Poetry Online

free poetry resources, national poetry month

Poetry- people seem to adore it or to abominate it

Like many of my current students, I didn’t enjoy reading poetry in high school because I often didn’t understand the poems we were reading in class. But when I studied literature to become an English teacher, I was challenged to read more poetry and develop engaging poetry lessons. The more I read, the more I appreciated the poems I studied.

As a result of my own experience, I try to make poetry accessible and pleasurable for my students. With the Internet, this is more possible than ever before (and essential in an era of remote and distance learning). I find audio versions of class poems and many videos to accompany them. Here are resources and tips to make teaching poetry wonderful (and don’t forget to get my free lesson for introducing poetry at the bottom of this post)!

Hook students with these poems and talks

free poetry resources
Dead Poets Society
Use video clips from the brilliant movie, The Dead Poets Society, to get your students excited to read poetry!  You may want to start with this video clip in which Professor Keating tells his students to rip out pages from their textbooks because it poetry is not like laying pipe.  Or use this clip with one of my favorite quotes:

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race."

John Green
Or use this video from popular teen author John Green, who gives an entertaining talk about the classic poem “The Road Not Taken.” I also love his Crash Course video about Emily Dickinson.  It's a great way to start the study of the enigmatic poet.

Use Humor

Another way to hook students on poetry is to use humor. Here’s performer Taylor Mali’s funny and relatable poem, “On Girls Lending Pens.”

Amaze Them

You can amaze your students with this reversible poem, “Lost Generation” by Jonathan Reed; it always engages them with its clever wording and format. 

And here’s an inspiring commencement poem by Harvard graduate Donovan Livingston. He encourages the audience to participate in this spoken word poem by snapping, clapping, and rejoicing. This poem also challenges its listeners to consider his compelling message about education and society.

Modern Poets
Want a modern poem to share with your students? Juan Felipe Herrera reads his poem “You Can’t Put Muhammad Ali in a Poem” as part of Dear Poet, the Academy of American Poets' educational project for National Poetry Month 2017. In fact, you can find a playlist with numerous poets from the Dear Poet project here.

Poetry also provides an emotional outlet for students with teen angst and anxiety. Here’s a popular poem they may enjoy.

Instructional Resources for Teachers

Poetry Out Loud, a National Recitation Contest, created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, provides $50,000 in awards and school stipends for the winders of the competition. More importantly, the Poetry Out Loud activities help students build confidence and speaking skills. At the site, you can find more information about the contest, lessons for teaching recitation, and videos of winning performances.

National Poetry Month

Poets.org has provided "30 Says to Celebrate National Poetry Month," including links to resources for the virtual classroom and for learning at home.  Go directly to the source of National Poetry Month with the Academy of American Poets. You can sign up for a free poster and find innumerable teaching resources.

TED Talks

There are myriad topics and speakers related to poetry including these poems about dogs  from Billy Collins, and this rationale for poetry’s importance from literary critic Stephen Burt.  In my American Literature classes, I also like to use art and song lyrics to engage students in reading and writing poetry.

Poetry Foundation
Find poets, poems, and other learning tools with this website.  You can find featured pod casts for teaching poetry and an audio poem of the day.

I hope you find some of these links useful. You can also download my free lesson to introduce poetry
national poetry month
It uses inquiry to make reading poetry fun and meaningful.

You can also find poetry bell ringers, poetry paired passages, and poetry writing lessons in my TpT store.

There are just so many helpful resources online for poetry that I’m sure you have some suggestions which I haven’t included. Why don’t you share in the comments below?


Make Writing Magical With Poetry

Helping Students Enjoy Writing Again

Sometimes students are afraid to write.

They may have had negative experiences with writing in previous classes. Maybe they’ve only been required to write for standardized tests which has turned them off to writing. Perhaps, they just lack confidence in their writing abilities.

Well, one way to help them enjoy writing again is with poetry since it can give writers both freedom and an emotional outlet. Here are ways you can use creative activities and poetry to make writing pleasurable for them. 

Have students “play” with words.
Paint Strips, poems, poetry, imagery
Use sensory writing to let students experiment with language. Give students paint strips that help them “find” new words such as heartthrob red, radish, goldfinch, or oceanside. Bring in interesting objects like dolls, figurines, toys, feathers, etc. for them to describe.

Give students dictionaries and tell them to randomly turn to several pages, finding at least five words. Ask them to use the words in several sentences or a poem. They’ll learn new vocabulary in a non-threatening way.

