Poetry of Nature

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.

Waterfall at Yosemite National Park, California. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, June 2013.

Waterfall at Yosemite National Park, California. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, June 2013.

In last month’s blog post I discussed how to engage students from different locales in reading and writing “Poetry of the City.” This month, my focus turns to the poetry of nature and rural settings. The poems I’ve selected below reflect various attitudes and perspectives on this broad theme.

Begin by showing students images of nature such as:

Ask students to record thoughts, feelings, or descriptive terms as you show these or similar images. Pair students or create small groups to share what they have recorded. Each group should then share a selection of their thoughts. Record these for the whole group to access.

Next, offer the following three (or fewer) poems to the small groups:

Consider offering the poems one at a time so students can fully engage with each. Encourage one person in each group to read the poems aloud.

Ask:

  • What is the speaker’s tone toward the subject in each poem? What makes you say that?
  • Which of the poems most closely mirrors your own attitudes toward the subject? In what way?
  • What do the poems have in common? What are their differences?

Then, offer the following three (or fewer) poems to the small groups:

Ask students to interact with these poems by considering the same set of questions posed to them after reading the first group of poems.

Extension:

  1. Compare and contrast the two sets of poems, noting their differing views of nature.
  2. Ask each reader to share their thoughts about one of the poems to which they feel a connection with the other members of their small group.
  3. Ask students to write their own “nature” poems. They might begin by revisiting their original list of ideas, adding any new concepts gleaned from the poems.

If you have explored poems about the city and about nature with your students, what most strikes you about the ways in which students react to a variety of attitudes on these themes?

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