My new high school poetry class

The start of something special

Last spring, I proposed a new poetry class to be held the last hour of the day at my rural high school. My administration fully supported my desire to try something new and encouraged me to write a course description for juniors and seniors (plus sophomores with approval) to consider as they began to assemble their schedules for the next school year.

poetry bulletin board with quote from Dead Poets Society
This is pretty much how I feel about the importance of poetry in our lives.

Honestly, I really had no idea how students would respond as the year wound down. On the last day of school during arena scheduling (where students sign up for classes on a first-come-first-served basis based on seniority, attendance, and grades), I expected only six to eight students to sign up.

Imagine my surprise when eighteen students filled up my sheet!

Now four weeks into the new year, my new poetry class is quickly becoming my favorite class of the day.

In fact, it doesn’t feel like a class at all. Granted, it’s during the last period of the day, and we’re all winding down. We move the desks out of the rows, play a jazz playlist, brew some coffee, and talk “poetry.” Needless to say, the hour goes by quickly!

coffee cart for poetry class
Coffee time! I have a senior assigned to assist during last hour. She makes sure to brew coffee and hot tea as we get settled each day. It creates a nice, relaxing vibe for the classroom.

With this week’s post, I thought I would give you a quick run-down of some of the activities my students have completed so far.

Here’s the short list:

  • Students have written and presented “Something You Should Know” poems using a mentor written by poet Clint Smith. Read more about this poem on this blog post from two weeks ago.
  • They’ve also created black-out poems, and written list poems (awesome! future post alert!) and poems on the theme of silence.
  • Students have also written “author’s bio” tags, which were brief mini-paragraphs they read at the conclusion of reading a poem aloud.
  • Students have brought poems to class (found using the links below) and recited them twice. (Yes, some of them abhor standing up to recite, but they’re doing it anyway. Everyone gets a round of applause.)
  • This week, we’re going to read cinquains by Adelaide Crapsey and Aaron Toleos and trying our hand at this unique five-line form.

Here’s a gallery of the books I purchased for my classroom library.

Some students are using these books to search for poetry to recite in class, but the majority are finding poetry in a handful of links I’ve listed on our Google Classroom class stream. These include:

If students say they don’t like poetry, it’s usually because they haven’t found the right poetry for them. Having a solid lineup of quality poetry sources is key.

That’s all for now…

Marilyn Yung, owner of ELA Brave and True

I’ll be posting more about this class in the coming weeks with more specifics on our goings-on, but for now, suffice it to say that I’ve witnessed students producing some of the most creative writing of my career in the short time we’ve been meeting.

In addition, so far this class makes me very excited for the upcoming contests I have planned for students to enter, such as the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and Poetry Out Loud. I can’t wait!

Need a new poetry idea?

Enter your email below and I’ll send you this PDF file that will teach your students to write Treasured Object Poems, one of my favorite poem activities. I know your students will enjoy it!

Image shows readers the paper I'll send for signing up for my email list. The handout gives instructions for a Treasured Object poem.
Treasured Object Poems

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ELA Brave and True | Love Teaching. Make It Memorable.

Published by Marilyn Yung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

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