When it is raining outside, don’t close the blinds in your classroom. I know it can be a terrible distraction if children are looking out of the window at the weather, but why not turn it into a creative moment?
I want to suggest a couple of poems you could use. These could lead to discussion, vocabulary work, and ultimately to children trying to find their own poetic voices. If you have an outdoor classroom, this would be a great time to use it. Get the coats on, and get outside. Find somewhere dry-ish and listen to these poems.
First up is April Rain Song by Langston Hughes (1902-1967). Hughes was an American poet and activist. Among his work is a fascinating book of poetry about jazz music. The poem can be found in One Hundred Years of Poetry for Children (Oxford, 2007), edited by Michael Harrison and Christopher Stuart-Clark. This is a short, but beautiful, poem about the rain. You might want to ask children to go outside and think of as many words to describe the rain first. Make a class list. How many are positive about the rain, and how many negative? Then read them this poem, very slowly. It begins:
Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
Questions to ask about this poem:
How does the poet feel about the rain?
Which words does he use to describe it?
Who is the poet speaking to when he uses the word ‘you’?
From which country does the poet come? How do we know this from the poem?
How do you feel about the rain? How can it be a beautiful thing?
Can you think of an occasion when you, too, have loved the rain?
There is a glorious video of the poem here:
And another one here from the New York Botanical Gardens:
Another poem about the rain
The second poem to consider (on the same page of the book mentioned above) is There will come soft rains by Sara Teasdale (1884-1933). She was an American poet, from Missouri, and had a rather tragic life. Here is the beginning of it:
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools, singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,
The poem was published in 1920, not long after the end of the First World War. Here is the full text. Here is a video version of the poem:
This poem could fit into your project about the First World War, but it could also be considered alongside other weather poems, and leading into a deeper meaning.
Possible activities in the classroom
Just give this poem to children, perhaps in Years 5 or 6, and challenge them to explain what it is about. Don’t give them any introduction about it or any images to tease them. Then ask:
When do you think this poem was written?
Was it written by a man or a woman? Why?
Which war are they writing about?
How does nature respond to this war?
What point is the poet trying to make about war?
There are plenty more poems about the rain on the Poem Hunter website. I would be interested to know if you have used any, and which were effective.