Assign students letters from the alphabet and ask them to write meaningful sentences using assonance or consonance. Let them read them aloud with a partner. Watch them giggle as their sentences turn into silly tongue twisters.

Encourage your students to see the “art” in poetry writing.

Blackout Poetry
Ask students to choose a page from a favorite novel to bring to class (or give them magazines and newspapers) so they can turn the page into a Blackout Poem. They use prose and
Blackout Poetry, blackout poems, poetry pictures, figurative language
circle words to create lines of poetry on the page. They may choose words for various reasons such as because the like the sound of the word or the imagery it creates.  

They may also choose words that are thematic. For instance, when I had students use a page from the novel Frankenstein, their poems captured the essence of the monster and ideas about dangerous knowledge. Finally, they used black marker to block out the rest of the text. When they were finished, they were always impressed by what they’ve created!

Poetry Pictures

Illustrate a line from a poem. Inspired by the free verse project, this lesson gets students to look closely at one line in a poem.  You can find examples of these poetry photos on Flickr. (Be sure to preview which photos you would be appropriate for your students to view.)  Students can do close readings of the lines or poetry and then illustrate them using photography, digital manipulation, and other creative techniques. They could even do this with a poem of their own.

Poetry Inspired by Personal Photos

Tell students to bring a favorite photo from home to use for writing a poem. First, they describe the literal picture with details and imagery. Then, students write about the story “behind” the photo. Ask them to tell the who, what, when, and where from the image. Also, challenge them to include the how and why. This is an effective way to teach students that a poem (and all of their writing) has multiple meanings.

Concrete Poetry
Use Shape Poems to help students understand the relationship between form and meaning. Start with examples, such as the poem, “Seal” by William Jay Smith  or poems from Guillaume Apollinaire. Then brainstorm simple illustrations that they can draw; they use those shapes to inspire their writing.

Allow students to express emotions through poetry.

Poems for Two Voices
Teens are emotional! They need outlets for all of the feelings bubbling up inside of them. Dialogue poems get them to consider the complex emotions of two people or characters who have different points of view. These poems help students see the connections between people who may seem different but often have many similarities. There are innumerable relationships they can brainstorm: parent and child, boyfriend and girlfriend, cop and criminal…or, have them use characters from a work of fiction for the poem.

Figurative Language Poetry

Write metaphor and simile poems that describe feelings. In these poems, students use figurative language to describe emotions. For instance, what does love look like or sound like? Is love the sight of tender kiss between a mother and her baby or the sound of a sobbing girl whose heart has been broken? These poems are also a great way for students to better understand figurative language.

Expand on this idea with a Four Metaphor Poem. I found this lesson through my work with the National Writing Project and it comes from WritingFix, Students use metaphors to describe abstract ideas.

Really, there is so much you can do with poetry to make writing accessible to teens. And if you need more ideas for teaching poetry, check out these online resources to engage students in poetry. 

What do you to get your students engaged with writing poetry and other forms of writing? Please share in the comments below.


Twitter: A Tool for School

twitter, twitter chats

Is your school one of the many that is pushing the use of technology?

Do you know how to use it effectively for student learning? 

While the use of technology can be engaging and entertaining, it’s also important for teachers to ensure that it supports student learning and achievement. And with the onset of Coronavirus, it's become more important than ever!

One way I’ve recently incorporated digital learning is with Twitter. By using social media productively, I’ve made Twitter an instructional tool and engaged my high school students in Twitter chats about their reading. These chats are modeled on my own participation in #aplitchat and #2ndaryela chats, which I use for professional development.

There are multiple reasons why this benefits my students:

Timed Writing

One of the most formidable challenges of standardized assessments such as the SAT and Advanced Placement (AP) English Literature exam is the need for students to communicate their ideas quickly. On the AP English Literature test, students are required to write three essays in two hours, averaging 40 minutes for each two - three page essay.

At first, two hours may seem like adequate time, but two of the essays require students to read and analyze text before they write their essays which must communicate the complex ideas in the readings. By requiring students to respond to fast-paced reading and questioning during a Twitter chat, they practice reading, thinking, and writing quickly. 

Most Twitter chats post questions every five to ten minutes. No doubt, whether it’s an exam for an AP course, the SAT, or other standardized assessment, students will likely face a timed-writing situation and Twitter chats provide helpful practice.

