I love my curriculum. The books we read are amazing; I love the assignments I use to teach writing. I even enjoy teaching vocabulary, grammar, and ACT prep. The kids think I am weird when I get excited about a new vocabulary list or teaching gerunds to them, but I love (almost) everything I teach. Everything except poetry.
I save poetry for the end of the year because it is easy to fill the last few weeks enough pieces for whatever time we have left. It lets me be flexible since I can add a few more poems or cut a few depending on that final countdown. I’m honest; I tell the kids all year that poetry is not my favorite. I like analyzing it, but I am too much of a perfectionist to feel like I can write my own poems. I know some of my students feel the same way, and I know some of my students live for these few days of creative freedom.
I start off with some of my favorite poetry assignments to ease them in. Blackout poems are my favorite type of poetry because you don’t actually have to write any words on your own. I save any books in my free reading library that are beyond repair, and rip out the pages specifically for when we do blackout poems. This year I repurposed a destroyed copy of The BFG, which made for extra interesting found poems with the nonsense words on the pages.
The students can make this assignment as basic or as complicated as they like. I often get pages with everything but the poem blacked out, but I also get colorful scenes covering their page surrounding their poem. Their artwork far exceeds anything I could produce, and the students love seeing their poems hung up for the class to see on the last weeks of school.
The second poem we did this week was a form poem. It’s a 20-line poem where each line has a specific direction for the kids to follow. I stole this assignment from my 11th grade English teacher, and now I use it in my classroom. Line 1- start with a simile or metaphor; line 2- write something specific but utterly ridiculous… We read through the directions, and it seems like a confusing task that won’t really produce anything poetic, but once the kids pick a topic, they start to see poetry unfold.
This year in particular, I have an interesting array of topics: mermaids, racoons, depression, a dog, basketball, and climate change. They really took the assignment and ran with it, and it is a lot of fun to see their creativity flow. I even read my students the poem I wrote when I did this assignment as a junior and let them have a few laughs at my expense.
Despite my feelings about poetry, it is always fun to see students coming out of their shell to be creative when given the outlet. I’ve seen some of my quietest kids shine this week, and have even been told that poetry is the best thing I have taught all year. So, while it might not be my favorite, I’ll keep teaching it for the students who do.
Photo by Thought Catalog