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

Author: Tara Ann Carter


John Bartram High School

Year: 2013

Seminar: Modern and Contemporary American Poetry

Grade Level: 9-12

Keywords: American Literature, figurative language, poetry, significance, symbolism

School Subject(s): English, Poetry

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.

Download Unit: Carter-Tara-unit.pdf

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Full Unit Text
Content Objectives



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.






Poetry is a subject inherently associated with the English/Language Arts classroom curriculum. It is a type of expression of the English Language in writing and thereby is typically taught within the confines of the neatly ordered and segmented units of knowledge.  There is no getting around teaching some form of poetics within the English classroom.  It is mandated. Yet, poetry can also be enjoyable, thought provoking and fun.


What is missing from the standard practice of teaching poetry are the creative aspects that make poetry such a varied and flexible vehicle for learning. Poems have been marginalized as inferior and of less worth than informational texts, biographical readings and easily digestible short stories. Much of the blame for type of canned instruction can be explained through the proliferation and complete reliance on standardized tests as the measure of a student’s intelligence; understanding the form and content of poems is much more nuanced than even the most sophisticated multiple-choice test can assess. Most educators argue poetry doesn’t seem to fit into the “skills-based” vision of most of these mandated assessments. On the contrary, poetry is very important, both in the skills it helps students to develop in terms of analysis and comprehension, but also as a way to inform and help students to understand how to write well.  Poet, Writer and Educational Consultant, Dorothea Lasky, observes:


Learning about poetry (how to read it, write it, and appreciate it) is an integral part of teaching students about all forms of writing. A poem is not just a place to present a student’s grammatical knowledge (in fact, it is often the space to subvert it!). Poetry, more than any other form of writing, trains students to take into account the style of language…It would be hard to say that any outstanding essay does not involve meticulous word choice or the ability to persuade a reader through sheer aesthetic prowess. Poetry teaches students how to do this.



What Lasky asserts is the foundation of this unit. Poetry is important, does have function and purpose in the English educational curriculum and deserves to be taught well. Its function is not simply as a vehicle to house onomatopoeia, personification, metaphor and sundry literary devices, but rather as a multi-function tool for which students can gain multiple understandings and insights simultaneously.


This unit seeks to break out of the traditional mode of reading a poem, culling it for literary devices and extracting some sort of meaning from it. Instead, using a method developed by Al Filreis at the University of Pennsylvania, the teacher instigates and guides a student discussion in which the form and method of the poem are investigated to extract from each piece a essential and rationalized understand of the purpose of the poem based on the form in which it is presented to the audience. From this pedagogical stance, students should be able to begin to formulate strategies for creating close readings of poems independently by seeing the process modeled repeatedly in the classroom.




By the end of this unit, students will be able to:


  • Read and interpret poems by analysis of poetic FORM
  • Create their own forms of poetic expression through haiku condensation, Dadaist Cut and Paste Poems and BookSpine Poetry
  • Read and comprehend even difficult poems by practicing the Socratic Discussion Method
  • Analyze stylistic choices made by authors of poetry and by extension apply these principals to other areas of understanding English language
  • Define and understand the basic terms related to poetry and poetic movements throughout time
  • Gain a true understand and appreciation of the poetic form through practiced opportunities at close, detailed readings


A Note on Foundational Aspects


The introduction to a unit on poetry often includes at least a lesson on defining and practice identification of different literary devices and techniques, such as metaphor, simile, onomatopoeia, etc. While these elements of literature are often employed in poetry, they are present throughout the entire scope of Literature. Due to the fact that teachers must work under constraints required content, it seems convenient to stuff all of these literary techniques into the discussion of poetry as a one-stop approach. There are two flaws in this rationale: 1) Students need to engage with concepts and apply skills many times over the course of a school year to master them and 2) short stories, novels, dramas and other texts used within the English classroom often provided multiple points of engagement of these devices through the entirety of a school year curriculum in which these literary devices can be further investigated. Therefore, do not fret if you are not explicitly teaching metaphor, simile and imagery when teaching students poetry via this unit. Instead, focus on multiple points of access (when reading short stories, novels, dramas, etc) to these skills imbed all year long and, as a result, by the time the Poetry Unit is ready to be unveiled, students will already have a working knowledge of these concepts, and therefore have them available for reference and analysis while discussion poems in the unit, but not overburdened with the desperate search for the deconstruction literary technique in every line of poetry. It is of course necessary to gauge and re-teach, as necessary, students understand of literary devices and help them to create a working dictionary of these techniques as the year progresses.


