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Breathe Life into All of Your Lessons with Poetry

by Vicki Meigs-Kahlenberg

In my classroom, poetry is the river of life that runs through everything we do. While some may find it one of the easiest and most convenient items to trim from an already packed curriculum, I search for places in every unit where I can add poetry that supports and fortifies all aspects of my English and language arts classroom instruction.

If you think about it, poetry is the one facet of our content area that encompasses all of our core teaching benchmarks: reading and literary analysis; writing and conventions of language; speaking and listening. It’s all right there in each concise, deliberately selected and crafted group of words that we call poetry. If only we could harness a poem’s power and unleash it to reinforce the lessons that we already teach in our classroom…

It is possible.

Since becoming a PA Writing Fellow back in 2000, teaching poetry is one of my absolute favorite things to do in the classroom with kids of any age. Until that one intensive summer so long ago, I think I felt a little… intimidated by poetry, even as an adult. I mean, what if my interpretation of a poem was completely different from what the teacher’s guide said? And how on earth can you possibly place a grade on a child’s emotions that he or she was brave enough to put down on paper? What I’ve learned is that poetry isn’t just about hearts, flowers and sunshine. It’s not just something girls do in their private notebooks or that old men wrote long ago in language we can’t understand. Poetry breathes with the essence of life. (I know, that sounded so poetic, right?) Seriously, though, it can breathe life into your existing lessons, too. We need to reclaim our classrooms and establish a culture where myriad forms of the written and spoken word are valued as potential opportunities to deepen understanding of our content (as well as all content areas in the humanities). Read more