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Reading and Discussing Poetry Together

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The following guest post, part of our “Teacher’s Corner” series, is by Rebecca Newland, a Fairfax County Public Schools Librarian and former Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress.

Reading Together, c. George B. Wood [1887?].
Reading Together, circa 1887.
While your students may not look like those in this picture, reading poetry together and taking time to discuss it are key steps in fostering love and appreciation for poetry. This time of year, when many students are restless for summer break, is a perfect time to share poetry. I have previously recommended asking students to bring in poems to read aloud. This time, the poems will prompt individual reflection and reaction as well as small group discussions.

  1. Ask each student to bring in a published poem.
  2. Place each poem on a large sheet of paper, white board, or chalk board. Ideally there will be enough space around each poem for written commentary.
  3. Post 5-10 poems per day. Students will need time to read and connect with each poem and then engage in small group discussion around one.
  4. Ask the students whose contributions are posted each day to read them aloud.
  5. Next, every student should move around the room to silently read each poem. They may also choose to discuss quietly with others who are gathered at the same poem. The goal is to write brief, personal thoughts about each of the day’s poems.
  6. After students have an opportunity to visit and comment on each poem ask them to return to whichever poem they found most compelling, which could mean the one that provoked the most thought or emotion, or the one they liked best. Ask students in each of the small groups to share the thoughts they wrote as well as any new thoughts they have had after reacting to all the poems.
  7. If poetry has not played a large role in the class up to this point, it might be helpful to post lists of sensory terms, emotional terms, and other language useful for discussing poetry.

The benefits of this activity are in interacting with a variety of self-selected or peer-selected poems and the physical activity of reading, moving about the room, and discussing in small groups. Follow-up activities could include selecting class favorites to display beyond the day of discussion or writing more extensive responses.

Ask students how they feel about this approach to connecting with poetry.

Comments (2)

  1. I’ve written about 1,350 new poems for children, and many of them are for performing and many of them are designed to start a discussion in the class. I do believe that we can reach out to the children of the world, our future citizens, by giving them poems that will make them think and discuss, and will help their spoken English also by learning by heart and performing them. Josie Whitehead

  2. I have written 2 poetry books and three poetry ebooks. It’s true, poetry really energise the brain,so it’s a good thing to bring to the classroom.

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