Annotating a Poem with Jimmy Santiago Baca’s “I am Offering this Poem”

This lesson was posted originally in the AP Literature and Composition Facebook group by Amber Buckley, who gave her permission to share it here.

Materials needed:

  • Jimmy Santiago Baca’s poem printed out and cut into individual stanzas. I taped the stanzas onto index cards myself (which took forever), so I suggest having students tape them to save time. 
  • Large paper (large enough to include all 4 index cards with room to write around)
  • Tape 
  • Highlighters 

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Tri-Color Poetry Annotations

Today’s post is written by guest author Donna Vorreyer, a 35-year veteran middle school teacher and living poet, currently teaching her last year before retirement in grade 6. She has been a presenter for NCTE, IRA, and worked for many years as a workshop leader for the Illinois Writing Project. She has published two poetry collections with Sundress Publications, A House of Many Windows (2013) and Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (2016). Her third book Somewhere between Sweet and Grief will be published by Sundress in late 2020. (And since she’ll be retired by then, she’d love to visit #TeachLivingPoets classrooms!) Find her work at

When introducing contemporary poems to middle schoolers (ones that don’t necessarily rhyme or fall into easy narratives), their first responses have a tendency to easily fall into one of two categories– the “I don’t get it” category or the “who cares?” category. I wanted to come up with a strategy that did the following: Continue reading

Exploring “Heart to Heart” by Rita Dove

Getting to the Heart of the Matter with Rita Dove

Today’s post is brought to you by guest author Ann Cox. Ann Cox has over twenty years of experience teaching high school English, including AP Literature and Composition, Creative Writing, and Speech. She also spent several years as a teacher consultant for the Illinois State Writing Project. You can reach her at

This is the second installment in a series at #TeachLivingPoets. The Poet Laureate Project features a different U.S. Poet Laureate each month during the 2019-2020 school year. I will highlight one or two of their poems, suggest activities to use these pieces in the classroom, and touch upon their contributions to the promotion of poetry in America.

220px-Rita_dove_in_2004This month’s featured Poet Laureate is Rita Dove. In addition to being the youngest ever U.S. Poet Laureate, she is also a Pulitzer Prize winner and the only poet to receive both the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of Arts. Continue reading

Considering diction in poetry using concentric circles

The idea for this lesson came from Virginian teacher Jen Flisinger. She tweeted pictures of her class doing this activity and shared her directions.  You can learn more about Jen on her blog.

logoI love a poetry activity that:

A) works with any poem

B) encourages a variety of interpretations

C) gets students thinking analytically about specific words

D) asks students to consider how overall meaning is created

This activity fulfills all of these!

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