While students are not producing historicized readings of poems in this method, some background biographical knowledge of the poets may be necessary as a point of engagements and also as contextualization of the understanding of time periods and possible meanings of words/phrases/events within the era.


Teaching Strategies

Teacher Guided Poetic Close Readings


This is the key strategic concept of this unit. As explicated in the Rationale Section, this pedagogical style consists of the teacher instigating and guiding a student discussion in which the form and method of the poem are investigated to extract from each piece a essential and rationalized understand of the purpose of the poem based on the form in which it is presented to the audience. There are two ways this mode can be executed. First, particularly with short poems, the teacher assigns words, lines, phrases, punctuations, or spaces within the poem to individual students. As the reading begins, the teacher asks for synonyms, definitions or speculations on the words begin presented to the reader. Step-by-step, student-by-student each voice is called upon to collaborate and offer up some type of interpretation. The teachers role is the ask guiding questions (i.e., “What is a synonym for this word?”; “What do you think of when the poet says ____?; “What does that mean to you?”) and then create a continual tally record of what has been uncovered to contribute throughout to building an understanding of the form and purpose of the poem.  The goal is to accrete a reading of the whole poem by moving word-by-word or phrase-by-phrase, with the teacher working to restate and summarize what the students are saying as the class moves through the poem. The talking the teacher does is not that of analysis; that voice comes from the students. Overtime, it is hoped that the teacher plays less of an active role, and student’s will either self-select portions or generally discuss the poem with a group. Examples of these types of readings are available through Al Filreis’ course website, listed in the annotated bibliography, for those with visual learning styles or who need further help visualizing this mode.


Collaborative Student Learning


At several points throughout the unit, students will be invited to work with one another during classroom activities. A prominent idea behind collaborative student learning allows for students to interact on a peer-to-peer level and potential communicate ideas about the subject of study in a manner different from that of the teacher. For low-level learners the benefit lies in direct and specific feedback that is sustainably longer and more intense than a teacher could give any single student in a normal period. For higher-level learners, understanding and synthesis is encouraged when they are “teaching” another student information that they have comprehended. Teaching someone else is the number one activity that encourages thought synthesis and idea analysis.


Jigsaws take information, spilt it up in three to ten groups and require the students in each group to become experts on their bit of knowledge and teach it back to the class. Students who are watching each presentation take notes or fill out a worksheet to retain and record all of the “pieces” with the idea that when students have all information the puzzle will become clear. Jigsaws are useful in a variety of settings.


Another variation of a grouping or “information chunking” activity that require collaboration amongst students is the more traditional station rotation. In this exercise, student groups travel between multiple stations, each with a piece or specific topic of information related to the whole. The exercise is the summarized by individually answering a writing prompt which ties together the elements of the different stations to gauge student understanding and mastery of the material. This is an excellent strategy for a review of basic poetic devices as a possible foundation for the unit.


Before, During and After Reading Strategies


Before, During and After Reading Strategies (BDA) can be easily integrated into reading. “Before” strategies include KWL (know/wonder/learned) charts, historical context introductory lessons, identifying and defining terms and vocabulary, and anticipation guides or making predictions; “During” strategies include guided questions by the teacher, active mark up of the text and notes from the Teacher-Guided Close Readings. “After” strategies range from a simple discussion with all students participating to a more formal written defense of their choice. It is important to note through each of these stages of the reading process students are constantly reading, writing and thinking about reading and writing. BDA strategies check-in and monitor students’ progress throughout the entirety of the text and provide pause in order for the teacher to interject, suggest and discuss elements of previously introduced historical and cultural contexts, where pertinent.


Notes and Information Organization


Graphic organizers are an exceedingly popular method for students to visually layout and align what they learn. These organizers can be provided by the teacher as a photocopy, drawn on a board for a class creation or students can copy a template into their notebooks. Additionally, the two-column note format, sometimes called Cornell Notes, is an easy way for students to take notes on a poem and its analysis in a guided and systematic manner. All sets of Cornell Notes will be kept in their notebooks creating a reference library for their personal perusal.


