I always find that the month of March presents the extra special problem of the brackets. I am constantly finding them around the room and in the halls; discussion around the school amongst the students centers around who has the best bracket. This year, I wanted to find a way to channel that same enthusiasm into an intensive discussion of poetry. After all, nothing goes together like basketball and poetry…
I Can Make a Bracket, Too!
I started by creating a Poetry March Madness bracket! I selected the 32 poems I wanted to cover in the unit. The poems are a range of canonical and contemporary, challenging and accessible. I paired the poems by subject, theme, or poet and students had a range of assignments to complete on the poems. After each pairing had been read and discussed, students voted on which poem would move forward in the bracket.
Students were given all the poems at the beginning of the unit; this allowed me to alter the order to an organic study of the poems based on my students’ needs. I also spent time at the beginning of the unit reviewing the steps in the TP-CASTT method of poetry analysis. This formulaic method for analyzing poetry is helpful for students, in my opinion, because it provides a place to start when they are analyzing poetry. It provides a guide. Some students need the guide more than others, but reviewing the steps can benefit almost all the students.
The Introduction to Poetry
The first poem we looked at together was not on our bracket. It simply served as our model. Billy Collins’s “Introduction to Poetry” is a highly accessible contemporary poem that provides enough substance to allow students to work through a poetry analysis while honing skills and gaining confidence. I chose to work through the poem together as a class so students could hear the through processes of their peers as the poem was analyzed.
For other poems in the unit students completed comparison/contrast in-class essays, Socratic seminars, choral readings, group presentations, and even Amazon reviews. My students often come in to the course assuming poetry is challenging and uninteresting; it’s my job to help them engage with different poems and poets that increase their stamina, comprehension, and, with any luck, enjoyment of the genre.
WVCTE is wondering how you engage your students with poetry in your classrooms! Share some of your best practices!