One reason why I love teaching poetry in high school is because of the rich conversations you can have with students. No matter what school setting I am teaching in, my students always have so much to say about poetry. When students feel confident in their abilities, they truly love the challenge of reading poetry. In this blog post, you will learn how you can instill the love of poetry in your students. I will also share some activities and resources to teach poetry to high school students.
How do you introduce a poem in high school?
Have your students ever described poetry as boring or confusing? It is pretty common for them to feel overwhelmed by poetry. This is because poetry is so different from the styles of writing that they are used to exploring in the classroom. In order for students to move past this attitude towards poetry, they need to feel confident in their abilities.
To instill this confidence, it can be helpful to introduce poetry slowly. Before diving into a poem, you may want to first teach the basic elements of poetry. This will help students acquire the vocabulary that they need to discuss poetry in the classroom.
Another introductory lesson involves familiarizing students with poetic devices. Being able to identify figurative language in poetry will help students further develop their thoughts about the poem. Discussing poetic devices can also help students analyze the author’s style of writing.
Activities to teach poetry in high school
One of the most important skills for high school students is annotating. Annotating is the process of writing notes next to a verse of poetry These notes may express thoughts, questions, evaluations, or definitions. They may also note the meter (or “rhythm”) of the poem. Annotating will help students to develop an in-depth analysis of a poem.
Once students understand the elements of poetry and feel comfortable with identifying poetic devices, they are ready to practice annotating. To teach annotation, you can break the process down into steps. This blog post shares a 4-step process for annotating poetry. You can also use this free annotation bookmark as a personal anchor chart for students as they work through these four steps.
A great way to make annotating accessible to students is to practice with music lyrics. Students already have a lot to say about their favorite artists and songs; because of the cultural relevance of the music they enjoy, they often feel confident analyzing it and making inferences. Modeling annotation on song lyrics is a great way to hook your students and scaffold this skill.
This poetry unit for high school includes slideshow lessons, word wall activities, vocabulary anchor charts, bookmarks, annotation activities, and informational handouts. During this 2-week unit, students will learn how to fluently read and analyze poetry.
How do you make poetry fun in high school?
If there’s any unit my high school students resonate with, it’s poetry. This is because there are so many ways to make poetry engaging and fun. For the most part, my students enjoy poetry because they see it as relevant to popular culture. This is why teaching poetry in high school is so rewarding!
In order to help them see the relevance of poetry, we spend a lot of time exploring modern poets in various forms. They are especially interested in the new wave of free verse poets on Instagram, also known as “Instapoets.” Some examples of these are Rupi Kaur, Tyler Knott Gregson, and Kate Baer. Song lyrics form another connection between poetry and popular culture and serve as a great way to teach poetic devices.
Your students will probably have the most fun writing their own poetry. If they are reluctant, you could start off with a few icebreakers or creative writing prompts to help them become more expressive in your classroom. Your students might enjoy replicating the styles of free verse poetry popularized on Instagram. If so, you can lead a free verse poetry workshop with them.
If you students would prefer something more structured, then styles like sonnets and haiku might be more appropriate. Using a sonnet template or haiku outline will offer them more guidance without limiting their creativity and expression.
Best poetry for high school students
Here are a few poetry picks that your high school students will love!
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur – Kaur wrote this collection of poems at 21. It shares her coming-of-age experience as an Indo-Canadian woman. It is vulnerable, feminine, powerful, and features simple illustrations alongside the text.
And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou – Angelou’s collection of poetry shares the themes of strength, loneliness, and determination. The singular poem by the same name serves as a great read for an individual lesson.
“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes – This poem serves as a great lesson for exploring figurative language. This annotation lesson facilitates a guided close reading of the poem to teach your students how to annotate.
William Shakespeare’s Sonnets – These classic poems are a great way to explore Shakespeare’s iconic sonnet form. Students can read one of Shakespeare’s popular sonnets before writing their own using this sonnet writing workshop.
Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong – Vuong is a Vietnamese American poet who recalls memories of grief and war in this full-length collection of poems. His work is a great example of contemporary poetry.
Teaching Poetry in High School: Tying it All Together
There are so many ways to make poetry fun and engaging for high school students. I hope this blog post has helped you with a few lesson plans and activities to teach poetry in high school. It’s really inspiring to see students feeling confident in reading and analyzing poetry, and it makes for great classroom conversations!