Social Learning and Collaboration

Learning requires interaction and sharing of ideas with others. I have two sections of AP English Literature and do weekly roundtable discussions of our novels. Students take ownership of their discussion and lead these roundtables. Since I listen to the discussion in both classes, I hear the valuable, yet sometimes differing, ideas that my students express.

By hosting a Twitter chat in the evening, I can get students

digital instruction, twitter
from both classes to share their thoughts with each other and add more voices to the discussion. This semester, my students discussed two poems, “We Are Many” by Pablo Neruda and “The Writer” by Richard Wilbur as practice Twitter chats.

Besides hosting chats between classes, I’ve also teamed up with a teacher Shari Marks from World Journalism Preparatory School in New York to host chats between both of our classes. She and I met during teacher Twitter chats and decided to try it with our students. Last year, our classes chatted about their reading of the The Awakening by Kate Chopin. This year, we had students discuss the poem, “Mansplaining.” Although our classes are different – I teach AP English Literature and she teachers AP English Language- our students benefit from the shared conversation and critical thinking that occurs during the chats. 

Worldwide Audience

Students need exposure to different writing purposes and audiences beyond the traditional classroom. Digital communication provides exposure to new audiences and opportunities to build relationships. It also creates a space for the “publication” of student writing, an important step in the writing process that may get neglected in the standard classroom.

During our most recent Twitter chat, the audience included the author of the poem that was being discussed. At the end of our discussion, I tagged author Jennifer Militello and asked her to weigh-in on the contradictory interpretations that students had for the end of her poem. She responded to their discussion (see one of her responses below) and her tweets made a lasting impression on them. By communicating with the author of the poem, student ideas were validated and her response helped build their confidence in themselves. It also made the chat more personal; we likely would not have been able to gain her insights without the benefit of technology and social media.

While the benefits of Twitter chats are clear, it can take practice to figure out the logistics of a chat. I’ve got some steps to help you navigate your own chats.

How to Host a Twitter Chat

1. Choose the text that you want your students to discuss. You can decide if you want to let them read it before the chat or just make it available at the beginning of the chat, depending on how much time you want them to have with the text. I try to choose a text that’s available on the internet and always provide a link to the text.

2. Create a unique hashtag for the chat so it will be easy to find and follow the discussion thread. You may want to check if the hashtag has been used in the past before you share it with your students. It’s best to keep the hashtag concise.

3. Write the questions for the chat. (You may want to involve students in creating the questions ahead of time.) Keep the questions open-ended but also short enough to be answered with tweets.

4. Determine the amount of time for your chat. I’ve found that a half-hour goes too quickly, so my chats are scheduled for 45 minutes to an hour. This allows me to post questions every seven - ten minutes (set a consistent time interval). It also gives students time to read and write their Tweets.

5. Provide directions to the students ahead of time. I modeled my directions off of the directions from the teacher chats I’m involved with.

6. Instruct students to use their first name (and last initial) only to protect their privacy. Start with a welcoming tweet and short introduction. Normally, I have students share their grade level and class and something related to school (but not too personal). To make the chat easier for them to follow, I also recommend that they follow my Twitter account @ocbeachteach.

Twitter in the classroom, Coronavirus

Those are the basic steps but here are more tips to make your chatting go smoothly:

  • Keep the group to a manageable size.
  • Consider a “slow” chat that extends over several hours (helpful for students who have evening obligations).
  • Practice within the context of your class period during the school day.
  • Offer “enrichment” points for students who choose to participate in the evening.
  • Encourage students to like one another’s tweets and retweet when responding to each other.
  • Model responses for students and ask individual students questions to involve them.
  • Ask students to offer new ideas instead of simply repeating what others have said already.
Of course, it's always a good idea to have a backup plan for when your technology fails or the internet won’t connect. Sometimes I just use these Twitter task cards and activities where students “tweet” with pencil and paper. I’m sure there are other social media platforms or apps that could be used if Twitter isn’t the right tool for you. The point is to get students using technology in a productive manner.

Do you want more ideas for using digital instruction?  Check out these recent blog posts from other educators:

Angie Kratzer: When Instruction HAS to Go Digital
AP Lit and More: Converting to Digital Teaching
Spark Creativity:  Help for Teaching through Cornavirus
Lit with Laura:  A Free Resource to Help Parents with Google Classroom

Do you do Twitter chats or similar activities? What tips for teaching online would you give? Please share in the comments below.

