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April is poetry month, and before what T.S. Eliot calls “the cruelest month” is over, I want to share an alternative way to getting your students excited about poetry. In my experience, students can tend to put their walls up when we reach the poetry unit. I think a lot of this reluctance comes from a mixture of intimidation and boredom. To break down these walls, I like to use three collaborative poetry challenges to help students master poetry comprehension, meter, rhyme, figurative language, and more.
Poetry challenges are game-based challenges that allow students to apply their understanding of poetry concepts to escape a scenario. They incorporate a competitive element that will engage even your most reluctant students. Here are three collaborative poetry challenges that will help develop your students’ poetry analysis skills.
These collaborative poetry challenges are included in the full-year reading challenge program, but you also grab each of them individually!
The first of the three collaborative poetry challenges that I want to tell you about is called Escaping the Magical Book. This activity covers poetry comprehension. It focuses on developing students’ ability to grasp what is happening in the poem. This is particularly useful for standardized testing. Like many standardized tests, this challenge gives students a poem and multiple-choice comprehension questions, but it has a twist where they need to uncover a mystery passphrase.
The challenge hooks students in with an engaging backstory. The premise is that while browsing a large used-book store, your students discover an intriguing book just begging to be opened. Upon opening the cover, the students are transported to an alternate universe filled with uncanny creatures. One of these creatures hands your students a book containing a puzzle, a poem, and some questions.
This backstory leads your students to the poetry challenge itself. For this, they need to read the provided poem, which is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. Then, they need to answer a series of multiple-choice questions that relate to their comprehension of the poem. To escape the strange world that they have fallen into, students will need to decipher the clues in the instructional poem to find the right passphrase.
The next collaborative poetry challenge I use is called Escape the Volcanic Eruption. This activity focuses specifically on poetic meter, which can be a bit challenging and tedious to learn. This escape-style challenge raises the stakes in such a way that makes learning this aspect of poetry fun for everyone.
Students are hooked into the challenge by being asked to imagine that they have entered an active volcano in order to foil the plans of a supervillain who planned to unleash a catastrophic eruption. Although they manage to stop the volcano from erupting, the villain, before escaping, takes the hero’s sidekick, Gilbert, as a hostage. To buy himself time, the villain locks Gilbert inside a cage that is hanging from a crane and slowly descending into burning lava. The crane controls are not working.
The hero realizes that the wires in the electrical panel have been intentionally cut. In order to save Gilbert, they must reconnect the wires and find the code. The only way to do so is by reading a series of lines from poems and connecting them, like wires, to the correct poetic meter.
The third and final collaborative poetry challenge is called Finding the Rainbow Treasure. This escape room-style challenge will strengthen your students’ understanding of poetic form. It will challenge students to demonstrate their understanding of the following poetic devices.
In the back story, students take a long hike through intermittent rain showers and eventually find the end of the rainbow. Instead of finding a leprechaun or a pot of gold, your students find a small treasure box with nothing inside by a few sheets of paper and small cards. Understandably disappointed, they look more closely at the paper to discover a few written poems and several small cards containing various poetic elements.
There is also an additional poem that explains the challenge to the students. First, they must read the four poems. Each poem employs the six categories of forms and poetic devices listed above differently (as shown in the parentheses). Written on miniature cards are the different uses of those poetic devices. Each of them has a corresponding letter. To reveal some kind of hidden treasure with it, students will need to group the poetic devices together inside the correct poems and then unscramble the mystery passphrase.
There you have it! I hope you and your students have fun with these collaborative challenges. You can learn more about the full-year reading program by clicking here. You can also try a free vocabulary challenge from the program by clicking below.
If you want to read about other creative ways to spark student interest in poetry, click here.
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