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

A Lesson in the Poetic Line

Students need to realize the impact a sweet line break can have in order to truly appreciate the structure of a poem. They need to learn the difference between end-stopped and enjambed lines, and the potentialities of poetic line structure. Parts of this lesson are inspired by poet and educator Nicole F. Tong, who graciously sent me some of her materials, to which I added some of my own, and viola – a scaffolded lesson on poetic line structure.  Continue reading

The rhyme equation: 1 + 1 = 3

Do your students struggle with analyzing rhyme in poetry? How many more times must we teachers hear “it helps to make the poem flow” or the cringe-worthy “it creates a sing-song effect”? Or maybe they avoid rhyme completely because they don’t know what to say if they can’t use the words “flow” or “sing-song.”

I have a solution that will offer remarkable improvement in your students’ ability to effectively analyze rhyme. It’s an equation, actually. Just tell them to think: 1 + 1 = 3. Continue reading

What is poetry?

Today, I start my adventures in teaching Creative Writing. And blogging. Basically, blogging about teaching Creative Writing, neither of which I have done before. I requested to teach Creative Writing last year as I started to immerse myself in contemporary poetry. Now willfully drowning, I am grateful to my school for granting my request. I don’t know my students yet–I get to meet them later today–but I do know that I want them all to love poetry. Reading it, writing it, swimming in it.

As the creator of the #TeachLivingPoets hashtag on Twitter, my focus for class will be exactly that–teaching poems by LIVING poets. On the list so far are poems by: Kaveh Akbar, RA Villanueva, Safia Elhillo, Melissa Range, Joshua Bennett, Cathy Park Hong, Eve Ewing, Maggie Smith, Mahtem Shiferraw, Ross Gay, Savon Bartley, Tracy K. Smith, and Gabrielle Calvocoressi.

My first day lesson is called What is Poetry? Materials needed are Play-doh, colorful paper, markers, internet connection and devices for using FlipGrid. The directions are as follows:

To begin our poetry adventures together, I would like for you to consider your personal definition of poetry.

  1. With a partner, brainstorm a list of different ways you define poetry
  2. Create a Play-doh sculpture that physically illustrates your perception of poetry
  3. Set your sculpture on a sheet of colored paper. Write individual words and phrases around the paper that sum up your definition
  4. Using FlipGrid, record a 90-second video explanation of:
    1. Your definition
    2. How your sculpture encapsulates your definition
    3. Explain the words around your paper

….fast-forward 3 hours….

Even as a teacher of 13 years, I still get just a little nervous for the first day of class, and today was no exception. My excitement far outweighs any jitters though, as I get to devote a whole class everyday to something I really love. I expect to have a lot of fun with this class.

Students played through creation and considered their definitions of poetry. Common words were emotionscreative, expressionmusical, and personal. 

I would consider our first day together a success. My goal is to blog once a week, or when I feel like I have something worth sharing.  Any ideas, lessons, and advice are welcome!  🙂

Follow me on Twitter! @MelAlterSmith