Exploring Family Relationships with a sonnet by Terrance Hayes

Today’s post is by guest author Charles Ellenbogen, who is in his 27th year of teaching. He teaches high school in Cleveland, Ohio, and has recently published a teaching memoir, This Isn’t the Movies: 25 Years in the Classroom.


logoThis lesson plan features one of Terrance Hayes’s American sonnets from American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, as well as a poem by the Poet Laureate of Ohio, Dave Lucas. Students will compare and contrast the two poems, exploring the father-son relationship in each. This lesson is designed with distance teaching and online learning in mind, and can fit right into any thematic unit on family dynamics and complexities.   Continue reading

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