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

The Envelope Game – easy activity to use with any text tomorrow!

My students are reading Safia Elhillo’s poetry collection The January Children. We’ve had insightful class discussions, students are reading and annotating five poems every night, and today I wanted to do something more hands-on in small groups. Before we started reading the poems, we read Kwame Dawes’s foreword–a must-read, if you ask me. It prefaces her work with information about the allusions she frequently uses, where she draws inspiration, and even some of the main themes and motifs threaded throughout the collection. After establishing a foundation for understanding her poems, we’ve decided to take a closer look into the following while annotating:

These themes and motifs are where I drew from to make my items for The Envelope Game. I’m not going to pretend like this is some kind of innovative activity; it’s really  super simple. But it initiated robust discussion from my students and made them make connections that they hadn’t noticed before. In each envelope, I placed three cards. Each card had a theme, motif, symbol, or image important to the book. I mixed them up the cards to make it random, and handed an envelope to each small group.

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Get your students engaged with poetry collections with this hands-on hexagon activity!

Today’s post is brought to you by guest author Tia Miller. Tia teaches AP Literature, AP Language, AP Seminar, and Dual Credit English at Chapmanville Regional High School in southern West Virginia.  She is currently working on her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from Marshall University.

This past semester, inspired by Melissa Smith and other awesome teachers in my PLN and encouraged by some extra money to spend on books for my classroom, I decided to teach my first poetry collection. Mind you, the very notion of reading a poetry collection, personally, was a rather exceptional idea for me, much less the attempt to teach one, but I took the leap anyway and found an exciting new addition for my curriculum. Continue reading

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

cit ill#THEBOOKCHAT #TeachLivingPoets #aplitchat UNITE!

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

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

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