Archive for Poetry

Poetry Part Deux: Week in Review

           Friday Dialogue from  

                                      Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to discuss if “Party Rock” is a form of poetry.

1.)  How can we get kids amped for poetry with sacrificing the integrity and intent of the poem itself?
Aubrey: I like to do an exercise.  I show them some poems that they “deem” easy to write.  “This is to Say” works well.  Annotate, discuss, annotate some more.  They still aren’t convinced.  So then I ask them to make a list. Is Aubrey right?Ten everyday things they know well.  Toothbrushes, steering wheels, spiral notebooks, anything.  They do it.  Then I say write me a poem in the same style as William Carlos Williams about one thing on your list.  10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes.  I’m lucky if I get one good “knock-off.”  But that’s all it is and most of them can articulate that it’s only a poor copy.  This isn’t innovative or life changing but it proves my point.  Poetry is hard, and when it’s good you can’t replicate it.  Forget amped.  Make poetry a challenge, a dare.  Read more

Are songs considered poetry? Lesson plan extensions

I know poetry is tough and that a lot of teachers, in an attempt to make poetry more accessible and fun for students, will often ask them to analyze song lyrics as they are a poem.  Listen, I’m not trying to argue the music can’t be poetic.  What can I say?  I’m a Belieber and fully admit that some of his songs (okay, 95% of them) have strong poetic elements in them.  However, just having poetic elements and rhythm doesn’t mean studying a song should replace a poem. Read more

Strategies for Understanding Challenging Poems

I like to fancy myself a good reader.  However, I whole-heartedly admit that poetry is tough.  It creates doubt in readers.  We are constantly doubting whether we really understand a poem or not.  Even something that seems “easy” to understand, like “My Papa’s Waltz,” ends up sending even the strongest reader into a quiver.  If I find myself a self conscious reader when studying a poem I can’t imagine how overwhelming it is for struggling readers.  Read more

Poetry and Visual Literacy: Extending the “Draw a Poem” Lesson

Poems are such a great resource to incorporate into the English classroom because, since they are usually fairly short, they pack a wallop of literary and poetic devices.  One such device that many teachers capitalize on is imagery. Read more

Revitalized Poetry: Overview

O, poetry.  How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.

We are now in the final week of National Poetry Month, something that some are relishing and others are loathing. 

However, regardless of your feelings toward poetry or an entire month dedicated to the promotion of poetry, stanzas and sonnets and scansion are part of our rhetoric as English teachers.  Our professional duty.  Teaching poetry is something we, as English teachers, are obliged to do.

Last week Aubrey provided great new resources to bring poetry instruction into the 21st century.  This week, I’m going to examine several widely used lessons on teaching poetry and provide suggestions on how to revamp and revitalize them.  While a lot of turn to several key lessons for poetry instruction (like drawing the poem and analyzing song lyrics as poems) these old standbys often don’t fully challenge our students or prepare them to fully analyze a challenging poem on their own.  However, these lessons do have a lot of potential.  This week I will be exploring three popular lessons for poetry instruction and will provide extensions or further activities to deepen student knowledge of the art that is poetry.

Poetry: Week in Review

           Friday Dialogue from                

                                      Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to discuss the merits of poetry in the English classroom.  

1.  What are the largest obstacles to teaching poetry?  

Emily:  I think students are inherently afraid of poetry because they are afraid the poet is playing tricks on them.  While they might understand each individual What does Emily say?word in a poem, there is something about the compact form and typically rigid structure that makes students doubt whether or not they know what the words mean.  They begin to think that every word is a symbol and get frustrated and just quit.  The largest obstacle is helping students navigate through a tough poem with confidence.

Aubrey: I feel as if students split down the middle, it’s either fear or the definitive belief that “short” texts are synonymous with ease.  It’s very difficult for me to guide both groups to a middle ground.  Parsing poetry should be difficult but not every word is a symbol.  

