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Integrating Daily Poetry in the Classroom: 5 Tools to Support Your Efforts

Brett Vogelsinger

Ninth grade English teacher from Doylestown, PA

Ever since Billy Collins introduced the concept of Poetry 180: A Poem A Day for American High Schools over a decade ago, I've wanted to make a "poem a day" routine in my classroom a reality. This year, I took advantage of a change in grade levels to finally take the plunge. Poetry is short enough to afford us opportunities for close reading every day, varied enough to resonate with different groups and individuals throughout the year, and complex enough to propel them to comprehension of more complicated syntax.

Of course the first challenge is to refrain from overteaching it. We must resist the urge to tie a poem to a chair and "begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means," as Billy Collins so affectionately puts it. The second challenge is finding the right poems to fit your students.

For the first obstacle, I recommend reading "Introduction to Poetry" -- and a dose of self-discipline. For the second obstacle, I recommend the following five resources to help you scour the web for the best poems to share with your students.

1. Poetry App from the Poetry Foundation

Poetry-related apps abound, but this one features the right combination of whimsy and challenge to engage students in helping you find poems to share with the entire class. It's also useful to help students find a poem to share for Poem in Your Pocket Day.

You can use the app to spin two wheels. As you spin them, fun combinations emerge. Are you in the mood for a poem about "Frustration" and "Youth"? (There are 55 recommendations.) Or perhaps "Humor" and "Family" suits your disposition (with 32 recommendations). Within seconds, these spinning wheels generate poems ranging from those published in ancient Greece to recent issues of Poetry Magazine that will keep you laughing or crying or raging. The wheels can also be useful in helping you to find daily poems that match the core literature or historical era you teach.

2.The Writer’s Almanac

Embarking on my expedition into the world of daily poetry, The Writer’s Almanac has provided me with more poems by contemporary, living poets than any other resource in this post. Every day, along with some facts from literary history, this podcast by Garrison Keillor features a different poem, often lesser known but rich in language and meaning. There is an email subscription option that allows you to receive a new poem each morning. It has helped me to discover and share poems like "The Patience of Ordinary Things" and "Chinese Restaurant" that reveal the profound in the mundane. An audio feature lets you listen to the poem read aloud, another feature your students might enjoy.

3. Magnetic Poetry

Sure, we've all seen the kits, and you may even own one or two, but did you know you can play Magnetic Poetry online for free? This resource allows kids to explore the entertaining world of poetry writing, weighing the value of individual words as they write. While this site will not provide previously published poems, it will allow students to create their own, which can then be emailed to you and shared as a special feature of your daily poetry routine.

4. Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation contest sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Whether or not you choose to invite your students to participate in your local contest, the site features videos of poems performed well by young people, teaching resources, and an excellent "Find A Poem" feature that will help you discover new gems to share each day. For those of us who struggle to find the time to fit in a daily poem, why not try the "25 Lines and Fewer" search feature to discover brief poems for tight spaces of time?

5. Poetry 180

The year 2004 just called again, and it's still got something to tell you: sometimes the original is still the best. As U.S. Poet Laureate at the start of the new century, Billy Collins promoted daily poetry readings in class -- without analysis, just for exposure to the language and cadence of the genre. He published printable copies of 180 poems -- one for each school day -- through the Library of Congress' Poetry 180 website, and while the site does lack some of the Web 2.0 features of the others in this post, the poems are almost all by living poets, people your students can email or tweet. They aren't easy poems, but they are approachable on the first read, inviting students into a genre with open arms.

Will National Poetry Month 2014 be the time for you to start a daily poetry routine? Why not try it for just a month, and see if this idea grows roots in your classroom? It's finally spring, after all, so those roots just might take hold. These five resources will give you the seeds to make it happen.

Is poetry a daily feature of your classroom? Please tell us about it in the comments section below.

Comments (10)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Brian Sztabnik's picture
Brian Sztabnik
AP Literature teacher from Miller Place, NY
Blogger

Brett,
I agree with the idea of refraining from "over-teaching" a poem. Often, students are intimated by poetry reading and analysis because they have preconceived notions of it being abstract and deeply symbolic. Yet the Common Core advocates close reading with complex texts. Therefore, the greatest difficulty still remains. Once we get more poems in the hands of the students, how do we find that sweet spot between over and under-teaching a text? How do we get them to engage with the richness of the language, the nuance of voice, and the purpose of form and function -- goals of the Common Core -- without "beating it with a hose?"

One approach I have used in the past that has worked for me is 3-2-1 L.I.T. Students identify
-- 3 literal things the poem says that are important (Literal)
-- 2 inferences that you make based on what the poem implies, hints at or suggests. (Inferential)
-- 1 thematic statement (theme)

There are so many things to juggle when teaching poetry. I have found this breaks down analysis into simpler steps. What approaches do other Edutopia followers have with poetry?

