Teach This Poem is a weekly series featuring a poem from our online poetry collection, accompanied by interdisciplinary resources and activities designed to help K-12 teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom.

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Featured Poem

Dear Poet Project

Resource: Invite your students to view and read the videos and poems included in this year’s Dear Poet project.

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Classroom Activities

The following activities and questions are designed to help your students use their noticing skills to move through the poem and develop their thinking about its meaning with confidence, using what they’ve noticed as evidence for their interpretations. Read more about the framework upon which these activities are based.

  1. Warm-up (quick write): What are one or two characteristics that you think make a poem important? Write these down.
  2. Before Reading the Poem (pair share): Watch some or all of the videos in the Dear Poet Project for 2019, then read several of the featured poems that you like. Choose one video that says something important to you. Share the video and why you think it is important with a partner.
  3. Reading the Poem (individual reading): Read the poem “Advice to a Young Poet” silently, then write down the words and phrases that jump out at you.
  4. Listening to the Poem (enlist two volunteers to read the poem aloud): Listen as the poem is read aloud twice. Write down any additional words and phrases that jump out at you.
  5. Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem “Advice to a Young Poet” with your partner and another pair of students. What do you think the speaker in the poem thinks is most important in a poem? Using your lists of words and phrases, what is your evidence for your assertion?
  6. Whole-class Discussion: In what way does Kendel Hippolyte’s poem meet his own criteria? Do you think it could “save nations or people”? Use details from “Advice to a Young Poet” for evidence. (Teachers: Now might be a good time to go over words, such as caesura, with which your students may not be familiar.)
  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: Write a poem that you think has an important message for “nations or people.” Then write a short paragraph explaining why you wrote this poem.
  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: Write a persuasive essay about a Dear Poet poem that is important to you, in which you try to convince others of its importance.

More Context for Teachers

In his essay “Unlearning to Write,” Ron Silliman writes, “Ultimately the poems you or anyone will write will be the poems you (or anyone) needs. I always think of this as the blind spot in the totality of verse, a place toward which each of us is driven & where we never quite fully arrive.” Read more.