Crossing Borders with Juan Felipe Herrera

This is the fifth 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. Guest author Ann Cox highlights one or two of their poems, suggests activities to use these pieces in the classroom, and touches upon their contributions to the promotion of poetry in logoAmerica. Ann Cox has over 20 years of experience teaching high school English, including AP Lit, Creative Writing, and Speech. She also spent several years as a teacher consultant for the Illinois State Writing Project.

This month’s featured poet is Juan Felipe Herrera, who served as Poet Laureate from 2015-2016 and was the first Latino to hold this position. In addition to poetry, Herrera has also written children’s literature and young adult novels. He has won numerous awards for his work. Continue reading

Burning the Old Year

Today’s post is by guest author Jessica Salfia. Jessica is the Co-Director of WVCTE and a teacher, writer, and activist.  Her writing has appeared in the Charleston-Gazette Mail, West Virginia Living Magazine’s Blog, the WVCTE Best Practices Blog, and multiple volumes of the Anthology of Appalachian Writers. She was the winner of 2016 and 2019 West Virginia Fiction Competition and recently had her poem, Rootbound, selected for the 2018-2019 Woman of Appalachia Project. She is the co-editor of the book 55 Strong: Inside the West Virginia Teachers’ Strike out now from Belt Publishing. Jessica currently is a teacher at Spring Mills High School in Martinsburg, West Virginia where she teaches AP  Language and Creative Writing and advises the Multicultural Club and the Literary and Art magazine. When she’s not teaching, writing, or advocating for West Virginia and public education, you’ll find her in the woods with her three kids or paddling down a creek somewhere. 

For many of us, the New Year is a chance to start over and begin again—a fresh slate, an empty notebook of pages yet unwritten. For our students it is no different. They return to our classrooms after winter break looking forward to new classes and a fresh start.

In my Creative Writing class at Spring Mills High School in Martinsburg, West Virginia we begin the New Year by “burning” the old one using Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, Burning the Old Year, as a mentor text for thinking and writing. Continue reading

Louise Glück: Making the Ancient New Again

This is the fourth 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. Guest author Ann Cox highlights one or two of their poems, suggests activities to use these pieces in the classroom, and touches upon their contributions to the promotion of poetry in logoAmerica. Ann Cox has over 20 years of experience teaching high school English, including AP Lit, Creative Writing, and Speech. She also spent several years as a teacher consultant for the Illinois State Writing Project.

This month’s featured Poet Laureate is Louise Glück, who served as Poet Laureate from 2003-2004. Some of her many honors include a National Book Award, a Pulitzer Prize, and a Gold Medal for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. 

Continue reading

Ruffling Feathers with Kay Ryan

This is the third 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. Guest author Ann Cox highlights one or two of their poems, suggests activities to use these pieces in the classroom, and touches upon their contributions to the promotion of poetry in America. Ann Cox has over 20 years of experience teaching high school English, including AP Lit, Creative Writing, and Speech. She also spent several years as a teacher consultant for the Illinois State Writing Project.

logoThis month’s featured Poet Laureate is Kay Ryan, who served two terms as U.S. Poet Laureate. She has won several prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, and her project as laureate, “Poetry for the Mind’s Joy,” included a poetry-writing contest and designation of April 1 as Community College Poetry Day. 

Continue reading

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 

Continue reading

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 http://www.donnavorreyer.com.

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 annkellycox@gmail.com.

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!

Continue reading

Teaching Citizen Illegal: One teacher’s approach

Today’s post is brought to you by guest author Melissa Tucker, Rock Hill, South Carolina’s 2018 District Teacher of the Year. Melissa is an AP Lit, AP Lang, and World Lit teacher at Rock Hill High School. Grateful and tired mom of two handsome sons, her extended Bearcat family is always invited to her classroom. She continually seeks opportunities to learn with and from her students and colleagues to improve. She constantly reminds students “if you’re not reading, you’re not learning.” 

Going into this school year, I made the decision to switch to choice reading. I focused our units of study around six universal themes: identity, journey, gender and class, beliefs/religion, family, and connection versus isolation. Because I knew that my students would not necessarily be reading the same text as a whole class during these units, I needed a way to quickly establish routines for close reading, annotating, and analytical writing. I also wanted a highly engaging activity that could inspire students to think critically. As a result, we studied José Olivarez’s Citizen Illegal poetry collection (Haymarket Books, 2018), ending with a video chat interview with the poet.  Continue reading