How to Teach Poetry

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  • 0:01 Teaching Poetry
  • 0:54 Teaching Tone and Mood
  • 1:30 Poetry as Song
  • 2:32 Visual Expression
  • 3:25 Acting Out
  • 3:48 Poetry Puzzle
  • 4:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Marquis Grant

Marquis has a Doctor of Education degree.

Poetry is all around us, from songs on the radio to crazy Dr.Susses books. This lesson will highlight some neat ways to teach poetry in ways that not only provide rigor but also relevance.

Teaching Poetry

Year after year my students groan at the mere mention of the word 'poetry.' I had the same experiences as a student myself, so I certainly empathize with them. I remember poetry always being taught in a rather rigid manner, with very little creative flare incorporated. Sure, we were all told that it was important to study poetry (never why it was important), but the teacher was generally the voice, interpreter and decider of how poetry was represented. Even after I became a teacher, I dreaded teaching poetry because of the memories that I had of sitting through poetry lessons. Then I realized, there are a lot of different ways in which poems can be introduced to students to make it relevant and interesting at the same time. Let's take a look at some of these methods for teaching poetry.

Teaching Tone and Mood

Tone is the author's feelings within the poem. Mood is the way the readers feel when they read the poem. To teach these concepts, have the students read the poem silently at first, then jot down the tone and mood of the poem. Ask for volunteers in the class to read the poem out loud. After each reading, ask students to write down the tone and mood of the poem. After hearing the poem read aloud multiple times, discuss with students how an oral reading changes the tone and mood of the poem based on their notes.

Poetry as Song

Students can really get into the poetry lesson by creating a musical beat for a poem, whether it is Hughes, Walden or Bronte. Older students love it because it gives them a chance to explore their creative side while, at the same time, analyzing rhyme scheme, imagery, and other poetic devices. An extension assignment could be to have students create their own poems, but encourage them to think of the poems as a song without music (think a capella). Have students share their poems with their classmates and ask them to name the rhyme scheme, imagery, metaphors, similes, and other poetic devices that were used.

Another activity that students usually love is to have them bring in the lyrics to their favorite songs (clean versions only). Students should be prepared to present the song to the class and discuss the important elements of the poem. Ideas for discussions could include:

  • Number of stanzas
  • Rhyme pattern
  • Literary devices used
  • Theme

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