A #TeachLivingPoets unit

Earlier this week, the third installment of the #TeachLivingPoets Twitter chat dropped. The August 28th chat was hosted by Susan Barber, who teaches in Atlanta public schools. Clint Smith’s poem “There Is a Lake Here,” which is the last poem in his collection Counting Descent (Write Bloody, 2016), was our focus as the common text for the chat.  There were so many innovative ideas brought up by various educators all around the country who participated in the chat, and this post is going to sort them all out into an organized poetry unit you could teach in your classroom.  Continue reading

Teaching poetry collections: 3 engaging activity ideas to get your students thinking

Last year, my students read RA Villanueva’s Reliquaria (University of Nebraska Press) and Kaveh Akbar’s chapbook Portrait of the Alcoholic (Sibling Rivalry Press) (which I am changing to his full collection for this year, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, Alice James Books). New this year in AP Literature will be Safia Elhillo’s The January Children (University of Nebraska Press); and in American Literature, José Olivarez’s Citizen Illegal and Eve Ewing’s Electric Arches (both from Haymarket Books).

Last year, while teaching both Villanueva and Akbar’s collections, never did I ever stand in front of the room and “teach the poem.” Instead, we learned through class discussion and group collaboration. Each night, students read five poems for homework. They were to read the poem, and annotate it for things that they noticed, which could entail poetic devices, words that stuck out to them, thoughts on structure, questions brought up by the poem, or anything they felt like making note of on the page. Having read the poems and bringing them annotated to class the next day made sure students were prepared with some thoughts to discuss and engage with their peers. Five poems a night seemed a good number, as it wasn’t too much that they weren’t reading the poems closely, and it kept us at a steady pace working through the book.

Here are three of my favorite activities you could do with any poetry collection: Continue reading

A new year of #TeachLivingPoets

Another school year is upon us, and it’s time for us to think about all the things: curriculum, building relationships with new students, texts, end-goals, et cetera, et cetera. For me personally, I want to continue my inclusion of living poets into my AP Literature and Creative Writing class, but I also want to do a better job this year of including it in my 11th grade American Lit classes. I’ve already added some books onto their syllabus; they get to choose between José Olivarez’s Citizen Illegal or Eve Ewing’s Electric Arches (both from Haymarket Books). I feel really good about having titles on my syllabus as a starting point, but I know I will need to put in some work to get my juniors’ curriculum where I want it to be in regards to #TeachLivingPoets. Continue reading