Philip Klipper
This is a wiki for everyone. This is a wiki for anyone.


Like it or not, as an English Language Arts teacher you will have to teach poetry at some point. For some it may be a truly enjoyable experience; for others it may be seen as an unfortunate necessity of the curriculum which would ideally be passed over as quickly as possible. This wiki is meant to provide ideas, inspiration and information for teaching poetry to your class in hopes of developing a love (or at very least a respect) for poetry so that you may instill those same sentiments in your students. "Poets are inspired by the work of other poets" so experience some poetry!

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.T. S. Eliot

"Might I mimic him in print if I find his writings inspiring." Eunoia, Christian Bok (the vowel choice is no coincidence)

by Percy Bysshe Shelley(1792-1822)
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.


At the California Institute of Technology
by Richard Brautigan

I don’t care how God-damn smart
these guys are: I’m bored.

Don't be the teacher responsible for the second poem...
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost
"Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village though.
He will not see me stopping here,
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer,
To stop without a farmhouse near,
Between the woods and frozen lake,
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake,
The only other sound's the sweep,
To ask if there is some mistake.
Of easy wind and downy flake."

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

After English Class

I used to like "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."by Jean Little
I liked the coming darkness,
The jingle of harness bells, breaking--and adding to
--the stillness,
The gentle drift of snow. . . .
But today, the teacher told us what everything stood for.
The woods, the horse, the miles to go, the sleep--
They all have "hidden meanings."
It's grown so complicated now that,
Next time I drive by,
I don't think I'll bother to stop.

"A fantast chants ‘abracadabra’ as a mantra, wags a wand, and (zap) a sandglass cracks." Eunoia, Bok

Theoretical Frameworks

In an airplane crash you must save yourself before you can save your children...
To teach poetry effectively you have to know and use poems that YOU YOURSELF have an interest in. Therefore find poems that mean something to you. You will be much more effective at inspiring students that way. Studies show that a teacher's attitude towards teaching poetry directly affects the students' own attitude. You have to, therefore, find poems and methods of teaching that resonate with yourself.

Find your own...
"ZEN" by Pedro Xisto

Don't try to do too much too soon...
Bill Glaister of the University of Lethbridge suggests a three-part sequence to follow when first approaching poetry with students:
1) Begin with "high-interest" and "user-friendly" poems. Humour, accessibility and length should all be considered.
2) Give students CHOICE. Let them pick their own poems to delve deeper into. Ask them why they relate to the poem, or what it was about that poem that caught their attention.
3) THEN analyze poetry.
Do not skip right to this step or you risk alienating, discouraging and frustrating your students.
by Shel Silverstein
"I cannot go to school today,"
I_cannot_go_to_school_today.jpgSaid little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox
And there's one more--that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut--my eyes are blue--
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke--
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is--what?
What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!"

Poetry should not be the needle in the haystack of your classroom...
Make poetry easily accessible, easy to find and plentiful in both quantity and variety. Allow students ample opportunities to peruse the poems at their leisure. Make it a non-threatening environment. As with yoga, when students are beginning with poetry there should be "no expectation, no goals."

Teacher concerns and worries over own competency to teach it. Many do not read poetry themselves. read alouds and repeated readings increase student fluency. poetry increases comprehension of literacy as a whole by exposure to poetry because finding meaning in poem is same as text at large. writing poetry is very important; can help struggling students and increase connection to poetry for all students. healing therapeutic process

Poetic devices...
- simile
- metaphor
- onomatopoeia
- alliteration
- alliteration
- imagery
- tone
- metrics
- stanza
- forms (haiku, sonnet, free verse etc.)
- symbol
- irony
- paradox
- consonance and assonance

"The elder seers, when greeted, tell her: ‘repent, repent – never let the tempters here tempteth
thee’ – then these helpless wretches tell her three spells best kept secret, lest the
tempted empress reverse these hexes, then set free demented spectres, held here, bespelled." Eunoia, Bok

Teaching Ideas

1) Poetry Cafe

Students read or perform a poem for the class that they find meaningful or have written themselves. Students take ownership for the poem they have chosen or written and are able to engage deeply with a particular poem.

2) Content Area Poems

A popular method of incorporating poetry that entails using poems whose themes relate to issues, topics or units that the class is already studying. For example students can learn about World War II by analyzing poems relating to it. Students can write poems relating to subject matter as well to 1) learn about the conventions of poetry and 2) demonstrate their understanding of a topic being explored in another subject.
Mary Had A…
by Jon Scieszka
Mary had a little worm.
She thought it was a chigger.
But everything that Mary ate,
Only made it bigger.