For the teacher, an easy way to track students’ grades during this unit is by creating a simple chart with a line for each student and a column for each poem. When students participate, add synonyms, definitions or insights, they receive a check. This represents their points for the day in lieu of a set of questions or a worksheet. This type of teaching is different from the norm but is able to justifiably be measured and scored, if at least for the sake of collecting data for a culminating activity.


Text to Self/Text to World/Text to Text Connections


A fundamental function of literature is to draw light to elements of human life. The reflection of humanity through words is the purpose of many poetic works. Every time a poem is taught in this unit the nature of the discussion asks students to compare some elements of the poem to their own lives, the world around them or other texts they have encountered. By creating these moments in the curriculum, students not only are more willing to participate and share because it involves their lives and experiences but they also are then able to produce a closer, more personal reading of the text being used. These connections create a classroom environment in which students feel they are autonomous and have a validated opinion and viewpoint.


Appeal to Multiple Modalities


This unit seeks to appeal to the multiple learning modalities within a classroom. This is important as it gives students who learn from one modality more readily than the other will have equal moments of access to engage with the poems presented.


Poetry is best understood and felt in full range when read aloud. Much of the placement of the words and phrasing lends itself to fullest expression when spoken. This unit will very much benefit those students who learn from hearing content, as all poems should be read aloud in and out of the classroom for full effect. Other attempts to appeal to auditory learners include clips from PennSound of poems being read aloud or discussions of poems by poets to model the discussion of poetry as well as engage students by practicing careful listening. Another way auditory learner can be appealed to is through the presentation and discussion of Sound Poetry, such as Tracie Morris, or Slam Poetry. The Internet is a cache of all types of clips, sound bytes and videos related to content, easily accessible within a few keystrokes.


For the tactile learners in the classroom, lesson described in the Classroom Activities section below describe two activities that involve students using their hands and manipulating objects. As a bonus, this is helpful in a classroom environment, as busy hands are hands that are out of trouble. Additionally, many students who are disruptive will find themselves cooperating and focused when events where they can participate in a tangible way is present.


Also, all poems discussed in this unit are to be copied and handed out to students for their own markups. It may be necessary to teach this skill in the initial stages of this unit; however, it is an important and worthwhile technique to share. Students will learn how to annotate and dissect the poem in such a way that they will feel comfortable, eventually, doing this independently. While a Promethean or SMART Board is ideal for teaching how to mark up a text, all of the poems suggested for use in this unit (See Appendix B) are very short and can easily and quickly be copied onto a chalkboard for the same type of instructional modeling on a budget.


Visual learners will also benefit from the printed poems being distributed for the learner to see. Additionally, seeing how to markup a poem, modeled by the teacher will promote retention. When possible, projecting the poem on a board is also helpful for this modality.


Many of the lessons described below involve comparing particular poems or poets. In these cases a simple T-Chart drawn on a chalkboard provides a useful tool for tallying the qualities of either item. Students can copy this in their notebooks as well, and overtime, begin to practice this technique independently when being asked to look at poetry comparatively.


Integrating 21st Century Skills into Every Classroom


There is no denying the desperate need for schools and their curricula to adapt to the ever-changing proliferation of technological devices, applications and services. Any educator would be remiss to deny the legitimacy of communication modes that are becoming integral parts of the society that students will enter into a few short years. Integrating high technology skills into the curriculum is of dire necessity. One way to integrate these skills is through the use of Twitter.


Historically, cell phones have been banished from the classroom and Internet censorship abounds in public high schools. Instead, I propose that students are not only allowed to use cell phones in class, they are encouraged and trained to do so. This strategy is a bit subversive but definitely worthy of consideration to create real appeal to the learners. Progressive schools and teachers are beginning to use Twitter to post homework assignments, communicate test dates and other pertinent or interesting information that benefits the student population. In a world that is more and more wired, it crucial to give explicit instruction about positive and safe online persona building. Twitter provides a place to do this work as well.


On the surface, Twitter may seem as if it is simply another social media outlet. However, upon closer examination there are practical applications that lend legitimacy to education. For instance, when writing on Twitter (called “tweeting”) one is bound to 140 per message. This constraint forces students to focus on brevity and concision in their writing. Hashtags (“#”) are used as summary and key word tags for the tweet; this helps students to focus their writing by focusing them to summarize and direct the main intentions of their tweet. To add, 21st Century Learning is about multiple literacies and the ability between the different types.  Students can use Twitter to gain confidence in their own literacy without a doubt.


