Many students tend to be scared away from poetry. More often than not, students who believe that they either do not enjoy poetry or they don’t understand it dread the poetry unit in an English classroom. This is often due to improper teaching in previous classes. Students must learn how to take the appropriate approach to poetry while allowing themselves to enjoy and make personal connections with the piece. Here are five ways to make poetry fun and approachable in the classroom.
1. Taking the proper stance
Readers should enjoy poetry. Students should not have to stress over proper interpretation while worrying about whether they understand it correctly. A poem should not be approached in the same way that students approach, say, a history textbook. Make sure your students know they are free to enjoy the poem without worrying about finding out the “true meaning.”
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2. Multiple Interpretations
Students often become so desperate to find out what a poem means while reading poetry. In actuality, a single poem can have many different meanings depending on the reader. Make sure students are aware that they are free to make personal interpretations that may differ from those of other students. Try introducing your poetry unit with Billy Collins’s poem “Introduction to Poetry.” This poem shows that it is not always necessary to meticulously dissect a poem to enjoy it.
3. Reading Out Loud
Poetry stems from oral traditions of singing and storytelling. This means that they are intended to be read aloud. Reading a poem to your students and encouraging them to do the same will help them to hear the rhythms and rhyme schemes of the poem.
4. Let students find poems of their own
While it is important to include a list of poems in your curriculum that you believe to be important, students may struggle to connect with them. A personal connection and appreciation for a poem will help students’ overall enjoyment of poetry. Allow students to find poems on their own that they perceive to be meaningful to them. Students can search for poems based on a title, authorship, or subject on poetryfoundation.org.
5. Have your own in-class poetry jam
Create a time and space in your classroom for students to share poems that they enjoy, or, poems that they have written themselves. Make this a fun activity rather than for a grade. This will ease students into the idea that poetry doesn’t always have to be a rigorous task, but it can be aesthetic and enjoyable as well. Try creating an inviting atmosphere with snacks and candles if your school allows.
Poetry Teaching Resources: