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On Poetry: Benefits for students and implementation ideas for educators

Creativity in the classroom can come in a variety of ways. Teacher, Matthew Kloosterman, gives his best practice on how to incorporate poetry into teaching.

Connecting poetry, as a genre, to other texts being studied invites intertextuality and deeper reading for students. Poetry is also highly personable and offers an avenue for student agency. When students select their own poems for poetry study, it encourages even more personal connections to texts.

In this article I would like to share several ideas on how poetry can be implemented and why poetry is beneficial for students:

Bulletin boards

Bulletin boards can be an excellent medium for posting published poetry as examples. Educators can select their favourite poetry lines from song writers or poets that they enjoy, post the lines on the bulletin board, and make reference to them in class. When instructing students, referencing these poetry lines for their stylistic choices will give students an expert visual representation.

Educators can also try to select from a diverse range of poets so that several countries are represented on the bulletin board. Encouraging global reading expands students’ perspectives on a variety of topics. As an example, the poem titled The Tale of Ki`êu shows the struggles of redemption and love through a Vietnamese cultural context. This poem is considered one of the major contributors to Vietnamese literature.

Educators can even give students an opportunity to research a song that connects to the poetry lines on the bulletin board; students cite the lines in their selected song, then cut and paste onto the bulletin board next to the poem that they are finding similarities for. This encourages students to bring in poetry personal to their learning experience and kindles student agency.

Genre connections and punctuation

Seeing connections between different genres of texts is one of many ways to augment students’ reading motivation. Educators that are planning to study a novel for a unit – or are in the midst of a novel study and want to diversify the reading experience for students – can sprinkle in poetry. Poetry can be connected in a myriad of ways, providing flexibility for educators.

Poetry is flexible in many ways and can also be helpful for teaching punctuation skills to students. Educators can use a poem’s punctuation to explore and connect it to a current text being studied. How does a poem’s punctuation impact the reading experience and why does the usage of punctuation matter for readability? Reading poems aloud can also show students the power of punctuation.

Some poets I have used on my bulletin board:
Nguyê˜n Du – The Tale of Ki`êu (Vietnam)
Edger Allen Poe – The Raven (United States)
We All Lie – Ha Jin (South Korea)
Sonnet 18 – William Shakespeare (England)

Poetry tournaments

Providing student agency with poetry can help with motivation; educators can craft a poetry tournament and encourage students to self-select poems for the competition.

For the tournament, students find poems that relate to the unit’s focus. Once students have found these poems, they can then annotate the poems for unit connections or based on a prompt set by the educator. Options abound here to allow for flexibility. I have found that giving students a theme is also helpful; ‘sacrificial love is able to withstand any battlefield,’ as an example.

Educators can set a limit on how many poems should be implemented into the tournament per student. After tournament commences, students then choose which poem is better to advance to the next stage. Give students conditions to evaluate the poems at first, and then to open this activity up with more agency. Students can define the parameters for the poems in other tournaments.

Some ways to connect poetry:
Common themes Structure
Focus on a particular allusion. E.g. Greek Myths, Garden of Eden

The bottom line

Poetry is a highly personable literature experience; affording students an opportunity to engage with poetry in ways that are meaningful to them is why this article was devised. From providing students with agency and an intertextuality experience, the benefits of poetry are fruitful.

Image courtesy of Library
Matthew Kloosterman
Matthew Kloosterman
Matthew Kloosterman has taught internationally for his entire career. Currently, he is an MYP English language and literature educator at an International Baccalaureate school in Shenzhen, China. He is married to an MYP music educator, Yeji Kloosterman, and he has a daughter named Eden.
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