When I first announced to my high school freshmen that we will start our poetry unit in class, I was met with groans and scoffs. While I was disappointed by this reaction, it also resonated with me. When I was their age, I felt similarly about poetry. Poetry was old. Not relatable. Difficult to understand. It was because of their reaction, and my familiarity to it, that I was determined to expose students to poetry that they would connect with and to prove that poetry does not live in the past. It is happening now.
Inspired by the Teach Living Poets movement, I was determined to teach students about the brilliant and diverse poets of today.
For this activity, I decided to do learning stations. I love incorporating learning stations in class because they are focused activities, along with kinesthetic learning, to get students moving and interested in a broad spectrum of a particular subject.
I introduced the activity like this:
(This is part of our larger unit on Power and Oppression, which is what 3b refers to for my class specifically)
The poems students interacted with were:
- “There Are Birds Here”- Jamaal May
- “No More Elegies Today”- Clint Smith
- From “Oil”- Fatimah Asghar
- “Untitled”- Rupi Kaur
- “Still Here” – Sarah Kay (this is actually a song, not a poem, and there is a video of her performing it to show to students!)
Initially, I wanted to give six minutes at each station for students to engage with all five poems in one class period, but I quickly realized that this was not enough time and I shifted this activity to last two days, instead of just one day! The first day, students did three poems (about 12 minutes each). The second day, they did the last two stations, and we ended the class with a class discussion and answered any questions they had lingering.
At each station, the students filled out the following:
While my station activities were really focused on student analysis of the text, you can easily use stations to introduce students to poetry in a lower-stakes way. Have them go to a poem and simply discuss it with their group, have them write a response or their reaction. Stations allow students to interact with multiple texts in one period in a focused time frame. If you decide to do stations, ask yourself: What do I want my students to accomplish during this time? What learning goals do I have for them? Then, adjust the activity for student need!
If you use poetry stations in your class, I would love to hear how it went and in what activities your students participated in for each station!
Good luck and happy reading!