Poetry from the Trenches

Writing poetry was very common amongst young people one hundred years ago. In fact, many men wrote poetry during the War to distract themselves and to even deal with their emotions regarding what they were seeing and experiencing around them. The most famous Canadian poem from WWI is John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields. In this activity, students will analyze a poem and then use the student guide below to write their own.

Introduction to the Activity

Students will now view, as a whole class, some examples of poetry written in WWI. Teacher can choose which examples to show:

Students can answer some questions on the poetry, to understand its purpose, before writing their own. Teacher can instruct students to do this individually, in pairs or as a whole class.

  • Who is the author?
  • What physical aspects of their surroundings are they describing?
  • What emotional aspects are they describing?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Write down what comes to mind as you read the poem, what feelings the poem creates.
  • What is the purpose of this poem?

Writing a Poem

Students can now be asked to write their own poem to express their opinions and feelings about the war, the men and women who served in the military, what their actions mean to today’s youth and why they should remember. They may choose a more general theme such as death or a specific topic such as the First World War, that inspired or touched them. See student guide for more prompts.

Some tips on writing free verse poems can be found here.

For examples of poems written by students,the teacher can show the class some examples from the winners of the Vimy Oaks Poetry contest (written in honour of the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge in 2017).

Note that this activity can now be filled out directly on your computers – no need to print! To use the fillable function, be sure to download the PDF.

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