Teaching poetry can be daunting. Many young students find reading poetry daunting, or worse, boring. I’ve been asking around and many (if not most) people seem to think poetry is a nice and all, but they aren’t enthusiastic about exploring it with their kids.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. – Leonard Cohen
Playing with Poetry
I’m currently working on poetry with middle school students, and I realized that if I can’t make it fun in some way, they will stare at me like they’re on the verge of death. I don’t want to be responsible for their pain, so I’ve searched and searched for ways for them to play with poetry – as opposed to simply reading and discussing it – in our class. I do use a couple of texts to guide during the first 15 minutes of class, and then we move on to the fun stuff.
My goal is to help them learn to love poetry. In order to do that, they need to be able to relate to poetry. Occasionally, they’re inspired to create their own poetry, but I don’t force them and they aren’t required to share their work with the class.
Here are some of the resources I’ve used recently :
1.Rolling for Metaphors: Understanding metaphor is essential to understanding poetry. To help the concept stick (and for fun) we created our own Rolling for Metaphors cubes to create our own metaphors. Some of the results were fun, others weird, and some metaphors didn’t work at all. My students laughed through the entire process. We read and discussed several poems before diving into this activity. Emily Dickinson’s Hope is a Feather seemed to be the most memorable, and helped them to understand not just the use of metaphor, but also symbolism.
Watch the video below and grab the free printout with instructions for the activity.
2.Blackout poetry: I adore blackout poetry. I find it relaxing and meditative. My students would agree. We didn’t use exclusively newspaper as show in the video below. To start, my students created a new poem from a poem we had read and studied. Then we tried creating poems out of magazine articles, and pages from an old copy of The Hobbit. This helped ease any reluctant poets anxiety about what / how to write a poem.
To find out more about blackout poetry, check out Austin Kleon on TedTalks:
Magnetic Poetry: Used in the same way as the cubes above, magnetic poetry will give your young poets words to work with. Kids can search out the words the like best, the ones that impact them in some way, and use them to create an original poem, haiku or even a single verse. To help them get started, I made up a bunch of titles and put them in a little bag, and students grabbed a title and worked from there.
Magnetic Poetry can be found in sets on Amazon, or students can make their own. A quick search for magnetic poetry on Pinterest will give you plenty of ideas and instructions!
If you are looking for a text to help guide you through the process of teaching poetry, I highly recommend The Art of Poetry by Classical Academic Press. It’s provides an anthology of poetry and plenty of explanation (for the teacher) while exploring the elements and history of poetry. Additionally, I use Poetry for the Grammar Stage from Memoria Press. The teacher guide doesn’t offer as much instruction, but it has still been useful for use in class.
What poetry programs or activities have you used in your homeschool or co-op? I would love to hear about them! Tell me in the comments. 🙂
Poetry can be dangerous, especially beautiful poetry, because it gives the illusion of having had the experience without actually going through it. – Rumi