It came with her to school one day,
And gave the kids a fright,
Especially when the teacher said,
“Now that’s a parasite.”

3) Phonics and Spelling Patterns

This strategy is especially useful for elementary grades. It involves reading poems that incorporate sounds and words which are currently being studied in class.

At the elementary level read a few "letters" from Graeme Base's . This alliteration-clad book has great pictures to go along with the superb sentences of alliteration for each letter of the alphabet.

Examples from book: Beautiful blue butterflies basking by a babbling brook.
Ingenious Iguanas improvising an intricate impromptu on impossibly impractical instruments.

4) Poetry Getaway

Read a poem to the class but incorporate props to symbolize words, themes, ideas from the poem.

Two Helpful Visuals

Poetic concepts such as metaphor, simile, allusion and imagery can be difficult for students to grasp abstractly. The following to methods utilize concrete visual representationto facilitate understanding of the aforementioned literary devices. Thus, "rather than leaving unspoken the processes involved in poetry reading, overtly teaching strategies for symbolic thinking
can foster student achievement without dampening enjoyment." (Peskin)

1) Cycle Wheel

"A concrete, visual representation of his grammar of frequently occurring literary symbols, demonstrating the cyclical and dialectical organizing patterns." Pesking et al., Educated Imagination

2) Venn Diagram

"A concrete and visual representation of the similarities and differences between the target (i.e., the literal subject that is symbolized) and the symbolic element (i.e., the likeness or thing to be compared with the literal target)." Pesking et al., Educated Imagination


"Lots of hobos who do odd jobs for food go off to work on jobs no boss stoops to do – jog brooms of soot, mop floors of loos." Eunoia, Bok

Possibilities For Your Classroom

Division I

"Missing Words Activity - take out the most "poetic" words of a poem, and leave blanks in their place. Students must fill in the blanks. Share their poems, and then share the original. Students can then do this to their own poems in groups, and have other group members brainstorm other picture words to use in the blanks of each student's poem." (Bill Glaister, Starred Ideas for Teaching Poetry,
As Soon As Fred Gets Out of Bed
by Jack Prelutsky

Division II

Ezra Pound Couplets
"Metaphoric equations" where one line represents an image and the next line offers a comparison or metaphoric equivalent of the first. They are similar in length with no rhyme, no meter and are meant to be clear and concise.
1) Students read a few (or many) Ezra Pound Couplets. In groups they discuss how the two images are related - What is it about each image that makes it fit so well with the other? Identify underlying commonalities that allow you to confidently place the two images in the same "equation."
A strange man stalking

2) Provide many broken up pairings of Ezra Pound couplets and have students work in groups of three or four to pair up the couplets. Each group shares a few of their pairings and explains why they chose to pair the two phrases. Compare as a class how similar your pairings were. Where differences occur have each group describe their rationale for the pairing so as to highlight the subjective nature of the activity
3) Students create their own Ezra Pound couplets.
A lone wolf hunting

Some examples:
A fisherman inspecting his net
A spider patrolling his web

A wildflower emerging from a blanket of snow
An infant peeking out from his mother’s arms

Time passing by, second by second
The continual flow of water in a river

A list of Ezra Pound couplets take from across the internet

Division III

Found Poem
Found Poem

Found Poetry - "Celebrating the poetry in the existing and everyday."
Introducing and incorporating diverse kinds of poetry, such as Found Poetry, can be a great way to dismantle some barriers that students may have put up regarding poetry. When creating a "found poem" students find words written by someone else and copy, rearrange and manipulate them to form a poem.* The found poem gives a new and often quite different meaning to the original words chosen.
Sources can include internet, magazine or newspaper articles; advertisements, whether in magazines, on radio and television, or on posters and billboards; street signs; letters; speeches; graffiti; dictionaries; recipe books; emails; grocery lists; bulletin boards; or practically anything posted on the walls of your classroom or around the school. Found poems are essentially a collage of other people's words deliberately chosen by a poet for the creation of their poem. You can also frame it as a type of treasure hunt. This type of activity will likely broaden your students' conception of how to create a poem and what a poem can even be.

