Thursday, March 25, 2010

Poetry: It's More Than One Unit

When I first started teaching, poetry reading and writing was an "activity" that I saved for the end of the year. I would "do" a unit on poetry, which usually included a mixture of classic and modern poets and attempt to have students engage in these select poems. I would also use a multi-genre project to inspire students to write poems, providing specific poetic forms for them to imitate.

Now, poetry is a year-long fascination for me. I have come to see that poetry is all at once the easiest and most complex way to integrate a love of language and playfulness into the curriculum. It is no longer an afterthought for me; rather, it has become the inspiration for entire courses of study within my classroom.

Like most secondary education English teachers, I love National Poetry Month. Also, like most secondary education English teachers, I am overwhelmed by National Poetry Month. There is so much that I hope to do, hope to accomplish, wish I could try and do with my students during this one short month. Fortunately, there are all sorts of suggestions and poems and lessons available to teachers in my predicament. Unfortunately, these ideas are amazing and add to my want to "do" more during April, a month that includes a week-long vacation.

I've decided that I need to breathe deeply. I've incorporated more poetry than ever in my regular classroom teaching. Poetry is taught/ discussed/ shared/ written/ created at least once per week in my classroom now. Gone are the days when I teach a poetry unit to my students and call it "good". Poetry is a focal point, not a byline.

I plan to write a series of posts related to this topic for late March and throughout April. In these posts, I hope to share some of the resources (which I may or may not have time to use) in hopes that you and your colleagues may be inspired to incorporate poetry into your teaching or to add to existing poetry ideas/ lesson plans.

Here is my first item. I just discovered the Poetry Everywhere project, which is port of the Poetry Foundation. On this site, you can find videos narrated by poets reading their work. It's pretty darn incredible. Be sure to click the picture I've provided in this post. It's linked to an inspiring poem titled "Weighing In" by Rhina Espaillat. Check back for more throughout late March and all of April.

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