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.
Finished products. Keep reading for more info!
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
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
Today’s post is brought to you by guest author, Joe Paris. You can follow Joe on Twitter @ParisBMS
Joe Paris has been teaching 8th grade Language Arts in northeast Ohio for 19 years. He and his colleagues began the spoken word project six years ago and it’s their favorite thing they do with students every year.
Slam into Summer and into Forever
Looking to bring in more contemporary poetry into your classroom but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you have a couple favorite poems and poets, but you’re looking to add some new artists? Continue reading
I love The Slowdown Podcast with US Poet Laureate Tracy K Smith. Listening to it has become part of my morning routine. If you’ve never listened before, it’s a five-minute long podcast in which Smith introduces a poem with an anecdote, personal story, historical or current event, or some explanation that eventually leads in to what the poem she is reading on that particular episode is about. Then, she reads the poem. It’s a relaxing, thought-provoking, poetic five minutes very well spent. I recommend subscribing if you haven’t already. Continue reading
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.
February is always the time of the year that my students’ energy starts to fade. There is something about the long winters, when the sun goes down early that tends to take a toll on all of us slogging through another school year. I usually save this activity for just these times, because it has been a sure fire way to not only increase my students’ morale and give them some seeds for writing, but it’s also is a great way to continue building a community of learners. This year, I added two spoken word poems by Phil Kaye to add another layer to this lesson, and I was really happy with the way it worked out. Continue reading
Today’s post is by guest author Angelina Murphy who teaches high school English in Los Angeles. She has her Masters in Education from University of California, Los Angeles where she focused her research on trauma-informed teaching and community of care. When she is not teaching, she also manages her blog about engaging teaching, technology, social justice, and teaching strategies at Magical Ms. Murphy.
When I first announced to my high school freshmen that we will start our poetry unit in class, I was met with groans and scoffs. While I was disappointed by this reaction, it also resonated with me. When I was their age, I felt similarly about poetry. Poetry was old. Not relatable. Difficult to understand. It was because of their reaction, and my familiarity to it, that I was determined to expose students to poetry that they would connect with and to prove that poetry does not live in the past. It is happening now.
Inspired by the Teach Living Poets movement, I was determined to teach students about the brilliant and diverse poets of today.
For this activity, I decided to do learning stations. I love incorporating learning stations in class because they are focused activities, along with kinesthetic learning, to get students moving and interested in a broad spectrum of a particular subject. Continue reading
Today’s #TeachLivingPoets post comes from Kristin Runyon, who is in her 29th year teaching with 17 years at Charleston High School in Charleston, Illinois, and the other 12 years in Missouri, Kansas, and other Illinois schools. She has been a co-director and coach for Eastern Illinois Writing Project and a frequent participant with Eastern Illinois University Teaching with Primary Sources. She teaches English 3 (juniors) and Dual Credit Composition 1 and Dual Credit Introduction to Literature (seniors). She spent many years as Student Council adviser and as a soccer and baseball mom and now advises the CHS Press. Outside school, she enjoys reading, running, and traveling, especially to visit her sons.
The amazing Carol Jago was the opening and closing keynote speaker at the Poetry Foundation’s Summer Poetry Teachers Institute. Her goal was to provide us a handful of poetry activities that we could use in our first days back in the classroom, and on the last day, Carol asked us to set a personal goal for incorporating poetry into our classrooms; my goal was to “do” poetry on the 2-hour early out Fridays that we have about every other week (class periods are 30-minutes long).
“Do” poetry; sounded easy enough because it was such a vague idea. In mid-August, about five weeks after the institute, I started the school year with a couple community bonding activities, including one of Carol’s poetry activities. And then, I began my units as I always do. My senior classes are dual credit composition 1, so how would I “do” poetry with them? And my junior classes? I have taught that curriculum for at least 18 years; I defaulted to autopilot. Continue reading
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.
I had looked forward to this workshop for MONTHS. Terrance Hayes! A small, intimate workshop! I am going to learn about poetry from one of the greatest poets writing today. AND I get to attend his reading the night before? Get. Out. Of. Town. I was beside myself.
Let’s start with the reading. Charlotte Lit sponsored a weekend with Terrance Hayes for their Beautiful Truth initiative. Held in a elegant, aged auditorium and flanked by artwork by local artists, Hayes opened his reading with an explanation of Wanda Coleman’s influence on his book, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin. (I highly suggest reading this interview with Hayes written by Hanif Abdurraqib in Poets & Writers magazine if you are reading Hayes’s book.) The first poem he read, which also happens to be my personal favorite, was this one: Continue reading