4 Reasons Why Poetry Should Be Celebrated All Year

Image from "To This Day," one of the poems featured in "4 Poems for Making Your Students Love Poetry."

Image from “To This Day,” one of the poems featured in “4 Poems for Making Your Students Love Poetry.”

April was National Poetry Month, and TeacherPop celebrated weekly by featuring four poetry selections from teachers who have participated in Teach For America’s Poet Warriors Project. Here, Emily Southerton, the founder of the Poet Warriors Project, looks back on the four successes that defined the month and offers insight on ways that teachers can encourage students to continue to speak—and be heard.

1) Our students spoke out, and broke the silence. As teachers, we get to hear and learn from our students daily—but within the national dialogue, we recognize the fact that our students’ voices go largely unheard. This National Poetry Month, our students spoke out against the silence, fought to be heard, and claimed their place in a larger movement:

[This place is] dark and it’s lonesome and it’s not at all where
I want to be,
But most of all,
Most of all it’s silent
It’s hushed down to a nearly inaudible whisper,
Just waiting for that door to burst open and let light come in…

But I’ll take a chance.

With one heart-wrenching throwback of this closet,
I’ll say the words I’ve been meaning to say
My whole life.

Christine Vela, 14-year-old Poet Warrior, Denver, CO
Excerpt from “Breaking the Silence”

By |May 8th, 2014|Personal Perspectives, Teaching Tips|Comments Off on 4 Reasons Why Poetry Should Be Celebrated All Year|

4 Poems for Making Your Students Love Poetry

tothisday

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.

By |April 25th, 2014|Your Stories|Comments Off on 4 Poems for Making Your Students Love Poetry|

4 Poems for Addressing Identity

zorahoward2

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!

1. “Biracial Hair,” by Zora Howard

This is the first poem I teach in the Poet Warriors unit developed by TFA alum Emily Southerton. Listening to Howard perform this poem is powerful and the message is accessible, relevant, and thought-provoking. Howard began writing poetry at age 13, became a well-known poet, and attended Yale University. Her story teaches students that they can become successful leaders and change-makers through writing.

Students’ favorite line:

“I’m not a f*cking cookie.”

By |April 18th, 2014|Teaching Tips|Comments Off on 4 Poems for Addressing Identity|

4 Poems for Hesitant High School Students

malcolmlondon2

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 had the privilege of teaching poetry to a wide range of high school students this year, from those who had scribbled poems all over their binders to others who vehemently denied having ever written a single line of poetry. Here are the four poems that engaged my students, no matter what their comfort level with the form:

1. Anything by Sandra Cisneros

So many of my students could access Cisneros’ informal, playful, and deeply personal language. I had students write about how they got their own names after a close reading of her vignette “My Name,” which turned out to be a wonderful assignment to start the year and introduce themselves to the class. More often than not, the assignment sparked good conversations at home, and the students end up learning something they didn’t know about their names (I know I did!).

By |April 11th, 2014|Teaching Tips|Comments Off on 4 Poems for Hesitant High School Students|

4 Poems for an ESL Classroom

Marco Castillo

 

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!

1. “Soneto XVII,” by Pablo Neruda

Most kids struggle with understanding figurative language, but for ELLs—even the most advanced—navigating the waters of simile, metaphor, and personification in a second language can be nearly impossible. Neruda’s “Soneto XVII” is a gorgeous introduction to figurative speech in my students’ first language—Spanish. My seventy Latino students are shocked that we are allowed to read something academic in Spanish, and the multi-lingual process of learning the poem brings difficult nuances of figurative speech across language lines.

The love poem hits at the core of every love-lorn teenager in existence, so interest level is not a problem, and its use of language is divine:

“but this, in which there is no I or you,

So intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,

So intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.”

-Translation by Steven Mitchell

And of course, Neruda himself a necessity to any inner-city classroom—the Chilean diplomat used his poetry as a means of political advocacy and he earned, among many Peace Prizes, the title “the People’s Poet” for his work. The combination, then, of poet and poem, makes “Soneto XVII” a must-read.

By |April 4th, 2014|Your Stories|1 Comment|