One of the best ways to introduce middle school ELA and high school English students to poetry is through verse novels. Incorporating verse novels in your instruction and on the shelves of your classroom library is a great way to show just how great poetry is and how writers can use poetry to tell a story.
Here is a list of five exciting and heartfelt verse novels you will want to include on the shelves of your classroom library. Please note: this post contains affiliate links to help cover the cost of running this blog.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Two worlds collide in this novel when sisters, one living in New York and the other in the Dominican, learn about each other. Told in the two different perspectives of each sister, this book grapples with tough issues like loss while also showing common bonds.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
In this novel, Will confronts various people from his past as he grapples with the death of his brother and the unspoken rules that run his family. It’s a modern-day Christmas Carol that hits on big issues in society, and your students will not want to put this book down. When I read Long Way Down with my students, all 36 students turn their pages simultaneously, and they get upset when we are done reading for the day.
Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
This is the poetic memoir from the acclaimed author of Speak. In the memoir, Anderson recounts her own rape and the aftermath that followed. Speak is usually one of those books that I can never keep stocked on my classroom bookshelf, and I share this title with students who loved Speak and want to continue reading more from Anderson.
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
This is one captivating verse novel your students will not want to put down. Read as a verse novel, told like a memoir, this fictional story is about a boy named Michael who is a gay, mixed-race teen who is struggling with coming to terms with his identity. Like many coming-of-age stories, Micheal blossoms while away at university.
Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes
There is something about verse memoirs that really captures the heart and emotion from one’s past. In this memoir, Grimes recounts her childhood, starting at the early age of six when she bounced from foster home to foster home after being removed from care from her schizophrenia mother. Written with so much power and emotion, your students will want to keep reading this book.
Resources for teaching poetry in secondary ELA.