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

Exploring Ted Kooser’s “Abandoned Farmhouse”

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. When she’s not working, Ann enjoys crafting, reading, and spending time with her family. You can reach her at annkellycox@gmail.com.

If you’re looking for a way to introduce poetry into your classroom this year, “Abandoned Farmhouse” is a great choice. The poem works well for a couple of reasons: Continue reading

Student poetry blogs

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.

logoThe summer is an excellent time to start thinking about changes and additions to the current curriculum. Having students blog about living poets is a year-long activity that is student driven, while also providing choice and an authentic audience.

Getting Started

Choose a platform to host the student blogs. Here is a post about getting started on Edublogs. There are also great video tutorials that can help with details with set-up..

The Assignment

This original assignment was inspired by Mrs. Effie and adapted by Melissa Smith into the current Pick-a-Poet blog assignment. This model allows for student exploration into the work of  the poet of their choice, while giving them enough structure to move beyond basic summary and toward analysis. Continue reading

Tone Bottles: explore tone in poetry with this engaging hands-on activity for all grade levels!

Today’s post is by guest author Valerie A. Person. In her 25th year at Currituck County High School, Valerie teaches honors and academic English II as well as AP Literature and Composition.  She agrees passionately with Virginia Woolf’s “teaching without zest is a crime,” striving to find engaging and meaningful ways for her students to learn.

One of the tenets of AP Literature and Composition is helping students recognize, understand and explain complexity in literature.  Students often hear me instruct them to “peel that onion, baby. Peel it.” With poetry playing a prominent role on the AP exam, I’ve found myself revising my lessons for sophomores, scaffolding for them to do more work with abstraction, particularly as it features in poetry.  Get comfortable in the gray, folks. In this journey to guide students to move from the unknown to the known, I find using concrete, hands-on lessons to illustrate that gray provides tremendous benefits for students.

Exploring complexity, students track tone shifts in poetry and pull from their tone vocabulary to name the tones and justify them with textual evidence.  

image2

Finished products. Keep reading for more info!

Continue reading

Introduction to Spoken Word & Slam Poetry

Today’s post is a collaboration brought to you by guest author, Joe Paris, and me, Melissa Smith. You can follow us on Twitter @ParisBMS and @MelAlterSmith.

Joe has curated this amazing list of spoken word and slam poems to get your class started! He also wrote a post about organizing a slam at your school here.

1) What is Spoken Word?

Spoken Word is poetry intended for onstage performance, rather than exclusively designed for the page. While often associated with hip-hop culture, it also has strong ties to storytelling, modern poetry, post-modern performance, and monologue theater, as well as jazz, blues, and folk music. Continue reading