Poetry: it’s what the world needs now
I don’t write poetry often, but I am writing more of it lately. Y’know, short little poems that reflect a mere fraction of my life and mindset at any given moment. Some of them I like and some of them I toss, but I’m still writing them anyway.
That’s because writing even just a little poetry does help me in other ways. For example, writing poetry causes me to reflect on the nuances of writing…
- the appearance and sounds of words
- interesting turns of phrases
- the rhythm and meter of language
- the ability of words to precisely capture memory
Yes, sharing these nuances of writing with students is the best part of my job.
And that’s what’s awesome about poetry: it allows me to share my enthusiasm for words, language, and writing in general. Therefore, this year, I’m attempting to not only write more poetry, but to add more poetry into my high school English classes.
And I’ll be honest. So far, it’s been rather “hit and miss.”
Some kids love poetry, others loathe it. Some kids dash out their thoughts with ease; others wrestle with getting a word — any word — on the page. I’m not alone in noticing this dichotomy with my students.
In his Lit Hub article “Teaching High School Students the Wildness of Poetry,” author Nick Ripatrazone writes:
“Poetry, for high school students, can be both mystery and magnet. They communicate in epigrammatic bursts—digitally, in the hallways, in swift mouthings across the classroom—so they understand the spirit of poetry.”Nick Ripatrazone
In other words, all kids get poetry regardless of their comfort level with it. After all, it’s in the language around them that they see and hear everyday.
That’s why I feel as if I walk a thin line when I teach it in my classroom. Ripatrazone continues, “Yet teachers know that to quantify that experience in class—to write or, God forbid, to analyze poetry—is to court skepticism.” I feel this statement.
When I make poetry fit a standards-based lesson plan, I often kill its spontaneity, wit, and beauty.
But just because I fear killing the spirit of poetry with a lesson plan doesn’t mean I should avoid it altogether. We should still read and write poetry in the classroom. As Ripatrazone writes, “We still give poems to kids, though. Not merely because of the curriculum; (but) because we believe that poetry is a way to slow down the mess of life. Poetry is both calm and storm.’ “
We believe that poetry is a way to slow down the mess of life. Poetry is both calm and storm. — @nickripatrazoneTweet
That being said, I want to show my students how poetry really can help them tap their creativity, spark memories, and cope with the “calms and the storms” that 2020 has loaded on us.
I’ve attempted to convey the power of poetry to my students with the eight poem ideas below (listed in no particular order). Skim through each and find one that may work for your kids!
Students transform the visual to the verbal with ekphrastic poems.
Invite students to play with language and color.
Need a fun poetry activity to use with your students? One that will also hone their sensory language and revision skills?
These poems never fail to produce highly personal, touching, and honest poems.
Students illustrate life during the pandemic by creating an acrostic poem.
Watch older students create stunning expressions from everyday language
Teach poetry. Teach revision.
Have students create content with a poem about their favorite place
Thanks for reading again this week! If you’ve tried some of these poetry activities before, feel free to share your experience by leaving a message below or clicking on my Contact page in the top menu.
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