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Ideas to Try

"Eleven Steps for Reading a Poem
Dr. Andrew Higgins offers eleven steps for reading a poem. Notice that every other step is to read or re-read the poem. This list is a good one to use as a discussion guide.

Step 1: Read through the poem to get a sense of it.
Step 2: Identify the sentences and independent clauses (circle the periods, exclamation points, question marks, and semicolons). For some reason, people always forget that poetry is made up of complete sentences.
Step 3: Read a few lines to figure out the meter (figure out how many stresses there are in a typical line).
Step 4: Note the rhyme scheme (look for a pattern).
Step 5: Read the poem out loud. Try to follow the rhythm. If you do this you'll hear where the poet plays with the rhythm. And you'll hear the rhyme scheme.
Step 6: Look up any words you don't understand.
Step 7: Re-read the poem out loud.
Step 8: Mark off any sections in the poem. These sections may be speeches given by a character, discussions of a particular topic, changes in mood, or a new stage of an argument.
Step 9: Re-read the poem.
Step 10: Figure out the tone—the emotion—of the poem.
Step 11: Re-read the poem."

[From "A Look at the OGT" by Carol Brown Dodson. Find the entire column in the January 2007 issue of Adolescent Literacy in Perspective. The eleven steps are reprinted with permission.]

To celebrate poetry year-round, have a look at these three resources from the ORC collection. Many Years Later: Responding to Gwendolyn Brooks' "We Real Cool" (ORC #9763) is a classroom favorite. Students analyze the poetic devices and literary features of Gwendolyn Brooks's "We Real Cool" and then imagine themselves as one of the characters in the poem many years in the future. In another engaging lesson, In Poetry: Blues Style (ORC #4561), students examine poetic devices in song lyrics from both popular music and the blues to reinforce their understanding of such concepts as alliteration, imagery, metaphor, and allusion. Finally, Billy Collins, poet laureate of the United States, created Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools (ORC #961), our third choice. It provides a bank of contemporary poems, one for each day of the academic year, that you can download, print, and share in school settings.

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Dates and Events

Poem in Your Pocket Day. Participate in a nationwide celebration on April 14 by carrying a favorite poem in your pocket.

Request a free poster for April 2012. The 2012 National Poetry Month poster was designed by Stephen Doyle and is free for teachers upon request as long as the supply lasts.

William Shakespeare's Birthday, April 23, 1564. To combine teaching iambic pentameter with a study of Shakespeare's plays, see the engaging video "The Rhythm of Language," segment 1 and segment 2.

The 2012 Edition of 30 Poets/30 Days! You'll find previously unpublished poetry from Alarcon to Zimmer.


Ohio boasts a number of poets. Among them are:
Click on their names to check out their websites.

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For Students

Partly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy: Poems of Love and Longing by Gary Soto (Harcourt, Orlando, FL, 2009). Gary Soto writes poems in the voice of a teen—about love, life, food, and other topics that appeal to adolescents. Teens who read his poetry will almost surely want to write their own poetry.


Room Enough for Love
Room Enough for Love by Ralph Fletcher (Aladdin, New York, 1998). Room Enough for Love is a collection of short, free verse poems about the lives of adolescents. In his many short poems, Fletcher covers teen topics such as crushes, childhood memories, teachers, and parents. A teacher who reviewed the book suggested that Fletcher seems to remember what it was like to be that age, and his poems vibrate with such memories.


For Teachers

Getting the Knack
Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry Writing Exercises by Stephen Dunning and William Stafford (NCTE, Urbana, IL, 1992). In this enduring book of exercises for beginning poets, widely known poets Dunning and Stafford provide twenty exercises. Each exercise covers a different type or phase of poetry writing. The exercises may be used for teaching poetry writing, but they can also be useful for the teacher who wants some inspiration and refreshing methods for teaching poetry.


Teaching Poetry In High School
Teaching Poetry in High School by Albert B. Somers (NCTE, Urbana, IL, 1999). Albert Somers provides everything a teacher needs for teaching poetry in high school: practical ideas, ways to discover the joys of poetry, over forty complete poems, and more.



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The Favorite Poem Project, cosponsored by Boston College and the Library of Congress, is dedicated to celebrating, documenting, and encouraging poetry's role in Americans' lives. Your students can watch or listen to citizens read poems they love.

In Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month with the New York Times, Shannon Joyne and Holly Epstein Ojalvo share suggestions for sometimes unusual, and very engaging, ways to celebrate National Poetry Month. The authors also include links to additional resources.

A "twofer"! Have your class celebrate National Poetry Month and Shakespeare's birthday together. In "Teachers Shake Up Shakespeare with Digital Media," Russell Scott Smith describes the way your students can use rap and film to bring the bard's characters to life. This article from Edutopia is filled with rich examples from classrooms.

At Tips for Teaching Poetry, you'll find tips for preparing to teach poetry, for reading and writing poetry, and much more.

At Poetry Audio, listen to and be inspired by poetry read aloud by the poets themselves or other readers. (Be sure to do some prescreening, as some of the subject matter would not be considered age-appropriate.)

In How a Poem Happens: Contemporary Poets Discuss the Making of Poems, a poem is presented, followed by an explanation by the poet about why and how he or she wrote the poem. The explanations are very interesting, but be sure to do some prescreening, as some of the subject matter would not be considered age-appropriate.

Poetry goes mobile with you! Poetry.org has made it possible for you to download more than 2,500-plus poems (as well as biographies and essays) from its Mobile Poetry page onto your mobile device (and also onto your desktop computer).