Fresh Ideas For Teaching Poetry

Ideas on how to teach poetry so students are engaged and eager to learn about this text type from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.

Poetry is still a great component of any ELA program. It is important that English curriculum still includes poetry in its lessons. During this interesting #2ndaryELA Twitter chat, teachers discussed how they used poetry in their classrooms – some teachers teach it as a stand-alone unit, others integrate poems as mentor texts in any unit that it fits. Teachers also shared their favourite poems to teach and which poetry forms their students enjoy writing.

Q1: Do you teach a poetry unit? When? Or do you incorporate it all year long?

  • I incorporate poetry during every unit. Students are very good at communicating their thoughts succinctly from using social media
  • Currently teaching poetry. We regularly focus on non-fiction, so we try to incorporate different forms of literature where we can
  • Used to just do a unit in January, but now mix it in all year long. I like to start the year with it http://www.theliterarymaven.com/2015/07/thinking-about-going-back-to-school-my.html
  • I use poems all year long as mentor texts when they fit the unit. I am also going to have students write poetry this year
  • I try to find poems that match the themes we are reading about in class all year. No plans for a unit – we use Springboard
  • I do mini poetry units by combining poems with universal themes and I connect poems to other texts throughout 
  • I do the standard month-long poetry unit in February, but have been reading blogs about incorporating more often
  • I incorporate it all year but do a more detailed unit in the spring. Teaching @kwamealexander Crossover
  • I teach a poetry unit toward the end of the year (this year it’ll be in April) – after all the standardized testing 
  • I teach my poetry unit in April. We cover primarily figurative language and sensory detail
  • Students share favorite poems and tell why. They also write poems. Love http://m.poets.org  
  • April is also National Poetry Month so seems to be a good time for it

 

Q2: What skills are most important for you to cover when teaching poetry?

  • ANNOTATIONS. In-text marking and visible thinking strategies are a must when working with poetry and its complexities
  • Poetry can be used to teach anything, that’s why it is so great! Word choice, figurative language, imagery, voice 
  • Important skills – that students learn to read and enjoy poetry. I am not super strict about poetry format
  • Testing makes poetry instruction less creative & more tedious. Students need figurative language & to understand the import of word choice
  • Appreciating the messages that are created through the use of language. Like to embrace creativity
  • Always themes! Also, poetic devices, structure, shift in tone 
  • We focus first on figurative language terms. Knowing that they have a deeper understanding of those terms helps with analysis
  • Modeling how poetry should be read aloud! Great time for poetry slams and guest speakers! 
  • Figurative language, analysis such as how people can interpret the same poem differently
  • We also focus on rhyme and rhythm – we look at a lot of songs to imitate the structure
  • Finally, imagery is something we also cover. Looking for more ways to make this stand out! 
  • I’ve used songs in the past. Students love it and it is a great way for them to buy-in
  • I love student lead slams!
  • Have you ever used @PoetryOutLoud? Amazing resources and competition for poetic recitation

 

Q3: What are your favorite poems to teach? What are students’ favorites to read?

  • While I teach figurative devices, I want students to be able to make connections, text to text, text to self, text to world
  • “How to Eat a Poem.” There’s something so meta about reading a poem about reading a poem, and the students relish that irony
  • Students & I all love “The Limited” by Sherman Alexie, “Abandoned Farmhouse” by Ted Kooser, & “A Poison Tree” by William Blake
  • Here are 30 favorites perfect for doing a month of poems to start your classes or once a week all year
  • I LOVE “Love That Dog” by Sharon Creech
  • “Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel is FANTASTIC for teaching poetic elements/figurative devices!
  • My students love Langston Hughes especially “Theme for English B” 
  • I love teaching “Oranges” by Gary Soto! A lot of images and relatable for students, especially the grade level I teach 
  • My students are currently enthralled with “Crossover”. I also had to buy @kwamealexander‘s books because they wanted a similar text
  • “On Turning Ten” by Billy Collins and “Birches” by Robert Frost
  • I remember teaching “We Real Cool” when I taught high school. Students always loved it
  • I also really like teaching “Mother to Son” by Hughes – students relate their own extended metaphor poems based on his in the text 
  • I don’t teach it this year, but for student teaching, I used “Fight Song” with the lyrics to introduce poetry. 8th grade loved it 
  • My students really respond well to “The Table” and “The Road Not Taken”
  • We compare and contrast “Mother to Son” to “Dear Mama” by Tupac and that’s always one of my fav lessons of the year 🙂 
  • They also love @TaylorMali I just had them read “Totally Like Whatever” last week

 

Q4: Share your favorite poetry writing assignments.

  • Students reflected on their nightly reading through short poems (haiku, limerick, etc.) to show a deeper understanding of our texts
  • Found http://bit.ly/2jrKJth  on & am doing this week. Students publishing their poems on a class Padlet. I’m excited! 
  • Collaborative poetry is a great way to get students to share ideas, revise, & edit 
  • I have students make a poetry book filled with various styles of poems
  • Totally enjoyed asking students to paint a picture of their favorite place/person and then write a free verse poem to match
  • Slam poetry, sonnets, blackout poetry or anything using different medium besides paper
  • Check out these creative & high-tech #poetry activities for big kids! http://tinyurl.com/jjpoetry 
  • I used to love having students write poetry. My favorite was Dialogue Poem. Also enjoy shape poems, Where I’m From poems
  • My Sensory details touch poem. I have the students stick their hands out and touch food items. They then write inspired by it
  • Last year I had students watch various videos of slam poetry and discuss tone/mood/word choice – definitely engaging
  • YES – I want to try blackout poetry this year! 
  • During student teaching I had students create poetry books with various structures & had a coffeehouse at end of the term to share 
  • Autobiography poems are always a hit with my kids (and easy for them to get their feet wet with poetry)
  • I once did time of the day “unit” where students painted certain times and then wrote about them
  • My students narrated their poem, collected images and selected music for a “music video” of their poem
  • Poetry Cafe was a big hit last year too!

 

Q5: How do you get creative when teaching poetry to appeal to those students who “hate” or don’t “get” poetry?

  • Draw parallels between poetry and rap. Both have rhythmic structures, use rhyme, and share about the human condition
  • I think anything that lets students see poetry as relevant, fresh, & expressive can go a long way towards eliminating the hatred
  • Students loved writing I Am From poems. I think they will like Black Out poetry and other non-traditional forms 
  • Have students draw out what they see in each stanza to help them visualize what is going on. Or have each student bring in the lyrics to a favorite song and present an analysis of it like you would a poem
  • That’s when I bring in current songs (appropriate ones) and then we work to make our own
  • I’ve not always been the biggest fan of poetry. But the more I see it as freedom rather than restriction, the more I like it
  • Expose students to poetry throughout the year. Start with songs and high-interest text to get buy-in
  • Many students get frightened by poetry rules. Take those away and they seem to ease into it better
  • I have trouble with this one, but I’m getting a lot of great ideas!
  • We completed TPCASTT analyses of songs the students knew, helped them use their analytic skills in a medium they connected with 

Other Resources

Engaging Students With Non-Traditional Texts

Middle School Poetry Lessons

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