Are you tired of blank faces and lack of engagement when teaching poetry? To make poetry an exciting subject, we have some tips and tricks to help you and your students. As April is National Poetry Month in the U.S., now is a perfect time to talk about teaching poetry.
At a recent education conference, the presenter asked a room full of middle school teachers to fill in the blank “Poetry is…” and the responses were diverse, from “the worst thing to teach” to “my favorite thing to teach.” By the end of the session, the teachers were all inspired and ready to bring new ideas back to their classrooms. Today I’m going to share a few of my favorite takeaways with you.
Takeaway #1: Enjoy Poetry at the Human Level
Before analyzing a poem, let students simply read or listen to it and enjoy it. Imagine that the author of the poem is sitting in the room with you and your students and you want to make them proud. Honor their artistic expression by enjoying the poem on the human level with your students. Don’t jump straight into analysis, but instead simply enjoy the words and images. You can play a recording of an actor or the poet reading the poem to help students enjoy it even more.
Takeaway #2: View Poetry Through a Different Lens
After the first reading, consider viewing the poem through a different lens, using the idea that literature can be a mirror, window, or sliding glass door into the reader’s experiences. Encourage students to ask themselves questions like:
What can they learn about the person in the poem?
Do they see themselves reflected in some way?
What insights can they take away about the individual and the greater human experience?
By simply enjoying the poem first and then viewing it through a different lens, you can make poetry an exciting and engaging subject for you and your students.
Takeaway #3: Write, Write, and Write Some More
Let’s not forget that writing is at the heart of poetry. Writing poems is a great way to get students thinking creatively and critically about the world around them.
So, consider incorporating writing activities into your poetry unit. Whether it’s a class-wide group poem, writing haikus or free-verse poems, the options are endless.
Remember that when students write their own poems, they have the opportunity to express themselves in their own unique way. You can encourage students to take risks and experiment with language, imagery, and form.
And don’t worry if what they come up with isn’t polished or perfect. Encourage them to keep writing, and celebrate their efforts.
Takeaway #4: Embrace Multimedia
Poetry doesn’t have to be limited to the written word. With the help of technology, poetry can come to life in new and exciting ways.
Consider incorporating multimedia elements into your poetry lessons. Show videos of poets reading their own work, or videos of actors performing spoken word poetry.
Have students create their own videos where they can record themselves reading or performing their own poems.
The possibilities are endless, and your students will appreciate the opportunity to see poetry in a new light.
Poetry can be a fun and exciting subject to teach, but sometimes it’s tough to get students engaged. By enjoying poetry on the human level, viewing poetry through a different lens, encouraging writing, and embracing multimedia, you can make poetry a more engaging and meaningful experience for your students.
As we head into National Poetry Month, take these takeaways and consider incorporating them into your poetry lessons. Your students will be glad you did!