Saying Farewell with Poetry at the End of this Unprecedented School Year

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.

The farewell. New York: Published by Currier & Ives, [between 1856 and 1907]

The farewell. New York: Published by Currier & Ives, [between 1856 and 1907].

This year’s summer break will be unlike those we have experienced before. Many of us have spent the final quarter of the school year learning apart, using creativity to engage our students from afar. The added social restrictions mean that in addition to working from home, we and our students have also been missing extracurricular activities like clubs, sports, community service, and religious gatherings as well as general socializing.  This “break” from school means this year’s summer hiatus will bring a different kind of rest and rejuvenation for both teachers and students. Before the last sign-off with your classes, consider engaging them again with poetry.

Begin with a poem of your choice about endings or saying farewell, or consider:

First, read one or more of the poems aloud while sharing the text.

Ask:

  • In what way does the poem reflect common experiences?
  • What do you have in common with the speaker in the poem?
  • How does the poem capture unique experiences?

After someone answers the question, I like to follow up by asking, “what makes you say that?” to encourage students to revisit and focus on specific words or lines of the poem.

As a culminating reflection on your experiences with poetry this year ask: In what ways has our reading and writing of poetry enriched your time in this class?

If you have time to offer an opportunity for more reflection, invite students to think about the school year, including distance learning and the upcoming summer break. Ask them to write parting thoughts to share with classmates and teachers. Put these lines into a word cloud creation resource. Share the word cloud with students encouraging them to reflect again, this time, reacting to the words that are most prominently featured.  (Most word clouds will base the size and prominence of words on the frequency of their use.) Ask, what do you notice about the size and prominence of specific words? How does this reflect what we are feeling about the end of the school year?

How do you use poetry at the end of your time with a group of students?

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Literary Treasures: Audre Lorde and Marge Piercy, 1982

Intern Brooke Biastock explores a recording of Audre Lorde and Marge Piercy reading their poetry in the Coolidge Auditorium in 1982. This recording was just added as part of our annual release, during National Poetry Month, of 50 newly streaming recordings to the online Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature.