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“Make it New”: New and Unique Approaches to Teaching Poetry in the Secondary Classroom

Poll a group of your peers: Did they enjoy learning about poetry in high school or college? Overwhelming responses to this question begin with groans and sighs; on rare occasion one person may share a idyllic story of a young, brash and roughish English professor who dared teach students to understand poetry; however, these memories are oft suspect of taint by Hollywood’s subconsciously subversive portrayal of the average boarding school educator. Poetry isn’t supposed to be easy to understand upon first glance. Poetry is difficult because so much care and thought is put into each word. In schools, poetry is difficult to understand, especially when one is concurrently attempting unpack densely and meaningful words into order while also desperately searching for significance, figurative language and symbolic layering. It is also far easier to test for understanding of content, then to assess the ability of a student to read and interpret form. However, this is not to say it cannot be done. There is a way to teach poetry that students will engage and connect with the form, regardless of the content: this is that way.

This unit seeks to first address the needs of the educator, in that they themselves may not have had access to the type of pedagogical training that teaches one to seek to understand the form of the poem above and beyond the content. After these foundations have been established, ideas for sharing this new technique with students will be explored. Poetry can be fulfilling, profound and simultaneously accessible if one is willing to approach the genre with this paradigm-shifting perspective.

Tara Ann Carter
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