Poetry in the Expression-Driven Classroom

Aside from music classes, I gravitated toward creative writing classes in high school. I enjoyed expressing my thoughts and feelings and attitudes using the written word. I particularly enjoyed poetry, because in a very short work I could release whatever was inside at the moment. I even went to a public poetry reading and read my work! It was a great experience, and I still enjoy writing poetry and have a writing folder that contains many pieces. 

I believe poetry can be a profound tool in an expression-driven classroom. In the book, Amplify Student Voices: Equitable Practices to Build Confidence in the Classroom, authors AnnMarie Baines, Diana Medina, and Caitlin Healy share the following suggestions for getting started with poetry in the classroom (pp. 140-141):

  1. Start with one-word themes. Sometimes poetry can be overwhelming to students. Rather than start with rhyme scheme or iambic pentameter, pick one word from the content and build from that word. The authors suggest an acrostic.
  2. Create a simple framework. The framework for introductory poetry doesn’t have to be difficult. The authors suggest starting with three lines – one about yesterday, one about today, and one about tomorrow. Any simple structure will help students get started. 
  3. Set a timer. Timed writing focuses student effort. The amount of time should be consistent with the age and abilities of the students. The authors suggest five to eight minutes. 
  4. Set a line goal. Establishing an initial line goal helps students by giving them a target. As they become more proficient in writing poetry, you can move from line goals to stanza goals and set more parameters regarding the content.  
  5. Follow the format of an existing poem. There are many great examples for students to review. Use them as models for creating student poetry.

As you prepare for next week, think of ways you can incorporate poetry into your classroom. You and your students will be glad you did!

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