To add, while the Core Curriculum has moved away from reading novels and discussing great ideas, students can still be encouraged to read and explore more traditional literary options. Twitter can be used to have students discover new poets, authors or writers. t also can be used as a resource for research and streaming information from major foundations, as well as great thinkers and philosophers, of our present time and through writing of previous eras (theme accounts such as KimKierkegardardashian (@KimKierkegaard), in which the behavior celebrity Kim Kardashian is analyzed under the lens of Kierkegaard’s philosophies). Yes, there is a lot of garbage, pornography and inappropriate material on Twitter. However, like all things, students must be instructed on proper usage; and of course, each educator should use due diligence to investigate if policies about Internet conduct exist in their district and to what extent. All the same, the redeeming values of this idea far outweigh the potential risks, especially the risks that students with Twitter accounts already are exposed to, outside of school, regularly and without much note.


I personally have created an account that is specifically and solely dedicated as a form communication from the teacher to the students. At the beginning of the year, students are encouraged to “follow” the teacher. The teacher subsequently posts relevant information to students, such as homework assignments, upcoming days off, and best of all, reveleant material from other accounts on Twitter. These can be authors, such as award winning American author Joyce Carol Oates (@joycecaroloates), poets, such as Kenny Goldsmith (@kg_ubu) or Christian Bok (@christanbok), and many multitudes of other things literary.


A few additional examples include McSweeny’s Internet Tendency (@mcsweenys); NPR’s Fresh Air (@nprfreshair); Kelly Writers House, a Philadelphia venue at the University of Pennsylvania with free, open to the public readings and events (@kellywritershse); Letters of Note, historical letters of various authors and topics, (@LofNFeed); The National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities (@NEH_ODH); Conjunctions, a literary weekly web magazine (@_conjunctions); and graphic novel theorist Scott McCloud (@scottmccloud). In no way does this list claim to be exhaustive, in fact, to the contrary, Twitter is what one makes of it through discovery and exploration.


The takeaway here is the importance and necessity to engage with students in a way that will reach them, but also will prepare them for the world ahead of them, which is becoming run by demands of social networks and immediate user-feedback models. Any educator unwilling to embrace and mold these new and versatile avenues to the needs of the classroom is performing a disservice to their students. Teaching students how to gain (correct and accurate) knowledge is as important as the knowledge itself.

Classroom Activities

Activity Set One: Genesis Activities


The following activities allowed students to practice creating constraint-based poetry. All three activities are designed to be low cost, easy to implement and engaging for students on all skill levels.


  1. a) BookSpine Poetry*


The first step to creating BookSpine Poetry is to gather a great variety of books with titles on the spine. Good resources to seek out include Used Book Stores and Book Banks. For those who teacher on a limited budget, visiting other classrooms, the nearby elementary school, community center or ESOL classroom will more than willingly provide a stock to borrow upon promise of return in good condition; in order to maintain this resource in the future, it is advisable to keep this promise. Neither topic nor reading level is pertinent; you just need a good stock of varied phrases and words available. After the work of collecting book specimens has been completed, students may get down to the work of creating.


Students begin by perusing the titles provided (a book cart or shelf is useful in these initial stages as it provides all the spines on display).  Encourage students to play around with the units of meaning, thinking of possible organizations, themes or purposes in their heads based on what they see. Students then select anywhere from two to ten spines and begin arranging them in the order which pleases them. Implementation beyond this point can be achieved in a few ways. Most simply, after the spines have been arranged to satisfaction, students can copy down, in order, their chosen words on notebook paper. For those classrooms that are most technologically adept, the teacher can take pictures of the spines to print out and put on display or students can take pictures with their own cell phones and email the outcomes to the teacher.


*This concept has been liberally adapted from the School Library Journal Blogger, Travis Jonker. Pictures of two examples are included in the Appendix. For additional information on the art of book spine poetry, see the resources provided in the Resources section.


