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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Five Great Sites for Making Poetry Happen

What's the connection between 18th century Japanese poetry, S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, and rock band Linkin Park?

I recently blogged about Teachers' Domain at my Teaching that Sticks site. In observation of Poetry Month, teachers in grades 6 through 12 can take advantage of some excellent resources and teaching ideas utilizing the 37 online video excerpts from public television's Poetry Everywhere series.

In the following video segment, for example, former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass shares a translation of haiku by the 18th century Japanese poet, Kubayashi Issa. These "vivid, specific, and often funny perceptions of everyday experiences" provide students with concrete examples of how poetry can be both simple and entertaining. The Teachers' Domain site includes a background essay and content-aligned lesson plans

If you're seeking additional poetry resources for middle grades and above, here are a few I'd recommend:

Favorite Poem Project This site, subtitled "Americans Reading Poems They Love," is built upon the pretty cool idea of allowing average Americans to share their favorite poems. You'll need to visit the site to see how it came about, but I like the idea a lot since it can be implemented so easily in the classroom using the lesson plans and suggestions provided at the site.

One of my personal favorite poems is shared by this guy:

Poetry 180 Subtitled "A Poem a Day for American High Schools," this site shares 180 full-length poems and sharing suggestions, but it seems that you'll need to do the legwork to make them work in your classroom.

Elements of Literature This collection of free teaching materials provided by Holt, Rinehart and Winston includes a number of writing response ideas in printable pdf format. While the poems themselves do not appear on the resources, they're mostly in the public domain and freely available on the Internet or in printed collections. I would never suggest you break any laws.

Poet's Paradise In this "Collection of Helpful Resources" you'll find web sites of poets, poetry forms, poetry collections, poetic terms glossaries, and more.

Fooling with Words with Bill Moyers If you're counting, yes, this makes it six sites, not five. But I snuck this one in after posting since I like it so much. Lesson plans focus on understanding modern poets and how they "fool with words,"  in order to encourage students to do the same.

But Keith, what does have poetry have to do with teaching a novel?

A whole lot, but most importantly: poetry can introduce, reinforce, and extend a novel's theme.

When introducing The Outsiders recently, I wanted to engage my students in a discussion of affiliation, one of the many themes at the heart of that novel.

After discussing some overt ways that one might show affiliation with a particular group, we read aloud and discussed a poem together. Some of the lines from that poem included:
I was confused
And I let it all out to find
That I'm not the only person with these things in mind...

I wanna heal, I wanna feel
Like I'm close to something real
I wanna find something I've wanted all along
Somewhere I belong.
What did the poet discover when he finally let his thoughts out? (He wasn't the only one who was confused, or hollow, or alone). Was it really a somewhere, a place, that the poet sought? (No, he was looking for a group of people who would accept him).

By now one or two students realized that the "poem" was in fact a Linkin Park song titled Somewhere I Belong (lyrics here, and a million other places as well). We decided that if these guys were truly wrestling with their feelings of loneliness and confusion, they probably weren't working it out with a school guidance counselor. They were more likely jamming in their garage after school, finding affiliation with a bunch of other guys who also felt misunderstood and alone.

The cool thing is, the back cover of the novel used many of the same words as the song itself, and these same ideas were voiced by the novel's narrator, Ponyboy, in the very first chapter.

The official video appears below, and is safe for school, as are the song's lyrics.


Aimee said...

Just hoppin through! I'm a new follower. You can follow me at my FF, which is at Coffee Table Reviews

Keith Schoch said...

Repaid the visit! Thanks for following.

Sakura Sandra said...

Hey there, just stopping by since you stopped by my blog for FF. I just started following you as well. In response to your question... I do still care about covers just as much, if not more, now that I have a NookColor. Before, once I was done with a book, I would only have to see the spine mostly after that, so the cover was almost less important. On my NookColor, the covers are what you look at now matter every time you turn it on and you'll still see them later when you review your whole library list or when you review your LendMe list. It also helps to get your books out there for sharing, because your friends are more likely to read if the cover is appealing! :)

Anyway, thanks for the follow and the good question. (^_^)

-Sandra from

Keith Schoch said...

Thanks for the response! I really did want to know, and the reasons you shared totally make sense. Thanks for following!

Rob Currin said...

Greetings, Keith,

I'd like to share this poetry site with you:

I started this group about a year and a half ago, and have since moved it to its own space. If this is something that you think may prove valuable, please share with your students and colleagues. The very idealistic vision of the project is all about poetry's potential to bridge cultural and interpersonal gaps. Please check it out if you have a chance!

Keith Schoch said...

Thanks for this resource, Rob! I jumped over there to sign up, and would recommend that anyone interested in poetry for these grade levels do so as well.

Unknown said...

Great work on the use of song lyrics as poems and in intertextual analysis. Linkin Park was a good choice as they do not use curses or explicit words.

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