Welcome to the classroom component of the 2014 National Poetry Month’s education project, Poet-to-Poet. The following series of activities are aligned with the Common Core State Standards, and encourage you and your students to engage in a multimedia experience with the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors, a group that represents poetry in America at its best. You can use the series of activities one right after the other, or separate them, as you integrate poetry with other areas of study throughout National Poetry Month. The activities are designed to reach diverse learners through multiple entry points and can be easily adapted further for your particular students.
Aligned with the Common Core Standards/College and Career Anchor Standards, the activities below address the three literacy areas of Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. The activities also indicate how English lessons can intersect with Science curriculum in inspiring ways.
Reading: Key Ideas and Details, 2; Craft and Structure, 4; Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, 7, 9
Writing: Text Types and Purposes, 3; Production and Distribution of Writing, 5, 6
Speaking and Listening: Comprehension and Collaboration, 1, 2
Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use, 4, 5
Interdisciplinary Connections: Science (animals, environmental issues)
Poem Specific Activity: Introducing "The Owl"
Warm up: Whip around—Go around the room, asking your students what associations they have to the word owl.
Tell your students they will be studying an excerpt of the poem “The Owl” by Arthur Sze in both performance and written form as a prelude to writing and performing their own poems.
Note: Depending on the technology capabilities in your classroom, students can work individually, in pairs, or in small groups (on a laptop or iPad), or as a large group with an image projected at the front of the room.
You will see a series of small photographs of the owls at the top of the page. Please ask your students only to look at the first three, so they can hone their skills of perception and learn deeply from the photos.
Using Skills of Perception
With the same partners, ask your students to read the poem out loud to each other, at least two times.
Ask your students to keep a running list on the front board in your room of the words they have read and heard that they do not understand. You can either conduct a separate vocabulary lesson on these words where students try to figure out their meaning from context and connections, or go over vocabulary as you progress through the other activities.
Fusing Inspiration and Experience
Ask your students to think about where their poems “hide.” What “speaks to them,” the way the subjects of the poems they just saw/read spoke to their authors, inspiring them to write about those subjects? If they have difficulty, you can ask your students to answer the following questions:
Ask them to write a list of these things and pick the one that seems the most important to them. In their imaginations:
Poem Specific Activity: Developing Poetic Techniques and Presentation Skills
Explain to your class that before they write their own poems, they will:
Warm up: Ask your students to stand in a circle. Tell them you are going to say a color and then say something you think about when you say that color, and how it makes you feel. Then go around the circle and ask each of them to pick a color, make an association to that color, and say how it makes them feel.
Now your students will experience Arthur Sze's online performance once more, this time by listening at least twice to the words. Have them close their eyes as they listen.
Ask your students to find a quiet space in which to write about the person, place, or object that has their “hidden poem.” They can think about a “mystery or dream” the way Arthur Sze did, and they can use some of the techniques he used in “The Owl” as well as other poetic elements with which they might be familiar, such as rhyme.
The critical point is that your students write about something that inspires them. They may need to stare out the window, go to the library, or write at home. Inspiration comes in its own way at its own time, so we ask you to give your students opportunity for the poetic space they need.
After your students have written their poems, place them in small groups no larger than four people. (If they have regular writing groups, it’s fine to use them.) In these groups:
Return again to the online video of Arthur Sze.
In pairs, ask your students to practice performing their poems for each other. One person should perform; the other should watch and give criticism. Then they should switch roles.
As a culminating activity, you can ask your class for volunteers willing to present their poetry performances to the whole class. You might want to invite other students to see the performance as well, or to hold a Poetry Café after school for the school community.
You can adapt the above activities to viewing/reading any of the other poems in the Poet-to-Poet collection. Of course, you will have to change the poem-specific activities, such as the preparation photo, and the poetic elements studied, but the viewing and reading and imagining activities (Sections II and III) can be easily adapted.
Poets and Their Poems:
Juan Felipe Herrera, “Five Directions to My House”
Edward Hirsch, “Fast Break”
Jane Hirshfield, “My Skeleton”
Naomi Shihab Nye, “A Valentine for Ernest Mann”
Ron Padgett, “Nothing in that Drawer”
Arthur Sze, “The Owl”
Arthur Sze, “Here”
Anne Waldman, from “Manatee/Humanity”
The Academy of American Poets encourages you to submit your students' response poems for possible publication on Poets.org in May 2014. Send all poems via email at [email protected] by April 30, 2014. Please include each student's name, the poet that inspired his or her poem, and the name of your school.