Thursday, January 30, 2014

Teaching Poetry to Middle Schoolers

Me (in my most excited, I love teaching voice): "We're starting poetry next week!!"

{insert student groans}

Them (in their bored, disinterested voices): "We hate poetry.  It's stupid! It's SOOOOOO hard!"

Me (taking my excited voice up a notch):  You'll love it!  I promise!!

{insert skeptical looks and eye rolls} do I get my students to love {like/tolerate} poetry?

I let them take control of the lessons.  I am simply a facilitator posing debatable questions to poems they have read.  The students discuss the answers with each other {NOT ME} constantly referring back to the poem to support their answers!

Through the process, they organically understand theme, mood, author's purpose, etc without me beating them over the head with it!!

How it works...
1.  Introduce your poet.  Do a web hunt, have a guest speaker, watch a video. Whatever you need to do to get the students to understand who the poet was/is.

2.  Introduce and work with vocabulary from the poem.  I have my students look up the words, draw cartoons to go with each word, and perform actions to go with each meaning.

3.  Sit your students around one table {or a lot of tables pushed together.  We do our seminars in the school library}

Read the poem and annotate/jot.  I tell them it may be hard and they may have to read it more than once to get an understanding.  Let them know that is ok and normal!

4.  Pose debatable questions to the group.  The questions should be open ended...not yes/no.

5.   Give a writing prompt to go along with the poem.

We might spend a week on one poem and author, but that is OK!  They really understand {and dare I say} the poem at the end of the week.  They will ask you if you can do seminars everyday, all day!!! 
Quality over quantity.

Has anyone else used the seminar method to teach poetry?  

If you would like an example of a poetry seminar lesson plan, click here

Happy teaching,

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