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Creative Winter Poetry Activities for ELA

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The week before winter break can be a great time for wintery poetry. A Winter Poetry Activities mini-unit like this is flexible, seasonal, and easy to fit around whatever else is going on in those final (frantic? fun? festive?) days. You may have favorites of your own to incorporate, but today I just want to share three quick and creative ideas for your toolkit.

You can listen in to this episode below, click here to tune in on any podcast player, or read on for the full post.

Winter Poetry Activity #1: Try a Holiday-Themed Lipogram

Ever since Melissa Alter Smith of Teach Living Poets introduced me to lipograms, I’ve been so intrigued by this poetic form. A lipogram is simply a poem in which a poet avoids a certain letter (or letters) of the alphabet, but I love the way Melissa had her students avoid all vowels except one.

For this project (grab the free curriculum I designed with Melissa here), students will choose one vowel and then write a holiday poem using only that vowel. There are three quick brainstorming activities they can do to help them generate enough words with their chosen vowel to write a poem (it’s harder than it may sound!).

I suggest you have them up and moving around the room to find different partners to work with on each brainstorming step. Though you can let poets who prefer to work on their own settle in at their own desks.

Once they’ve brainstormed lists of words with their vowel based on the various prompts, it’s time to write their poems. This is waaaaay easier with all the words already ready.

After they finish their final poems, invite everyone to turn their papers out and do a little holiday lipogram gallery walk. You might even consider letting them type up final versions with colorful imagery (a great practice project for getting better at Canva) and posting them in your hallway.

Remember, you can find this free curriculum set here (Lighthouse members, it’s in your seasonal content section!).

Winter Poetry Activity #2: Try Digital Poetry Tiles

If you’ve ever played with magnetic poetry on your refrigerator, you already have the idea of digital poetry tiles for winter poetry activities. These kits are so easy to use to create poems, and they help students relax and move beyond writer’s block.

All you need is a Google Slide and a bunch of individual word images to move around on that slide. You can make it as complex or as simple as you like.

To design my own digital poetry kits, I like to create a themed background for my Slides in Canva at the 11 X 8.5 inch size, then drop it in as a background on an 11 X 8.5 inch slide deck. That way if I want to print any of the final poems it’s easy to do so.

Next, you want to add your text.

One easy option is just to create a bunch of individual text boxes on top of your slide and put the highlighter on in white. Just keep using the “duplicate” shortcut on your text box and then changing the word. Then students will be able to drag them around. This is the quickest shortcut I can think of.

For a slightly more detailed look you can create your words in Canva or Powerpoint on a small size image. Type a word onto your white rectangle slide, then duplicate it (in either program) over and over with all the words you want. Finally, download them all as PNG files and drop them onto the background you’ve created.

Pro tip. If you want to create multiple versions with different backgrounds, duplicate your slide covered in word images first, then change the background. Don’t add a fresh slide and drop 100 tiles onto it again!!

Designing these kits does take a little time, and might best be enjoyed with a fun movie and a warm mug of cinnamon apple cider. (Or you can always use mine, which you can peruse here or grab from The Lighthouse).

Winter Poetry Activity #3: Poetry One-Pager for a Wintery Poem

The Poetry Foundation has a lovely collection of Winter Poems, including Mary Oliver’s “White Eyes,” which I would really recommend. Its lovely language and gentle structure gives students plenty to dig into without being overwhelming.

Whether you use “White Eyes” or another winter favorite of yours, why not try a poetry one-pager?

Maybe you’ve tried one-pagers for novels and you’re ready to branch out. Or maybe this will be your first one-pager. Either way, it’s a great activity to help students dig into a poem and show their understanding through both words and visuals – a skill vital to many types of real-world communication in our world today.

As always, I suggest sharing a template with students (this is mine on TPT). When you design your template, think about the types of things you want your students to really explore in the poem.

For example, your Winter Poetry Activities one-pager instructions might ask students to include:

  • a border of imagery from the poem
  • poetic devices they notice along with quotations to illustrated them
  • connections between the poem and other poems, pieces of art, or books
  • connections between the poem and current events or their own lives
  • themes from the poem along with illustrations of those themes through quotations and/or imagery
  • a look at the poet’s style
  • a key symbol or image from the poem

If students need full scaffolding, you can let them know where on the page to include each element. If they have some experience and are ready for more independence, you can let them choose where to put everything, or even to use blank paper instead of a template.

Winter Poetry Activities

Ready to Try It?

Ok, my friend, now you’ve got three fun wintery possibilities for the coming days as we move toward break. I hope you’ll try the holiday lipogram, winter poetry tiles, or winter poetry one-pager! And when you do, you KNOW I’d love to see how it goes! Tag me anytime on Instagram @nowsparkcreativity so I can come and cheer you on!

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I'm Betsy

I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!

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