On Thursday, April 10 at 8:30 EST, I will be joining other educators on #Litlead chat to share some thoughts about teaching poetry. Thank you Heather Rocco and the Conference on English Leadership for inviting me to lead my first Twitter chat! I’m thrilled to be sharing ideas on teaching poetry with such a thoughtful community of educators.
Poet laureate Billy Collins lamented in his poem “Introduction to Poetry” that people sometimes “tie a poem to a chair,” attempting to torture a meaning out of it. Many of our experiences with poetry in the past, particularly in middle and high school, have echoed Billy Collins lament about how poetry was traditionally taught. Fortunately, times have changed. In many classrooms, poetry is now recognized as the language of the heart and soul, and can be the doorway into literacy for many students, and we realize that we don’t need to tie a poem to a chair to delve into its meaning.
I like to think of exploring teaching poetry in three layers:
- Read poems that are immediately accessible, nonthreatening, and relevant to students’ lives—encourage poetry reading and writing projects that will invite all students into the world of poetry.
- Help students connect personally to a poem by guiding them toward finding themselves and their lives inside a poem.
- Guide students toward analyzing the craft of a poem, figuring out how a poem is built, interpreting what a poem means, or unlocking the door to a difficult poem.
I keep these layers in the back of my mind as I try to slowly grow readers and writers who love and appreciate poetry’s heart and soul but who can also understand poetry’s craft and structural elements– metaphor, simile, personification, stanza and rhythm, to name a few – and how these elements support a poem’s meaning.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on ways you’ve engaged students in one, or all, of these three layers of poetry:
- What are some of the ways you’ve invited your students to fall in love with poetry?
- What poetry projects that helped your students connect personally to a poem?
- What strategies guide students’ analysis of the craft of a poem without “tying a poem to a chair”?
- When studying a particularly challenging poem, how do you keep students engaged with the work?
- Do you teach poetry as supplemental pieces or as its own unit? Why?
- How do you include and evaluate students’ original poetry?
- What are some of the most helpful resources for teaching poetry?
- How do you and/or your school celebrate National Poetry Month?
- What are some of your favorite poems or poets to read with particular grade levels?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts Thursday night on #Litlead!