As remote learning has quickly become the new normal for students and teachers, it has been tough to come up with meaningful lessons for ELA students. Will they read the book I assign them, or just pretend to read them? How can I keep the level of rigor where it needs to be?
Because of the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in, it might be time to do some poetry. Poetry is a terrific option for students engaged in distance learning. Here’s why:
Students can’t fake read poetry.
We all know fake reading will be a huge problem with novels. However, if you give a student a poem, especially a modern poem that isn’t out there on Sparknotes or Shmoop, they have to read it. And then all you have to do is create activities that get them to analyze it.
Poems are an effective way to practice close reading.
You can read a poem over and over again in a short amount of time, and this makes them perfect for building the skills necessary to read closely and carefully.
One way to do this is to have student read a poem three times, each time with a different color for annotation. That way you can see the development of ideas upon successive readings. And perhaps students will get the aha! moment that reading something a few times is a worthwhile thing to do.
If you need some help with poetry annotation, check out this blog post on how to REALLY annotate a poem. I’m also a big fan of Stacy Lloyd’s poetry annotation resource.
Poems are easy to add to existing remote curriculum.
Unlike contemporary literature, great poems are readily available online. All you have to do is provide students with a link. Or copy the text and paste it into a document where they can annotate it or answer some questions. (Some ideas for where to find great poetry online are detailed below.)
There are also opportunities to add poetry to existing novel units or writing units. If you google “To Kill A Mockingbird poetry pairings,” for instance, you’ll find that other teachers have done this work for you for many novels. And you can analyze a poem for rhetorical strategies if you’re writing a persuasive paper.
Or you don’t need a reason at all. Just make a certain day of the week “poetry day” and that’s what that day is all about.
Poetry allows you to connect with your students.
Read a poem of the day to your students in a video you post. Choose something inspirational. Maybe something silly. Whatever you choose, your students will enjoy hearing your voice.
So how do you find poems to teach?
The worst thing you can do is go to Google and type in “poems about _____” because there is a lot of bad poetry out there. You’re better off looking for poetry at the Poetry Foundation or poets.org where they screen for quality. In fact, poets.org has a great section of poetry for teens collected by subject. CommonLit also has some poetry woven into their thematic units as well.
It might also be helpful to study the poetry of a particular movement. The Harlem Renaissance, for instance, is easy for students to get a handle on. They are important poems and poets, too.
For more poetry resources, check out Teach Living Poets. Lots of great ideas there, and a terrific community. Also check out #TeachLivingPoets on Twitter.
And here’s how to make poetry fun!
Poetry can be serious business for students. Many of them don’t care for it. We need to keep the study of poetry lighthearted and one way to do that is through comics! I have a series of comics in which famous poets discuss their famous poetry. Each comic has a set of study questions as well as an additional comic for study. It’s a great way to get some classic poems into their hands in a fun engaging way. Click here to go to my store to check them out. Click on Robert Frost below to get a free comic!
I also have a series of lessons done as comics that address various ELA topics like grammar, poetry, editing, and Shakespeare, all of which are well suited to a remote learning environment. All the fun is there for you, and your kids will love studying any of these topics because they’ll get a new comic every day! Please check out my resources and let the learning begin!
If you need more resources ….
Here are some blog posts that might give you some more ideas for teaching poetry online (or anytime, really.)
Plus some more blog posts on remote learning: