A student told me today that if she sees a poem, she knows that it’s fiction. Other students also believe that all poetry rhymes. Many students (and teachers) are not comfortable with reading or writing fiction and as a result, poetry may not always be given priority in classrooms. I know that I felt intimidated by poetry, which affected my instructional choices. I didn’t feel comfortable reading poetry, much less using it and teaching it. I believe that there are misconceptions and misunderstandings about poetry that limit its use and those issues need to be addressed in order for poetry to take its rightful place in classrooms. For example, one issue with poetry relates to the challenge of interpretation. How do you determine what the author really meant? Then, there’s the misconception that all poems have to rhyme. In addition, some readers, including one of my students, assumed that poetry is limited to fiction.
So, how can we address the issue of the lack of poetry in the classroom? First, we should honestly assess our reasons for relegating poetry to the instructional back burner. What prevents us from embracing poetry? Did past experiences foster discomfort with poetry? Do we need professional development and training in order to feel more confident? In order to explore this idea further, I created a self-assessment tool for teachers that can be accessed here. This is an informal assessment that can provide an opportunity to explore beliefs about poetry and instruction and to articulate a plan of action for becoming more comfortable with poetry.
However, while we explore our beliefs about poetry, we should make sure that we also increase our efforts to bring poetry into our classrooms. Fortunately, there are many resources available to support teachers. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s Poems Are Teachers is an excellent resource for any educator. Amy’s website, The Poem Farm, is a treasure trove for teachers and students. I also love Laura Purdie Salas’ site and recommend checking out the following links: https://laurasalas.com/reading-and-discussing-poetry-in-the-primary-classroom/ and https://laurasalas.com/resources-for-teachers/. As you begin to explore these resources you will feel more confident in creating opportunities to read and write poetry in your classroom.
Finding mentors to guide us in this journey is also essential. Christie Wyman is a teacher who has inspired me not to neglect poetry in my classroom. Christie blogs at wonderingandwondering.wordpress.com and is currently participating in #NaPoWriMo. Her passion for poetry is infectious and I credit Christie with encouraging my interest in poetry. Christie also created a Poetry Padlet that is a wonderful resource. Jess Houser (a.k.a. JJ Burry) is another teacher-writer who inspires me. I recommend checking out this post. Jess has some great advice and I’ve bookmarked a number of her posts so that I can return to them as needed.
So, poetry doesn’t have to be something that we have to fear. We shouldn’t banish poetry from our classrooms or only consider it once a year when we feel obligated. Poetry can be a positive, wonderful experience that enriches our classrooms.