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adventures in teaching creative writing

Weekly Poems for Spring 2014

After the December #titletalk chat on Twitter, I cemented my resolution to introduce more poetry into my Pre-AP English 2 classroom. I am going to modify my weekly schedule of how I start each class with a literacy activity. Instead of giving two book talks a week, I will now just give one on Tuesdays, and Thursdays will now be reserved for a weekly poem.

Looking back on the fall 2013 semester, I’m not happy with how much poetry I shared with my students. In late September we studied three poems all titled “Mockingbird” at the start of our To Kill a Mockingbird unit.  In the middle of October we studied “Miscegenation” by Natasha Trethewey as part of our examination of TKaM‘s Dolphus Raymond. In November we read “The Black Walnut Tree” by Mary Oliver as a model for an AP-style essay over “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden and “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke. Additionally, one of the ten required genres students read was a collection of poems. They had to find at least two poems they liked/understood and one poem they disliked/did not understand for our book chat. That’s quite a few poems, I suppose, when you count the poetry collections (if students got around to them), but I want to share more poems as a classroom community.

For spring 2014, students will get a weekly poem, which is something I can’t say for last semester. Most of the poems I selected are fairly easy to understand, but they do great things with figurative language and have a lot of heart. I can’t decide if I will just display them on the SmartBoard or if I will make copies for all students to have and annotate. Since I have some students also enrolled in my Creative 1 and 2 classes, I chose poems I have not used in those classes.

Without further ado, I present in order the 19 weekly poems of the 2014 spring semester in Pre-AP English 2:

I have around 275 poems saved in a folder on my laptop that I’ve collected over 9 years of teaching. Many of the poems from my list above come from The Writer’s Almanac, whose podcast I listen to regularly. You’ll notice that in general the list is in alphabetical order by poem title, which is how the poems are organized in my folder. I placed “It’s Raining in Love” around Valentine’s Day and “Shakespearean Sonnet” during the Julius Caesar unit. Otherwise, the poems don’t really tie to a particular time of year, at least intentionally.

Unintentionally, I selected 12 poems by men and only 7 by women. Perhaps I can help balance things out when I continue the weekly poem in the fall. I already have my eyes on Rita Dove’s “First Book,” Jill Osier’s “Requiem,” Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Torn Map,” and Lisel Mueller’s “Things.”

What about you? How do you use poetry in your classroom? Do you save it all up for April, National Poetry Month? Or do you, like me, try to pepper in poems throughout the year? Or do you avoid poetry altogether?

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4 thoughts on “Weekly Poems for Spring 2014

  1. This looks like such a great plan for students. You seem like a great teacher and writer as well. I have a literary blog and love staying up to date on the latest trends and tips in the literary/writing world.

  2. At my current school, I don’t include much poetry, although I do plan on doing a poetry bracket during April. This inspires me to try and incorporate more poetry into my class!

  3. Michelle Haecker on said:

    Hello, Jason! I briefly met you in November. I was the 1st year 6th grade teacher on Dr. Laura Bolf-Beliveau’s panel (sitting next to Rhonda). I’m very excited to dive into a poetry mini-unit this semester. Your list was posted at the perfect time as I plan my unit (we have the day off due to the frigid weather). I love the personification in “Cold”. I will definitely be using that one. I’m continuing to search through my books and the internet for poems that will be challenging, yet appropriate and engaging for 6th grade.

  4. That Sharon Olds poem is one of my favorites to share with students. I always do a poetry unit in April but sometimes sprinkle poems into other units too–“caged bird” poems right before “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” for example–resolving to do more throughout the year next school year. One of the things I love about teaching–getting a clean slate each September!

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