Amy Burvall's picture
Amy Burvall
IB Theory of Knowledge teacher from Kailua, Hawaii

Hi Brett,
Thank you for sharing these resources. Studying and creating poetry on a daily basis is quite appealing, and I love how you point out that poetry has a low barrier of entry and is varied enough to appeal to all tastes. I think, too, with our increasingly succinct and pithy nature of communication (texts, tweets, and even ironic hashtags), we do a disservice if we don't offer opportunities to practice this type of composition. Recently while at SXSWEdu14, I came across an organization called "Power Poetry", who have developed an algorithm that analyses one's tweet for "poetic-ness" and provides detailed feedback. Their goal is to "build literacy through poetry" with the tools of social media and big data. Several of my students enjoyed crafting poetic tweets and submitting to #poetrywars.

http://www.powerpoetry.org/content/poetrywars-about

The concept of having a "Daily Create" similar to that of #ds106 has also sparked my interest - so much so that I'm working on building a G+ community called "Make du Jour" to share resources for fostering creativity with students.

Here is the link and please feel free to join in:
https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/101416752034019971438

My students (11th grade) recently used the Magnetic Poetry app (I'm so glad someone decided to make one!) in a poetry choose-your-own-adventure activity. I was at a conference, so I made a post on our class blog with several poetry creation options they could choose from I'm exploring the juxtaposition of analogue and digital, so some of the options did not involve a computer at all, except for the fact they were asked to take photos of their poems and post to our class G+ community. It was so much fun seeing those alerts come in while I was in the midst of the conference hall - a real testament to the power of social media in breaking down physical barriers.

Here's the post: https://tok2015.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/language-as-a-wok-playing-with-...

Most students said the book spine and blackout poetry was their favourite, but one admitted that they have become addicted to the Magnetic Poetry app.

Here are some results if you'd like to take a look:
https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/105786270533602884739/s/blackout...
https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/105786270533602884739/s/bookspin...
https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/105786270533602884739/s/magnetic...

Thanks again!

Brett Vogelsinger's picture
Brett Vogelsinger
Ninth grade English teacher from Doylestown, PA
Blogger

Thanks, Amy! I can't wait to check out this trove of resources!
(Do you think the word "trove" would be marked as poetic by the algorithm?!)

Melanie Link Taylor's picture
Melanie Link Taylor
Educator, Blogger, Southern California

Yes! Thank you so much for spotlighting poetry. Poetry brings us immediately to the top of Bloom's Taxonomy of higher level thinking, triggering growth of synapsis in our brains as we struggle for personal meaning in the verse. Poetry satisfies our requirements for serendipity, musical language, inspiration, comfort, schmaltz, and frequently, humor. Poetry is packaged in mystery, mathematical meter, and personal validation--we have our own interpretations. I've included your excellent post in my edupost: April is Poetry Month--Here's A Headstart http://mzteachuh.blogspot.com/2014/03/april-is-poetry-month-heres-headst... I'm going to have the greatest time posting poetry tips every day for a month!

Belinda Summers's picture
Belinda Summers
Business Development Consultant at Callbox

Great list of tools above. I'll be using it from now on. Sometimes poems give us a daily of inspiration to start the day. Things that are far away from technical terms and giving a little space for imagination to flourish and rejuvenate your creativity fluids. Thanks for the lovely article. :)

stacy's picture

I feel that poetry is a lost art in schools today. Many students think too literally these days due to high stake testing. Often times students believe that there is always a "right" and "wrong" answer. They do not think about the possibility of no right or wrong answer, just thoughts. I feel that poetry never has direct answers. The reader interprets the poem in relation to their own life and experiences. Every student is able to read a poem and take different ideas away from it. It is sad that poetry is a lost art because it encourages students to feel free to have their own ideas and thoughts rather than adopting someone else's right/wrong answer. I also feel that it opens a gate to engaged discussions and warm up activities. It teaches a student to respect other's opinions and thoughts while developing their own as well. I appreciated the five resources shared in this article. Poetry apps are a modern way of showing poetry every day. They are practical, quick, and easy. Although modern technology is easy to use in the classroom, I agree that sometimes the original is still the best. Poetry 180 sounds like a great way to introduce poetry to students especially because the authors are still living and students are able to contact them via social media.

Emily Byron's picture
Emily Byron
Third grade teacher

Thank you for these resources! Also, thank you for sharing the link to "6 Technology-Based Poetry Ideas For Students That Think They Hate Poetry." As an elementary teacher, the scrambled poems, copy-change poems, and choral poems activities will be especially beneficial for my students. Your post has made me excited to begin my poetry and plays unit next week!

Teri's picture

I just sent this to my English teacher that brought kids down to the Media Center today to start her poetry unit. Great resources. Thanks.

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