April is National Poetry Month, and TeacherPop is celebrating every Friday by featuring four poetry selections from teachers who have participated in Teach For America’s Poet Warriors Project. Interested in getting your class involved? Email for details!
I teach sixth grade in the Arkansas Delta, and have found these four poems to be game-changers in my students’ attitudes about and admiration for poetry. Enjoy!
1. “Touchscreen,” by Marshall Davis Jones
Though a lot of slam poetry covers themes and ideas I just can’t show my tiny 11-year-olds in class, this poem makes all of us laugh out loud and seriously consider how technology influences our daily lives. It never fails to bring a great conversation about cell phones, and students always have plenty to say about how much body language and tone impact the message of a poem.
2. “To This Day,” by Shane Koyczan
When this poem goes off the screen in my classroom, one of two things happens: utter silence, or booming applause; both are positive reactions. This poem touches my students plenty from the words alone, but the beautifully done imagery from a huge variety of artists helps my kids understand the meaning and storylines when the language gets intense.
With similar themes of death and reflection, these poems leave you feeling like the wind has been knocked out of you, particularly for students who have experienced violence or challenging home lives. “We’re Golden” tells a heart-wrenching story about Michael’s childhood best friend, and “Pass On” has gorgeous cinematography, making students start to really classify poetry as the kind of art they can respect and relate to (not to mention emulate, if you’ve got the technology!).
4. “let it go,” by e e cummings
This poem is simple, easy to understand, and particularly great when there are mountains of drama between students. Depending on the relationship I have with my students, I sometime share that I have the last three lines tattooed on the inside of my arm—my own personal proof that poetry is a tangible part of my life.