Simple Strategies for Empowering Girls in the Secondary ELA Classroom

empowerment, girls, female-characters, gender

Women’s History Month is a great time to acknowledge the accomplishments of women and discuss the many obstacles they’ve overcome, along with the many issues girls and women still face in modern society. However, teachers with packed curricula may find it challenging to fit in additional lessons. That’s why I’ve provided simple strategies that help teachers incorporate female role-models and women’s issues into their current lessons and throughout the school year – not just during Women’s History Month.

1. Use carefully crafted questions. 

Since many curriculums use similar texts, it may be as simple as finding new ways to teach these classics. Challenge students (both girls and boys) to consider new perspectives and incorporate different interpretations of literature. Here are some ideas:

For The Great Gatsby, ask…

  • Why does Daisy marry Tom Buchanan? 
  • What does Daisy mean when she says, “I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool”? 
  • How is Jordan different than Daisy or Myrtle? 
  • Why is Tom allowed to abuse Myrtle?
For The Crucible, ask..
  • How are females portrayed in the play? 
  • What character traits make Abigail the antagonist? 
  • How and why does Elizabeth Proctor differ? 
  • What culpability should John Proctor have in the play?
For Frankenstein, ask…
  • How is Elizabeth portrayed?
  • Why does Elizabeth remain with Victor Frankenstein? 
  • Why does Victor refuse to create the female monster? 
  • What is he afraid of?
In To Kill a Mockingbird, ask…
  • Why does Aunt Alexandra pressure Scout to behave in a ladylike manner and to dress differently? 
  • How is Miss Maudie portrayed differently than Aunt Alexandra? 
  • Why do Jem and Dill treat Scout differently when they play?
In Romeo and Juliet, ask...
  • How is Juliet beholden to her father? Why? 
  • Is Juliet’s suicide an act of independence? 
  • Why is Juliet expected to marry (and chooses to marry Romeo)?
In a Raisin in the Sun, ask…
  • Why does Walter Younger make fun of his sister Beneatha for wanting to be a doctor? 
  • What opportunities are available to Mama and Ruth?

2. Choose texts with strong female characters.

Girls need characters who can be role models and who can contradict traditional images of girls and women.

Katniss in Hunger Games
She’s hunts and fights and is fiercely independent. She’s also intuitive, caring, loyal, and empathetic, traits that make her thrive off her femininity while breaking conventional female stereotypes of weakness, vulnerability, and fragility.

Kirsten Raymonde in Station Eleven
Another strong female in a dystopian novel, Kirsten is brave, strong-willed, and determined to lead a meaningful life beyond simple survival.

Charlotte Doyle in The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
She’s only a tween (just 13-years-old) but she transforms into an independent and free-thinking young woman on her tumultuous journey to America aboard the ship the Seahawk. Disguised as a boy, she is subversive and challenges boundaries of proper female appearance and behavior.

Jo March in Little Women
It comes as no surprise that tomboyish, bold, and outspoken Jo March serves as a feminist role model. She works as a writer when women weren’t allowed to have jobs, and she resists marriage for most of her life until she finally accepts a proposal from a German professor who values her writing talent and independent nature.

Meg Murry in Wrinkle in Time
Girls have traditionally been viewed as having weak math and science skills, but headstrong Meg Murry shows readers that they can be gifted in those subjects. She frequently displays her anger (an unladylike emotion) and displays her courage when she seeks to save her father.

Xiomara in Poet X
Constantly challenged by gender and cultural stereotypes, Xiomara resists the sexual harassment of the men in her community and the rigid submission espoused by her Catholic mother. By following her poetic voice, Xiomara gains a better understanding of her true self and a desire to be a strong woman.

3. Teach women's suffragist and women’s rights speeches. 

These speeches are excellent texts to use in both English and Social Studies classes. I’ve become familiar with them as an American Literature teacher but their value is obvious in other content areas as well.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton “Declaration of Sentiments”
In 1848, at the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, she delivered her Declaration of Sentiments, which parodied the Declaration of Independence. In calling for extensive reforms, her speech effectively launched the American Women's Rights Movement. Her speech, "On Women's Rights" is also excellent for teaching rhetorical appeals.  Be sure to also review Cady's friend and fellow suffragist Susan B. Anthony, who wrote "Is It a Crime to Vote?" in 1873 after she was arrested for voting.