  1. b) Dadaist Poetry


Derived from Tristan Tzara’s method of chance operation poetry, students create poems through random selection through which meaning is interpreted solely by the reader. This activity is a ready to go way for students to create spontaneous poetry.  As Tzara instructs:


  • Take a newspaper.
  • Take some scissors.
  • Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.
  • Cut out the article.
  • Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
  • Shake gently.
  • Next take out each cutting one after the other.
  • Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
  • The poem will resemble you.
  • And there you are–an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd


A useful strategy to introduce and instruct students in understanding this concept is to first hand out these directions on a piece of paper. Identify words or phrases students are unfamiliar with such as conscientiously, resemble, charming sensibility; vulgar herd. Perhaps, even steal a moment to provide a teachable moment of the Marxist commentary possibly provided herein. After this brief classroom discussion to unpack the meaning and purpose of the activity, pass out necessary supplies and have students construct their poems. They can then share aloud with their classmates. This lesson is also easily adaptable to lower grades through the lessoning of the directions and philosophical meaning behind the process. The young learners can simply cut, paste and share.


  1. c) Meta-Poems (Writing Haiku inspired by Poems)


Students will read and discuss Amy Lowell’s “A Fixed Idea”. After discussing, students will be asked to distill the sentiment of Lowell’s freshman work into a terser format. They can retain her original words or supplement words of their own as necessary. The form of this assignment can be as loose or structured as the teacher desires, however, the less rules students have to follow, outside of the syllabic restraint, the more enabled they will be to explore their own creative nature. If necessary, a brief refresher can quickly explain the 5-7-5 syllabic format and theoretical concepts associated with haiku poetry.


Activity Set Two: Dueling Dualities


These lessons are designed to help students focus on the form of poetry and the importance and necessity of placement, form, wording, phrasing, etc. within the genre. Both activities invite the Teacher-Guided Close Readings described in the Strategies section above. The educator can guide a class of students through reading and understanding the subtle nuances of the two items. Furthermore, students are encouraged to retain their own voice and independence by making a choice based solely on their preference. This maintenance of individuality within a classroom helps for students to find personalized points of access within the material, thus retaining and mastering the skills more thoroughly.


  1. a) William Carlos Williams, “Young Woman at a Window” (Version 1 vs. Version 2)


During this lesson students will be presented with both versions of William Carlos Williams “Young Woman at a Window”. After a first reading of each of the poems, ask students to vote for which one they prefer. Slowly and carefully, as a class, the poem will be read and discussed in the Teacher-Guided Close Reading Method described in the Strategies section above. After some discussion, guided by the teacher, a T-Chart can be drawn on the board, either by teacher or student scribe, where elements of each of the poems are contrasted. Students will then vote again about which poem they prefer, this time explaining why they prefer one over the other. This can be done orally, or, if necessary, can be made into a writing exercise to encourage this type of written response.


  1. b) Ms. Dickinson vs. Walt – Whose Side are YOU on?


Similar to the activity described directly above, in this lesson students will compare and make a value judgments between two distinct poetic styles. The poems suggested for this activity are Emily Dickinson’s “I dwell in Possibility” and the first canto of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”.  Students should discuss the poem in the Socratic Discussion method, working toward comparative definitions of Emily and Walt based on what their poetry reveals. Students should vote at the beginning of class, upon the initial reading, as to their preference and again at the end, the second time with a justifiable explanation to back their response.


Activity Set Three: Online Resources – New York Times HaikuBot and Poetry Notebooks


  1. a) New York Times HaikuBot Poetry Analysis


The New York Times (NYT) HaikuBot is a software algorithm that scans sentences in pages of the NYT to find potential haiku, using assigned syllable counting and lexicon dictionaries. The output is the then reviewed by humans that post their subsequent findings on the Tumblr blog. This example of found poetry is great for quick shot poetry readings, specifically as “Do Now” (or warm-up) activities or closing “Exit Ticket” activities. They are short, easy to quickly project or write by hand on board and there is a mass instantly available and constantly being updated. Students can use these brief moments to hone their interpretive skills, paying attention to form and its purpose within the poem.


  1. b) Explore and Create a Poetry Notebook


This activity requires access to a computer lab or laptop cart for each student to individually access the Internet. allowed one to browse through a huge collection of poems across the ages. With the simple creation of a free account, students can browse poems and create a “Notebook” of their own. This activity is best performed at the end of the unit, when students can successfully read poems independently. Students should be given the opportunity to re-engage with poetry under the new perspective they have been given. It is important to allow students to seek out their own favorites to cement engagement and intellectual memory. Additionally, this opportunity to show students an relevant, verified source of information on the Internet, which is crucial in the integration of 21st Century Skills into the classroom.


Annotated Bibliography for Teachers


Filreis, Al. Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (TIP 2013). Teacher’s Institute of Philadelphia, 29 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 May 2013. <>.


This is the website and syllabus for the 2013 Teacher’s Institute of Philadelphia seminar on Modern and Contemporary American Poetry. Within this resource there are links to poems, discussion of poems modeling the Socratic Discussion Method, sound bytes of poems/poets, and much more. A great launching point to collect poems and ideas for teaching in this mode to students.


Harrison, Dena. “So Much Depends Upon…” WritingFix: A 6-Trait Writing Lesson That Uses Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. Northern Nevada Writing Project, Mar. 2008. Web. 28 May 2013. <>.


An additional creative writing resource. This lesson plan focuses on sixteen word poems, another form of constraint-based poetry. This is a great way to get students to increase vocabulary and work on concision in their writing. Inspired by oft quoted Hemingway 6-word novel: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn”.


Jonker, Travis. “Wanted: Any and All Book Spine Poems.” 100 Scope Notes. School Library Journal, 17 Mar. 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2013. <>.


This Website contains the original idea for the BookSpine Poetry activity. Also, within the site are embedded links to additional examples and pictures of last years Book Spine Poem contest that this blog is associated with. Also, take a look around at other content on the website, this is a well-respected and accessible education site, useful for idea trolling.


Katchadourian, Nina. “Sorted Books Project.” Nina Katchadourian. Web. 31 Mar. 2013. <>.


More examples of poetry created with books. Kachadourian’s focus is artistic, and therefore, some of the poetic leanings may be lost, however, there are some very nice and brief poems such as “What is Art?/Close Observation”. These brief moments could be used as time fillers at the end of class, or as a warm-up activity. Simply present students with the picture from her website and ask them to reflect upon it in a meaningful way.


Lasky, Dorothea. The Atlantic. 12 Oct. 2012. Web. 10 May 2013. <>.


Lasky crafts an argument for the multi-functional purpose of teaching poetry in school. She asserts that practice reading and writing poetry helps students to understand the nuances of style and precision of use of the English Language. A very important piece that summarizes many of the groundwork that this unit seeks to build upon.


“Poetic Techniques: Chance Operations.” The Academy of American Poets. Web. 31 Mar. 2013. <>.


This site cites Tristian Tzara’s “Dadaist Manifesto”, specifically the instructions for how to make a Dada poem, references in the Classroom Activities. Additionally, there are links to other examples of Chance Operation poems.


Annotated List of Materials for Classroom Use


PennSound. University of Pennsylvania.Web. 31 Mar. 2013. <>.


An excellent free resource of talks, readings, podcasts and all other types of media on various literary topics. The interactive media is an excellent resource to engage students and accessible behind the Philadelphia School District firewall.


Poetry Foundation. The Poetry Foundation. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.



The Poetry Foundation is the online content of the organization that publishes Poetry magazine. The Website is easy to navigate and provides a wealth of poems by author, content and genre. The Academy of American Poets. Web. 31 Mar. 2013. <>. is a resource for students and teachers filled with poems, biographies, sound recordings, and essays. There is also a very nice feature in which one can create an anthology of their chosen poems by simply registering for a free account. The ease of quickly referencing material on this website makes it excellent for students to explore on their own.


“Times HaikuBot.” Times Haiku. Web. 28 May 2013. <>.


The New York Times (NYT) HaikuBot is updated daily. A computer-programmed algorithm reads the NYT daily and creates haiku based on syllable count and lexicon dictionaries. It then produces haiku, which human staff journalists read and select to display on the Tumblr blog. This resource is great for a “quickie” lesson, Do Now or Exit Ticket. The haiku are often poignant and often accessible to any level reader. Students joy in interpreting and finding multiple interpretations can spur on interest in the unit.






1.3 Reading Literature

Students read and respond to works of literature—with an emphasis on comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, and making connections among ideas and between texts with a focus on contextual evidence.



Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it, and manipulate time create an effect.



Analyze how words and phrases shape meaning and tone in texts.



Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment.



Analyze how an author draws on and transforms themes, topics, character types, and/or other text elements from source material in a specific work.



Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade-level reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies and tools.



Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.




Appendix A


List of 20 poems suggested for use in Teacher-Guided Poetry Reading. The list is sorted alphabetically by poet’s name. All poems referenced in this unit are easily and freely available for public use via a Google Internet search. See the Resources for Teachers section for other specific websites of note.


  1. Margaret Atwood, “You Fit into Me”
  2. Emily Dickinson, “I dwell in Possibility”
  3. S. Flint, “Houses”
  4. Hafiz, “Happy Virus”
  5. HD, “Oread”
  6. HD, “Sea Poppies”
  7. HD, “Sea Rose”
  8. Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”
  9. Amy Lowell, “A Fixed Idea”
  10. Amy Lowell, “ A Gift”
  11. Ezra Pound, “The Encounter”
  12. Ezra Pound, “In a Station at the Metro”
  13. Thomas Thorton, “On Wiesel’s ‘Night’”
  14. Kaneko Tota, “After a Heated Argument”
  15. Walt Whitman, Canto I, Song of Myself
  16. Flossie Williams, “Response”
  17. William Carlos Williams, “Between Walls”
  18. William Carlos Williams, “The Red Wheelbarrow”
  19. William Carlos Williams, “This is Just to Say”
  20. William Carlos Williams, “Young Woman at a Window” (Version 1 and 2)



Appendix B


Pictorial Examples of BookSpine Poetry


Fig. 1 Example of BookSpine Poetry by Abby Kilpack Roberts



Fig. 2 – Example of BookSpine Poem by Kjersti Ertmann



1) What is Poetry? Class Discussion


2) Quick Review of Terms


3) Introduction to Socratic Discussion Method (SDM)


4) Practice Poem: “Fog” by Carl Sandberg

1) SDM Practice Poem: “Sea Rose”


2) Genesis Activity: BookSpine Poetry


3) Student Salon Shareout (Teach Snapping)

SDM Readings


a) Emily Dickinson’s “I dwell in Possibility”




b) Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself : Canto One

SDM Readings


a) William Carlos Williams’ “Young Woman at a Window” Version 1 and 2


b) “The Day that Lady Died” by Frank O’Hara

1) SDM Readings – pull random haiku from NYT HaikuBot – as a class discussion 4 or 5


2) Dadaist Poetry


3) Student Salon Shareout

SDM Practice:


a) Thomas Thorton, “On Wiesel’s Night”


b) Emma Lazarus, “A New Colossus”


c) William Carlos Williams, “Between Walls”


d) William Carlos Williams, “This is Just to Say”


SDM Practice


a) Ezra Pound, “The Station at the Metro”


b) Amy Lowell, “A Fixed Idea”


c) TuPac “The Rose that Grew from Concrete”


d) TuPac “In the event of my Demise”

1) Pop Quiz. Provide students with haiku or other brief poem and ask them to analyze in brief paragraph. A great poem to use is “After a Heated Argument” by Kaneko  Tota. This brief assessment will help inform the short comings of students fluency at the midpoint of the unit.


2) SDM Practice: Haiku Bot

1) What is Sound Poetry?


2) Listening for Sound: Van Morrision, “Louie, Louie”, Nate Dogg



3) Two Verisions of Chain Gang: Sam Cooke and Tracie Morris


4) Def Poetry: Daniel Beaty “Knock Knock”

SDM Practice:


a) Shel Silverstein, “Sarah Sylvia Cynthia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out”


b) Shel Silverstein, “Ickle Me Pickle Me Tickle Me Too”


c) Charles Harper Webb, “The Death of Santa Claus”



SDM Practice:


a) Theodore Rothke, “My Papa’s Waltz”


b) Elton Glasser, “Smoking”


c) Cid Corman, “It isn’t for want”


SDM Practice:


a) Langston Hughes, “From Mother to Son”


b) Edna St. Vincent Millay, “An Ancient Gesture”


c) Amy Lowell, “A Decade”


d) William Wordsworth, “The World is Too Muich With Us”

Create a Poetry Notebook


1) Students register for account and


2) Explore the site and enjoy!

Poetry Unit Final Exam – Provide students with a packet of ten poems. They must select and provide a solid analysis of five.