This found poem by Charles Reznikoff was created using law report excerpts:

Amelia was just fourteen and out of the orphan asylum; at her
first job--in the bindery, and yes sir, yes ma'am, oh, so
anxious to please.
She stood at the table, her blond hair hanging about her
shoulders, "knocking up" for Mary and Sadie, the stichers
("knocking up" is counting books and stacking them in piles to
be taken away).

*Found poems don't have to just be the words of other people. Your students can therefore create a poem that blends his/her own words with those of other people as well.

Division IV

Poetry Slam
Advertising Focus
This is a great activity for introducing to students the concept of a poetry slam. Slam poetry is a high-energy, competitive style of poetry where poets perfrom orally in front of a live audience.

The following activity is taken from - Exploring Contemporary Canadian Voices - the spoken word (see link below)
Before viewing Advertising:
- What’s your favourite or least favourite commercial? What do you like or dislike about it?

- In what ways are you influenced by ads? Give examples.

- According to the Media Dynamics publication, Media Matters, a typical adult has potential daily exposure to about 600-625 ads in various forms. 272 of these exposures come from the major traditional media (TV, radio, magazines, and newspapers). What might the others be?

- What are some pitfalls of a consumer society?

After Viewing Advertising
-Whose point of view does White Noise take and why?

- What is the tone of voice White Noise uses? Does he change his tone of voice? Where and why?

‣ Tone is a manner of speaking, writing, or creating that reveals the attitude of the speaker, author or producer towards a subject or audience. Tone may be formal, informal, intimate, solemn, somber, playful, serious, ironic, condescending, etc.

- What techniques does he use to enhance the performance? (e.g., repetition, slang, speed of delivery)

- What is White Noise telling us about advertising in our society? How does it affect us individually and as a society?

"Ubu blurts untruth: much bunkum (plus bull), much humbug (plus bunk) – but trustful schmucks trust such untruthful stuff; thus Ubu (cult guru) must bluff dumbstruck numbskulls (such chumps)." Eunoia, Bok

Assessment Ideas

Achieve Balance
A primary goal when teaching poetry should be to foster and increase your students' confidence and ability to personally interpret and thoughtfully analyze poetry. For this reason, when you are determining your assessments you must be sure not to limit students' interpretations by requiring that they come to the "right" one, but at the same time your students must demonstrate certain specific skill sets such as an understanding of how literary techniques affect a poem's nature. So on the one hand your assessments should not stifle student creativity but simultaneously should illustrate your student's knowledge of conventions. For this reason it would be wise to ensure that you separate the assessments between ones that are related to "aesthetics" and ones that are related to "academics."

Ensure Variety
Give students a chance to show their learning through diverse methods such as poetry composition, poetry recitation, personal analysis, literary critique, performance, visual representation of a poem... there are many ways, be sure not to rely too heavily on any one.

Provide Meaningful Assessments
Consider the difference between having students regurgitate literal facts about a poem (who/what is in the poem, where is it set, what is happening...) and having them truly engage with the meaning or perceived intention of the poem. Have students apply their knowledge of poetic devices and come to their own conclusion.

Teacher Resources

Poetry Anthologies (in Print):
The Power of Poems - Margriet Ruurs
Where the Sidewalk Ends - Shel Silverstein
Pass the Poetry. Please! - Lee Bennett Hopkins
Fly With Poetry: An ABC of Poetry - Avis Harley
Tiger Lilies, Toadstools, and Thunderbolts: Engaging K-8 Students with Poetry - Iris McClellan Tiedt
101 Thematic Poems for Emergent Readers - Mary Sullivan
Teaching Poetry: Yes You Can! - Jacqueline Sweeney

Websites/Articles/Online Books: Many activities, recommendations, resources and links. Long list of links. Section on poems written "by kids for kids." "A poem a day for American high schools." Quality poetry chosen with student learning in mind. Everything poetry related: bios, essays, audio/video, interviews, and a helpful For Educators section. Quarterly online poetry journal focusing on "celebrating the poetry in the existing and everyday." Poetry for middle grades. Excellent ideas and information. Easy to read.
Peskin, J., Allen, G., & Wells-Jopling, R. (2010). "The Educated Imagination": Applying Instructional Research to the Teaching of Symbolic Interpretation of Poetry. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(6), 498-507.
Bullion-Mears, A., McWhorter, J., Haag, C., Cox, M., & Hickey, S. (1997). Extending Literacy across the Disciplines: Reading & Writing Poetry in Middle School Classrooms.
Somers, Albert B. Teaching Poetry in High School.