2.  What merit is there to teaching poetry?  

Emily:  I love how tight and specific it is.  Poems are like taking a novel and cutting it down to the bare bones.  What a novelist can posit in 200 pages a poet can do in 14 lines.  I think this is the biggest benefit.  Students can hone similar skills they would with the book they never pick up because it is too long.

What I wouldn’t give for some concision in student writing.  I’d also like poetry to prove to them that a small turn of phrase can pack an incredibly large wallop.  So many of my students are hung up on the idea of more, more, more.  Poetry teaches patience and the value of writing in “small spaces.” Read more

Poetry: Spoken Word

All of my best “material” has an element of shamelessness to it.  I’m not talking about the curriculum I’ve created or the copious notes I’ve constructed.  I’m not talking about how I tap my face while I grade  or helicopter over students until they annotate.  No, I am talking about how I “clown” literature.  I pantomime and quip.  I physically reenact Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, even Robert Penn Warren.

I am an embarrassment unto myself. Read more

Poetry: Billy Collins & Media Literacy

Billy Collins is my favorite poet.  This is neither unique or of great, vast insight.  To deny Billy Collins is to deny the art of poetry, poet laureates and Poetry 180.  But part of what truly makes me love Billy Collins is his role in shaping popular culture when it comes to poetry.  Since this week’s posts examine poetry through the lens of media, Billy Collins is a worthy focus.  More than anything else he is a poet in the public eye.

Collins is well-known.  See his You Tube highlights or any of his featured spots on A Prairie Home Companion if you don’t believe it.  But what makes him an appropriate topic for our focus this week on poetry and media literacy has to do with how we see his poetry “interpreted.”

Consider using the lesson below to supplement a poetry unit that already focuses on Billy Collins.  Or, use one of his pieces of poetry as a starting point, and after introducing his work, use this lesson to raise larger questions about poet, media and culture. Read more

Poetry: Pop Culture & Media Literacy

Often, I find that I’m forced to defend the teaching of poetry—to my students.  It is as if they see poetry as frivolity, or worse, self-indulgence.  In the world of Tumblr, Instagram, and Flipboard, where does poetry fit?  Today begins our foray into resources that help teach students how poetry exists in spaces other than just textbooks and dusty bookstores.

One of the best ways to discuss poetry, popular culture and media literacy finds its shape in The Anthology of Really Important Modern Poetry: Timeless Poems by Snooki, John Boehner, Kanye West, and Other Well-Versed Celebrities. In this anthology, authors and siblings Kathryn and Ross Petras use the language of politicians and celebrities to create found poetry.  The results are fabulous and humorous.  While not all poems are appropriate for use in the classroom, there are enough to make the publication a useful resource.   To begin, examine their Tumblr page.  Each day, for National Poetry Month, they are posting one poem from the actual anthology.   Then, peruse the two articles below that examine the poetry and purpose. Read more

Poetry: Overview

I’m supposed to like teaching literature and that should include poetry.  It should include poetry.  I should like teaching poetry.  P-0-E-T-R-Y.

But I don’t.

National Poetry Month should fill me with a certain type of English teacher glee.  Like Shakespeare’s birthday or the National Book Festival.  It should be sacred.  Instead, I try to pretend it isn’t happening.

Poetry is difficult to teach well.  If it doesn’t rhyme they don’t think it’s poetry.  If it rhymes they think it’s easy to emulate.    If it’s about love it’s too “gooey,” and if it’s about fruit, chickens or Emily Dickinson it’s “inconsequential.”  While the joy of poetry seems like something easily captured in Disney’s multiple ads for What a Poem Is, I’ve rarely seen students enter my classroom feeling so enormously captured and captivated.  It’s easy to see why sometimes it seems like a good idea to employ the gimmicks of Dangerous Minds.

The focus of this week is to examine poetry through a variety of lenses, specifically with the goal of teaching media literacy via poetry.  For students who frequently question the role of literature, especially poetry, this week’s focus will serve as a supplement to pre-existing poetry units.