Words Unlocked is a month-long initiative that includes a seven-day structured poetry curriculum. Our practitioner-ready curricular materials, which include lessons à la carte, culminate with a nationwide competition for poetic works.

Far too many young people are locked up around the country. Through this initiative, we continue to ensure that their words are not.


words unlocked share selves

reflecting found intention

words now unlocked soar

over boundaries, through them

thanks whispered on wings

words unlocked evolve

glimpses into times of change

pause, transformation

words unlocked tether
through absent presence

words unlocked exist
rise up, in powerful form


words unlocked resist

shouting above silent whirlds



The semi-structured curriculum below is ready to be customized by teachers.  We have provided a suggested calendar that includes curriculum for 7 days and leaves the remainder of the month open for a la carte lessons and the creation, revision, and selection of poetic works for schoolwide contests and anthology creation.

Adjusting to meet your students' needs is strongly encouraged.

Words Unlocked 2019 Calendar

WU19 Calendar

Click the image above to download and personalize your very own Words Unlocked 2019 calendar!



Day 1

Words Unlocked 2019 begins with a poem that speaks to trancesndence in locked spaces (and beyond) by this year's focus poet, Audre Lorde. The title of the poem is "For Each of You."

Audre Lorde was an American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist. As a poet, she is best known for technical mastery and emotional expression, as well as her poems that express anger and outrage at civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life.

Having trouble viewing the video? Click here to access via Google Drive. 

*You will need to preselect and print poems for Day 1.

Your poets will work in groups of three or more, so please select and print two poems for each group. Click the banner below to check out some fantastic poetry resources!

*Looking for previous Day 1 instructional materials. Yes, these favorites are still available for your use. Just click the link in the text above and you're there!


Idea: Create a figurative language word wall with examples in your classroom. Click here for a resource on word walls in secondary classrooms.

Day 2


On Day 2, you will lead your scholars as they explore metaphor and simile. Today scholars will identify, define and differentiate between similes and metaphors. You will also support them in creating original similes and metaphors.



Day 2 Lesson Materials

Trouble viewing this video? Click here to try viewing it in Google Drive.

Day 3


On Day 3 your scholars will identify, define, and analyze the use of personification in poetry and you will support them in creating poems using persoification. Will your poets, whether he or she, come correct with the wordplay?

Day 3 Lesson Materials

Your scholars will use this glossary throughout Day 6. Help your scholars stay organized by using binders or folders to hold their notes, activities, and writings.


Day 4


On Day 4 your scholars will define, identify, and analyze alliteration and symbolism in poetry. You will also support them in creating orginial poems using alliteration and symbolism.




Day 4 Lesson Materials

Trouble viewing this video? Click here to try viewing in Google Drive.

Day 5


On Day 5 your scholars will define, identify, and analyze onomatopoeia and imagery in poetry. You will also support them in creating original poems using onomatopoeia and imagery.



Day 5 Lesson Materials

Click the image above to access poems for teaching onomatopoeia. But that's not all! *Scroll down the page for poems that support teaching other literary devices.


Trouble viewing this video? Click here to try viewing it in Google Drive.

Day 6


On Day 6 your scholars will define and analyze spoken word for its structure. You will also support them in creating spoken word pieces.




Day 6 Lesson Materials


Trouble viewing this video? Click here to try viewing it in Google Drive.

Day 7


On Day 7 your scholars will share their original poetic works. You will bear witness to words now unlocked. 

Day 7 Lesson Materials & Resources

Poetry Café

Click the image above for great ideas to help you create a Poetry Café.


Yes, right inside your facility, so get those mics ready!


Click here for your choice of lessons à la carte!

Lessons à la Carte

Poetry all month?


Do you want to extend Words Unlocked beyond the semi-structured 7-day curriculum? Look no further!


Lessons á la Cárte allow you to pick and choose lessons that meet the unique learning needs of your scholars and will take your budding poets through the entire month of April. 


Visit our contest page to learn more about contest guidelines and the submission process.


View winning poems.