Exploring Poetry while Distance Teaching and Learning

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.

Steinhoff bobsled, for two people, Caldwell, N.J. Bain News Service., n.d.

Steinhoff bobsled, for two people, Caldwell, N.J. Bain News Service., n.d.

Just after our scheduled spring break, my school district will begin distance learning. In the meantime, parents are working to engage their students in a variety of ways, both online and hands on. As an educator I have the time to explore online tools and brainstorm ways I will be able to support both teachers and students at a distance.

Over the past few years, I have written about ways to bring poetry and other literature into classrooms and libraries. Many of the lessons and activities will work when teaching students remotely. A few I think are particularly suited for distance learning:

  • Writing Poetry in the Classroom: Bellringers – With online instruction just as in person, it is helpful to have a way to ease students into class while you take attendance, reach out for a quick moment with individual students, or have something happening while waiting for all students to log into the class session. These quick writing exercises would also work well if students are working on self-paced class material they turn in as they finish.
  • Reading Poetry in the Classroom: Bellringers – These companion ideas to those above may also work well through distance learning, with minor modifications. In particular, the third idea for sharing daily poetry may be a soothing way to begin class each day in either a synchronous or self-guided format.

In order to encourage students to explore poems with which they will feel an affinity, provide links to the Poetry Foundation and the Academy of American Poets, which are both sources of a wide range of poems and poets. In addition to reading live, or recording a reading, you may ask students to write or record a reaction focusing on why they found the poem appealing.

Ways to share their connection to the poem could include:

  • Creating a shareable slide with verbal or recorded reactions to the poem
  • Recording a reading of the poem with a few words about why they chose it
  • Composing a visual representation of the poem’s appeal or effect on the reader using images
  • Writing an overview of the poet’s use of poetic language. (It is generally my first choice to ask students to interact with poetry in natural ways; however, there are standards and tests that may lie ahead that will ask students to identify uses of poetic devices, and doing so in a poem a student has chosen for themselves may be beneficial).

How will you engage your students with poetry online?

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