Sojourner Truth “Ain’t I a Woman?”
A former slave, Truth spoke at the Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio, on May 29, 1851 to advocate for both African American and Women’s Rights in this short, compelling speech.

Carrie Chapman Catt “The Crisis”
In this speech, Catt discusses how women have provided needed services during WWI and deserve equal recognition and rights after the war.

Hillary Rodham Clinton “Women’s Rights are Human Rights”
Long before running for president, Clinton gave this persuasive speech at the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women Plenary Session in September 1995. She noted that

“What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations do as well.”

Gloria Steinem “Address to the Women of America”
Given in 1971 at the founding of the National Women's Political Caucus (NWPC), Steinem calls for a revolution against sexism, misogyny, and racism. She became known as one of the United State’s greatest feminist advocates.

You can find more speeches by women at this American Rhetoric website.

4. Teach nonfiction books with brave female authors.

This 2018 memoir tells Tara Westover’s story of how education freed her from her fundamentalist Mormon family and abusive brother. After years of trying to reconcile with her family, she ultimately realized that she needed to care for herself and abandon them.

The Glass Castle
In this book, Jeanette Walls also tells her story of surviving in a dysfunctional family and overcoming the hardships of poverty. Like Westover, education provides freedom and Walls leaves her parents; later, she also tries to help her siblings escape her parents' influence.

I Am Malala
In this 2013 autobiography, Malala tells her story of resisting the Taliban and advocating for girls’ education, only to be shot in the head at the age of 15. It then tells of her miraculous recovery in England and continued activism.

The Diary of Anne Frank
This world-wide classic is essential reading for all students as it reveals Frank’s experiences during the Holocaust. Despite horrible treatment in the war, she keeps her faith in humanity and retains her unbreakable spirit. Although she died in a concentration camp, she lives forever in the words of her diary.

My Beloved World Sonya Sotomayor
Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor tells about her childhood growing up in the Bronx and overcoming a variety of hardships. She recalls her academic accomplishments including becoming valedictorian at her high school and then continuing her education at Princeton and Yale before becoming a federal judge.

There are absolutely too many outstanding books to recommend, so you may find others that would interest your students here

5. Use argumentative writing and discussion to provoke critical thinking. 

Include prompts about women’s roles in society and discuss the gender stereotypes that often come up during class. Be sure to have students research these topics and gather information from reliable resources. Here are some topics to get you started:

1. Why do women change their names? 
(It’s always fun and eye-opening to students if you ask the boys if they would change their last name for their wives.) I love having this discussion with my students when I teach the poem, “Naming Myself” by Barbara Kingsolver.

2. Could a woman win the presidency in the next election?
This is especially relevant with the upcoming presidential election. Extend the discussion and ask students to defend why they believe a woman or man would be better suited to the presidency.

3. Should women be allowed to play with men in professional sports such as the NFL or NBA? 
Women are champion athletes in many sports including basketball, tennis, golf, soccer, baseball, and others, but they are usually in separate leagues from men. Furthermore, they are paid less than similar male athletes. Add a discussion of female coaches in male dominated sports.

4. Has the #metoo movement gone too far?
Women have endured sexual abuse and harassment throughout history and the #metoo movement has focused more attention on these problems. But some argue the movement is going too far. Here’s a resource from The New York Times to help start this conversation with your students.

5. Why do women continue to be paid less than men? 
As recently as 2018, full-time, year-round female workers made only 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. Despite having the same education and increased responsibility for family incomes, women continue to earn 18 percent less than men. Elaborate on this topic by discussing the consequences of this pay disparity. For instance, how does it affect women who are single mothers?  How is different for single fathers?

6. How do female standards of beauty impact girls? 
Models in America typically require women to be tall and slim. They should have big breasts and a small waist. Have these expectations changed in recent years?  What pressures do teenage girls feel about their appearance today?  How does social media exacerbate these standards?  Students will likely have lots to say.

These discussions may get emotional at times, so it’s important to establish a culture of respect in your classroom.  Allow students to have differing opinions but make sure they behave courteously. For many students, this may be the first time they’ve discussed these controversies outside their homes or circle of friends.

Of course, when adding these lessons into your instruction, it's important not to ostracize the boys. Be sure that you support your boys and encourage them to be more knowledgeable and sensitive men. It may also be a good idea to broaden your lessons and include discussion of male stereotypes and labels, too!

What discussion topics would you add? What books and texts would add to the ones from above?  Please include them in the comments below. 

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