM

"Peaches" by Adrienne Su

A speaker describes life as a child of immigrant parents.
Students analyze the speaker's use of peaches to symbolize her conflicted feelings about her identity as a child of Chinese immigrant parents.

"two braids" by Rosanna Deerchild

A speaker describes their braids and its significance to their Cree nationality.
Getting her hair braided before school, the speaker learns the discrimination her mother faced over her own braids as an Indigenous girl at a Residential School.


Use bell ringers as a daily poetry month lesson to help your students love poetry! Try out this $1 sample resource or buy the whole bundle.


Poetry Month Lesson on REPETITION

"We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks

The speaker observes young people at a pool hall who skipped school.
Compare how the similar repetition used in all three poems communicates different messages.

"We are Wise" by Zetta Elliott

The speaker details how the Black community fights hate.
Compare how the similar repetition used in all three poems communicates different messages.

"We Can't Breathe" by Zetta Elliott

The speaker describes how they feel about the unjust police brutality the Black community faces.
Compare how the similar repetition used in all three poems communicates different messages.

Poetry Month Lesson on a GOLDEN SHOVEL

A “golden shovel” poem uses a line from one inspirational poem and uses it in a new poem. In the two poems selected below, “Jabari Unmasked” ends each line to complete the first stanza of Dunbar’s poem within her own. SO technically beautiful!

"We Wear the Mask" by Paul Laurence Dunbar

In an extended metaphor, the speaker uses wearing a mask to describe the African American experience post civil war.
Powerful for teaching extended metaphors, figurative language, anaphora, and the effects of racism

"Jabari Unmasked" by Nikki Grimes

The speaker encourages high school students to remove the "masks" they wear.
Perfect for teaching craft, structure, word choice, and the impact of prejudice on young folks

Poetry Month Lesson on WORD CHOICE

"Rez Road" by Joseph Bruchac

The speaker establishes the permanence of their Indigenous community despite the US's colonization of their lands.
Students can analyze the word choice made within each stanza as the speaker takes us on a visual journey.

"(love song, with two goldfish)" by Grace Chua

One goldfish desires the affection of another who isn't interested.
Have students examine the purposeful language Chau uses to develop the theme.

Looking to add some ✨spice✨ to your poetry unit? My students LOVE escape rooms, and this poetry escape room review made their learning fun and interactive. Here is a version for 4th-6th graders and a blog post sharing ideas on how to implement it!

Poetry Month Lesson on FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE

"La Visita" by Margarita Engle

The speaker practices embroidery with her abuelita.
This poem gives your students an opportunity to understand the connection between figurative language and thematic development.

"The Border: A Double Sonnet" by Alberto Ríos

A speaker describes the literal and figurative layers of a country's border.
This poem is effective for teaching figurative language, structure, and anaphora.

Need ideas for how to teach poetry analysis? Here are three effective strategies!

Poetry Month Lesson on THEME

"Little Sister" by Tasha Spillett

A speaker passionately encourages her little sister to accept herself for whom she is.
Powerful poem for young students who are developing and/or struggling to accept their sense of self.

"Joint Custody" by Ada Limón

A speaker, who is a child of divorce, shares their revelation over the silver linings.
An impactful poem for students to reflect on struggles from their own past.
Creative Poetry Month Lessons for National Poetry Month with a young scholar smiling at the camera with an open textbook and other students blurred in the background

Closing Comments

Teaching poetry to middle school students can be a challenging task. With these 13 ideas for poetry month lessons, you can make the learning process engaging and fun for your students. 

By focusing on essential elements of poetry, such as 
word choice, 
figurative language, 
and symbolism, 
you can help your students develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of poetry. 

Encourage students to write their own poems and share them with their classmates! In doing so, you can create a supportive and inclusive learning environment that promotes creativity and self-expression. 

Overall, incorporating these poetry month lessons into your ELA curriculum can enrich students’ literary education and provide them with valuable skills that they can use in all areas of their lives.