Finding the Perfect Match: Poetry Blind Dating

Today’s #TeachLivingPoets post is brought to you by guest writers, Kristin Dreyer and Nikki Lehman, co-teachers at Chantilly High School in Chantilly, Virginia. They have been teaching at Chantilly for the past 18 years and have co-taught together three years throughout the course of their careers; this year they are embarking on an English 10 journey for the first time. They enjoy collaborating and taking risks in their teaching— challenging each other to move beyond their comfort zones! You can follow them on Twitter @CHS_writer and @kdreyer12.

black logoWhen our 10th graders walked into class last week, they were confused—and intrigued— by the tablecloths, electric candlelight and mints at their tables.

“Are we having a fancy dinner?” one of them asked.

“Sort of.” We smiled knowing we had piqued their interest before we had even begun to read a line together. Continue reading

Highlights reel of #THEBOOKCHAT & #TeachLivingPoets chat on José Olivarez’s Citizen Illegal

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Last week, several Twitter chat groups united to discuss José Olivarez’s new book Citizen Illegal (Haymarket Press, 2018). The chat was moderated by Adrian Nester, Scott Bayer, Joel Garza, and me, and educators and poetry readers from all over the country participated. This post will attempt to curate our chat and share some of the highlights that are useful if you are considering teaching Citizen Illegal in your class.  Continue reading

Resources

Teach Living Poets LogoWant to #TeachLivingPoets but feel like you don’t know where to start? Or where to find good poems? Then this post is for you. Here, you will find all kinds of resources to help you feel more knowledgeable and comfortable with teaching contemporary poetry in your classroom. 

How to find poets

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Line breaks, featuring poems by Gwendolyn Brooks & Terrance Hayes

This lesson of mine was originally posted on Wakelet, curated by Kristin Runyon for National Poetry Month in April 2017. Click here for more poem pairings by other teachers across the country.

Teach Living Poets LogoThis is my favorite poem pairing of all time for several reasons. First, I LOVE both of these poets’ work. Second, Hayes INVENTED a new form of poetry and how many people can say they did that?!? Third, I love seeing my students’ reactions when they realize… well, you’ll see. 

I pass out a handout with Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem “We Real Cool” written in paragraph form without the line breaks–just a continuous line across the page, punctuation included. With a partner, students rewrite it as a poem and how they think Brooks wrote it. They discuss where she would break lines; most go for after the periods.  Continue reading

Teaching a poetry collection with Clint Smith’s Counting Descent

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Today’s #TeachLivingPoets post comes from Adrian Nester, educator extraordinaire with 17 years’ experience in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. She is passionate about equity in rural education and the power of Twitter. She currently teaches AP Literature, English 11, and Journalism. She is also a T-ball coach, Interact sponsor, and Sunday school teacher in her spare time. She enjoys traveling, spending time with her family, reading, and playing sports. Read more about Adrian’s journey on her blog The Learning Curve.

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After studying Clint Smith’s Counting Descent with #thebookchat, I knew that I had found the first poetry collection that I was going to teach. Teaching an entire collection of poetry was something that I had considered, but did not see the full benefits from until reading and working through Smith’s Counting Descent from start to finish.

How to get started Continue reading

A poem with heart

Teach Living Poets LogoToday’s post will provide a lesson, inspired by the body, that has students free-writing, reading several mentor text poems, viewing a video performance of a mentor text poem, and finally writing a poem. My students had fun with this lesson, and produced impressive work! In all, it took us about three 50-minute class periods to get through. Another couple of days could be added on if you decided to workshop their poems in class.  Continue reading

Writing Moves: how poets communicate with their reader

Today’s #TeachLivingPoets post is brought to you by guest writer, Matt Brisbin. Mr. Brisbin teaches English at McMinnville High School in McMinnville, Oregon, and has been a high school English instructor for 12 years. Aside from reading and writing, his passions in life include spending time with his family and cheering on various sports teams at the high school, college, and professional levels. You can follow him on Twitter @Mbrisbin11.

Last week, a comment by one of my students, spoken with a smile on the way out the door, really made me think about the way my students tend to read poetry.

“You know something, Mr. Brisbin, I’ve never really liked poetry, but I’ve really enjoyed the spoken word poems you’ve shared with us this year.” Continue reading

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