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Listening to Poetry While Distance Learning and Teaching

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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.

Pretty guest on board Marconi's yacht "listens in" on pioneer's own set.,1922. Prints & Photographs Division.
Pretty guest on board Marconi’s yacht “listens in” on pioneer’s own set, 1922. Prints & Photographs Division.

Many of us now teaching our students from a distance are relying on audio and video technologies more than when we teach in person. This offers the opportunity to share audio versions of poems with our students.

Begin by playing a recording of the chosen poem. The first time ask students to listen only. For the second listen they may choose to note thoughts, impressions, or questions. Before listening for a third time, provide students with the text of the poem. This step can be done at any point, depending on the needs of your students, but I have found that I am most successful when I wait until after they have heard the poem more than once. This enables them to listen without trying to read ahead. Then when the text is provided, they can see words they may not have understood while listening. This also gives them access to the structure of the poem, which may aid them in engaging with meaning.

After students have interacted with the poem through both listening and reading, it is time to ask for them to discuss their thoughts. During distance learning this may be done in a variety of ways. (Many of which will be effective in a face to face setting as well.)

  1. Offer the opportunity for a “live” discussion moderated by the teacher or a class leader.
  2. Ask students to participate via the chat feature of your online teaching platform.
  3. Use another online collaboration tool, a shared document, or graphic organizer to record their thinking. Use these to revisit the poem in the next class.
  4. Invite students to create a slide that will become part of a combined class slide show that can be used to begin the next class or shared for students to view on their own.

Much of what I have suggested above will also work if you are teaching asynchronously. Post the recording and text of the poem with the steps above for students to follow on their own. Students can note and share their thinking in a variety of ways, including an email to the teacher. Share their thoughts with each other as a way of advancing the conversation and encouraging them to continue reacting to the poem and the thoughts of their classmates.

Recordings of poems can be accessed through:

If a poem you would like to use with students is not available, consider recording it yourself or asking a friend or family member. A recording may work better than reading live so students can return to the recording later. As you share poems in this way students may want to make their own recordings to share.

How do you continue to engage your students with poetry?