An “ode” is a poem that expresses one’s love of the subject matter described and examined in the poem’s text. If the student’s assignment involves writing “an ode to poetry” that expresses his or her love of that particular form of literature, than the poem produced in accordance with the requirements of the assignment should present an enthusiastic, heart-felt expression of love for poetry. Presumably, if one is handed such an assignment, than it stands to reason that the student has a familiarity with poetry and has read and perhaps studied a number of “odes” in preparation for this task. What is it about poetry that has driven one to pen a poem expressing one’s love for this form of literary art. In his “Ode to Autumn,” John Keats contrasts the ubiquitous passion for Spring with his appreciation for Fall, when the growing season is coming to an end and nature has run its course before the onset of winter:
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells [http://allpoetry.com/Ode-To-Autumn]
The ancient Greek female poet Sappho wrote of her passion for the mythological figure of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, going so far as to inject her presence into her own poem:
"What is here the longing more than other,
Here in this mad heart? And who the lovely
One beloved that wouldst lure to loving?
Sappho, who wrongs thee? [http://www.webexhibits.org/poetry/explore_classic_ode_examples.html]
In short, an ode has to be a deeply-felt expression of affection for the subject matter, in this case, poetry itself. It doesn’t have to rhyme, but probably should. It is important, though, that the student familiarize his- or herself with the pattern in the better-known odes, such as those linked here, as well as more contemporary examples, such as those included in this link: http://www.poemhunter.com/poems/ode/.
The poet has considerable flexibility in how he or she configures or structures a poem, including an ode. Assuming an actual love of poetry, and having familiarized oneself with odes from the masters like Keats, it is left to the individual student to express that love for poetry, whether that affection is grounded in a love of the structure of poems, or in a love for the prose exemplified in the works of others, the student has to come up with reasons why he or she enjoys poetry, and then express those feelings in the appropriate format.