By Teachers, For Teachers
When it comes to students and poetry, poet Billy Collins repines in “Introduction to Poetry” that “All they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it.” Most students don’t know how to enjoy a poem, how to feel a poem, or how to embrace a poem – and instead they resort to boring readings and grueling analysis. This is, in part, the teacher’s fault. What do you demand of your students when it comes to poetry?
National Poetry Month was inaugurated in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, and has since spread to include poets, schools, publishers and libraries. Like other months that feature a unique focus (Black History Month, Women’s History Month, etc.), National Poetry Month is a specially designated time of year where we as Americans focus our culture towards one subject we hold as valuable. As educators, April is the ideal time of year to feature poetry lesson plans in our classes and connect to others doing the same thing across the nation.
During National Poetry Month this year, decide what it is about poetry that you’d like to enjoy along with your students:
All three of the above? No matter your objectives, consider how you can incorporate poetry into your curriculum this spring to broaden the scope of what students know and understand about this beautiful-though-underappreciated art.
Poetry Analysis and Understanding
Connect to Others
In addition to working with your students to develop an appreciation and understanding of poetry within the context of your curriculum, try exposing students to poetry beyond your classroom too. Poets.org, for example, features some unique opportunities for connection, including a poet-to-poet sharing program that connects contemporary poets – professional and amateur – together. It also hosts national Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 24, among other events.
As your students write and discover poems, encourage them to share what they find in ways they feel comfortable. While you can put their poems on display around the school, you can also encourage them to try some of these other methods of interacting with poetry:
There are dozens of approaches that you can take to incorporating poetry into your classroom this month. Try to take your appreciation and understanding of poetry and share it with students. It doesn’t have to be complex, arduous, or distracting. Just help students see the world from the dimension of poetry, so they won’t have to “tie it to a chair with a rope,” but rather can “waterski across the surface of a poem, waving at the author’s name on the shore.”
What have you done to teach students to value and understand poetry? What tricks can you share that have worked for you and your students? Share a comment and tell us what you think!
Jordan Catapano is an English teacher at Conant High School in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also sits as the District Leader for the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and serves as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website ACTWritingTips.com.