Poetry- people seem to adore it or to abominate it
Like many of my current students, I didn’t enjoy reading poetry in high school because I often didn’t understand the poems we were reading in class. But when I studied literature to become an English teacher, I was challenged to read more poetry and develop engaging poetry lessons. The more I read, the more I appreciated the poems I studied.
As a result of my own experience, I try to make poetry accessible and pleasurable for my students. With the Internet, this is more possible than ever before (and essential in an era of remote and distance learning). I find audio versions of class poems and many videos to accompany them. Here are resources and tips to make teaching poetry wonderful (and don’t forget to get my free lesson for introducing poetry at the bottom of this post)!
Hook students with these poems and talks
Dead Poets Society
Use video clips from the brilliant movie, The Dead Poets Society, to get your students excited to read poetry! You may want to start with this video clip in which Professor Keating tells his students to rip out pages from their textbooks because it poetry is not like laying pipe. Or use this clip with one of my favorite quotes:
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.”
Or use this video from popular teen author John Green, who gives an entertaining talk about the classic poem “The Road Not Taken.” I also love his Crash Course video about Emily Dickinson. It’s a great way to start the study of the enigmatic poet.
Another way to hook students on poetry is to use humor. Here’s performer Taylor Mali’s funny and relatable poem, “On Girls Lending Pens.”
You can amaze your students with this reversible poem, “Lost Generation” by Jonathan Reed; it always engages them with its clever wording and format.
And here’s an inspiring commencement poem by Harvard graduate Donovan Livingston. He encourages the audience to participate in this spoken word poem by snapping, clapping, and rejoicing. This poem also challenges its listeners to consider his compelling message about education and society.
Want a modern poem to share with your students? Juan Felipe Herrera reads his poem “You Can’t Put Muhammad Ali in a Poem” as part of Dear Poet, the Academy of American Poets’ educational project for National Poetry Month 2017. In fact, you can find a playlist with numerous poets from the Dear Poet project here.
Poetry also provides an emotional outlet for students with teen angst and anxiety. Here’s a popular poem they may enjoy.
Instructional Resources for Teachers
Poetry Out Loud, a National Recitation Contest, created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, provides $50,000 in awards and school stipends for the winders of the competition. More importantly, the Poetry Out Loud activities help students build confidence and speaking skills. At the site, you can find more information about the contest, lessons for teaching recitation, and videos of winning performances.
National Poetry Month
Poets.org has provided “30 Says to Celebrate National Poetry Month,” including links to resources for the virtual classroom and for learning at home. Go directly to the source of National Poetry Month with the Academy of American Poets. You can sign up for a free poster and find innumerable teaching resources.
There are myriad topics and speakers related to poetry including these poems about dogs from Billy Collins, and this rationale for poetry’s importance from literary critic Stephen Burt. In my American Literature classes, I also like to use art and song lyrics to engage students in reading and writing poetry.
Find poets, poems, and other learning tools with this website. You can find featured pod casts for teaching poetry and an audio poem of the day.
I hope you find some of these links useful. You can also download my free lesson to introduce poetry.
It uses inquiry to make reading poetry fun and meaningful.
There are just so many helpful resources online for poetry that I’m sure you have some suggestions which I haven’t included. Why don’t you share in the comments below?