Poetry Tools to Put in Your Pocket: Activities, apps, and online resources for National Poetry Month

19 sites, apps, and more for Poetry Month.


In April the act Of poetry creation Takes over classes Whether we like it Or it makes us feel anxious Poetry is here. April—National Poetry Month—is a time to rejoice and embrace the wide and varied world of poetry. In an attempt to simplify and streamline the planning of a month—or week, or day—of poetry lessons, we have curated a selection of apps and websites, all of which have been vetted by librarians and educators, for use in school libraries, classrooms, and public libraries. We hope that teaching Poetry will be silly Gratifying work

Getting Started

Blackout Poems Gr 3 Up Save some pages from damaged or discarded books for blackout poetry. Part art project, part puzzle, and part writing assignment, a blackout poem utilizes the words already printed on a page to create a yet-to-be-written work of the poet’s imagination. Students are tasked with covering up words with a black marker so that only the chosen words on a page remain readable. If students want to go digital instead, Blackout Bard (listed on the next page) is a way to do just that. Button Poetry’s Classroom Friendly Poems Gr 5 Up The “classroom friendly poems” section offers videos of poets reading their work aloud—without any adult language or age-inappropriate content. A great source for vetted poems performed by a diverse range of poets. Poetry Out Loud Gr 6 Up A joint effort between the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, this program encourages students “to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation.” Their YouTube page showcases young award-winning orators reciting poems from memory and includes guidance and best practices for public speaking. Protesting Through Poetry via NPR Gr 7 Up Author/poets Kwame Alexander and Nikki Giovanni join NPR’s Morning Edition host Rachel Martin to discuss the power of poetry as protest. Teachers can use this seven-minute piece to introduce lessons on the connections between the written word and social justice. Def Jam on YouTube Gr 9 Up This YouTube channel, produced by Russell Simmons, is the poetry branch of the All Def brand. It describes itself as, “dedicated to lifting the voices of poets from all walks of life.” Powerful performances by some of the leading voices in spoken word are highlighted.


Poemhunter Free; Android and iOS, Gr 7 Up Have a poem sent to your smartphone every day, if you choose. Within the app, users can tap on the shuffle icon to discover a random poem or use the search bar to find a specific poem or poet. More than one million poems are archived. Blackout Bard Free; Android and iOS, Gr 7 Up While this is not the most intuitive app in the poetry world, it certainly is cool, and users who stick with it will be pleased. Enter or copy-and-paste text in the app, then highlight words you want to keep. Once chosen, users select different backgrounds or photos to cover text. Once satisfied, the poem can be saved or shared. This is a fun way to create blackout poems in a digital environment. ImageQuote Free, with Pro versions starting at $1.99; iOS, Gr 6 Up Users can create short poems in different fonts against colorful backgrounds to post on social media, save, or share with friends. The free version has six options of backgrounds and fonts, while going pro adds 14 more. THF Haiku Free; iOS, Gr 9 Up The Haiku Foundation’s mission is to “archive our first century of English-language haiku.” Haiku is shown in a random order (a shake of your phone will change the poem). Some 1,500 haiku are contained within the app. When users find one, they can tap the share button to save, text, email, pin to a Pinterest board, or send to WhatsApp and other social media channels. Tapping on the “web” button will bring users to the Haiku Foundation website.

Websites and Online Resources

Academy of American Poets Gr 2 Up Poets.org offers an intuitive and easily navigable repository of teaching guides and lesson plans for educators, from elementary students all the way to graduate level. Users may search by activity, lesson, “teach this poem” or unit, and also sort by target age. All of the material aligns with Common Core and also identifies interdisciplinary connections that the assignment or lesson plan contains (e.g., science or weather). What sets this site apart is the depth and detail in the lesson plans; objectives, goals, and steps are all outlined clearly and concisely for even the most unlyrical of educators. When searching through the “types” of plans offered, public librarians will most likely gravitate toward the “activity” and “teach this poem” options, while library media specialists will be interested in “lessons” and “units.” Education World Poetry Lessons Gr K Up An award-winning website dedicated to creating “high-quality teaching resources for educators,” this site offers specifically targeted poetry plans for K–12 educators. Resources are somewhat haphazardly presented in a list format, with the headings “lesson plans,” “teacher submitted lesson plans,” “more poetry activities and projects,” and “poetry articles and resources.” Educators searching for specific age-targeted materials will want to focus on the resources listed under “lesson plans.” What this resource lacks in organization it makes up for in rich content. Many lesson plans include direct feedback from the teacher-creators and how the plans worked in their own classrooms. Highly recommended for librarians and educators who want to dip a toe into the world of teaching poetry but are unsure where to start. Library of Congress Poetry Resources Gr 5 Up Among LOC’s teacher-created lesson plans are a handful that specifically include poetry. These plans, along with other sources for song lyrics and literature, are highlighted on their Poetry Resources webpage. Each of the lesson plans include resources aimed to inspire, including preselected images and documents to spark creativity. Notably, LOC enables teachers to check a lesson plan’s alignment to Common Core, AASL, NCTE, NETS, NCSS, or NSCG standards. Browse through the “State Poets Laureate” page (http://bit.ly/2pbI5tJ) to seek materials from local poets. Poetry Foundation Gr 2 Up The Poetry Foundation offers an assortment of articles that read more like peer-to-peer pep talks than teaching guides. Informative and informal, many are written by living poets (Jacqueline Woodson is one) offering ideas and suggestions as to the how’s and why’s of teaching and writing poetry. Few lessons plans are included, but the “Back to School with Poetry” page contains two sections (Elementary and Middle School; High School, College, and Beyond) that showcase ideas and plans for targeted ages in the classroom. The button at the top of the page also offers users the ability to select poetry for children or teens and also sort by region, topic, and form. Also look to the foundaton’s YouTube channel for additional inspiration. The Poetry Project Gr 9 Up Founded in the summer of 1966, the Poetry Project grew out of the coffee houses of the Lower East Side of New York City. Specifically of use to educators is the “Media” tab, which houses “Poems and Texts,” “Audio,” “Video,” and “Public Access Poetry.” Of special interest is the latter section, which has digitized the Public Access Poetry cable TV show, which highlighted from 1977 and 1978 poets of the day reading from their work. Use this source to inspire students and also to showcase the evolution of poetry readings since the advent of recorded live performances. Scholastic Teacher’s Poetry Page K Up Loaded with lesson plans and ideas for incorporating poetry into curricula for students of all ages, Scholastic’s poetry site is well organized and descriptive. It contains rich educator guides for assignment ideas, writing prompt suggestions, worksheets for drafting exercises, sample critique questions, biographical information on famed poets, and more.

Follow on Twitter

Poet’s House @poetshouse The twitter feed of NYC’s Poet’s House tweets fragments of poems for further exploration, as well as mentioning events happening in their space and other important news. The Young Poet’s Network @youngpoetsnet The tweets by the youth branch of the Poetry Society (UK) are filled with ideas and opportunities to inspire aspiring poets worldwide. The Poetry Society @PoetrySociety The main Twitter feed of the Poetry Society (UK) tweets out poems, GIFs, and opportunities for poets and poetry lovers alike. Poetry Daily @Poetry_Daily Tweeting a poem a day from a variety of sources, this Twitter feed also features articles and links of interest about the form.

Stacy Dillon is the lower school librar­ian at LREI in Manhattan; Amy Laughlin is the youth services outreach librarian at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT.

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