Tag Archives: Poetry

Celebrate Poetry Month All Year Long With These Resources


We need poetry. We really do. Let's face it. Poetry promotes literacy, builds community, and fosters emotional resilience. It can cross boundaries that little else can. Poetry is an essential part of language and expression. Reading and writing poetry can support and extend young children's language and literacy development. Poetry can connect students to one another and the world around them. Whether you are looking to use poetry to teach the essential tools of writing, or if you want to learn how to use this powerful genre to spark student engagement, or you just need to help your students prepare for the CCSS, our authors can help guide you on your path, Heinemann has books and resources that can help you.

Save 30% off the list price of these poetry books and resources during the month of April and help your students get to the heart of what reading and writing poetry is all about every day. Use coupon code POET15.

Naming the World: A Year of Poems and Lessons
by Nancie Atwell

Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School
by Georgia Heard

For the Good of the Earth and Sun: Teaching Poetry
by Georgia Heard

Climb Inside a Poem: Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year
by Georgia Heard and Lester Laminack

Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades (eBook)
by Paul Janeczko

Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades CCSS Exemplar Poems and Lessons (eBook)
by Paul Janeczko

Outspoken! How to Improve Writing and Speaking Skills Through Poetry Performance
by Michael Salinger and Sara Holbrook

Practical Poetry: A Nonstandard Approach to Meeting Content-Area Standards
by Sara Holbrook

Explore Poetry
by Donald Graves

The Heinemann Fellows: Amy Greenbaum Clark On Teaching Poetry

Amy Greenbaum Clark is a Heinemann Fellow with the 2014–2016 class, and has been an educator for 15 years. In today's post, Amy recalls writing her first poems and how they shaped her approach to other forms of writing.

by Amy Greenbaum Clark

Presented with the opportunity to conduct action research in my classroom as a Heinemann Fellow, I knew immediately where my heart would lead me. Poetry has been my passion since junior high when I started writing poems. They were poems of seventh-grade melodrama and an angsty twelve-year-old’s desire to be independent—and not very good. It didn’t matter.

I wrote poems. No one had to tell me I could. I had read poetry for as long as I could remember. I also equated song lyrics with poetry. Certain songs felt to me as if the songwriter had lived my experience, peeked inside my heart and stolen its secrets. I wanted to create a similar kind of “music.”

I felt relief when the words were no longer within. I was sharing myself in a form that invited me in, that didn’t restrict or tell me I was wrong. It was a liberating and very personal playground. I reveled in this quiet space, respected the art of it, and worked diligently to improve my craft. During my senior year my twentieth-century-literature teacher discovered that I liked to write poetry and asked to read my work. Turning my notebook over to her was terrifying but at the same time freeing. She didn’t edit the poems I’d written but talked with me about them and about the craft of writing. Suddenly I was writing more—and striving to write better. Not just better poems, but better essays as well.

I am a high school teacher now, and poetry has become a critical part of my practice, a core from which everything else emanates. Recently, I’ve had the magnificent opportunity to teach the same group of students over a period of years, thus witnessing a growth in their writing I’d not been able to see during just one year with them. I taught these students the required English courses but also designed a poetry elective for those who were interested. What I found was that my students learned to appreciate the free space that poetry offered and soon became more eager to write in all forms.

Writing is subjective: We can’t ignore the ethos of teaching poetry—as if the various forms of writing don’t inform one another!

I began to wonder. Why do so many of us hesitate to teach poetry? Why do we question the validity of asking students to work in this form simply because it often feels too subjective to evaluate? How might the study and composition of poetry affect student writing in all genres? How might I implement a curriculum that meets mandates without ignoring the importance of poetry?

Writing is subjective: We can’t ignore the ethos of teaching poetry—as if the various forms of writing don’t inform one another!

Sure, most of my students won’t become professional poets. But what if exploring the freedom and sparseness offered by the form provides the means to better understand writing well in any mode?

I am therefore seeking to discover how the study and composition of poetry impacts student writing in other forms, particularly the academic essay. I’ll investigate focus, movement, word choice/diction, imagery, evidence, sentence structure/variety, and using the form itself to create meaning. I believe that in the process these writers will develop a clear and unique voice.

I’m excited to discover more about teaching writing and eager to understand more deeply the role poetry can play in simply teaching writing well.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Amy Greenbaum Clark is an English teacher at Christ Episcopal School in Covington, LA. Her action research focuses on the ways study and composition of poetry impact other modes of student writing, particularly narrative and scholarly essay writing.

Please visit the Heinemann Fellows page to learn more.

Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades: CCSS Exemplar Poems and Lessons

Paul B. Janeczko’s newest eBook Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades: CCSS Exemplar Poems and Lessons is available now. An electronic companion to 2011’s Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades, this new eBook contains more lessons for five exemplar poems listed in the CCSS for grades 5–9—Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!”; Emily Dickinson’s “The Railway Train”; William Butler Yeats’ “The Song of the Wandering Aengus”; Langston Hughes’ “I, Too, Sing America”; and William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 73.”

Today’s blog post is from the introduction to Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades: CCSS Exemplar Poems and Lessons.

Introduction by Paul B. Janeczko

When I read a poem for the first time—be it exemplar or not—I let myself think of it as a person I am meeting for the first time. The poetry meeting might be awkward or even difficult. On the other hand, it could be that the poem and I will hit it off, and our relationship will grow and satisfy. It’s that same open-mindedness that I always encourage in my students, be they fourth graders or grad students. I ask the same of all of them: meet the poem honestly, and give it a chance to touch you. Perhaps the poem will cause you to chuckle. Or, it could take your breath away with its sadness or its joy. On occasion, the poem may leave you cold. You don’t connect with it. That happens, but it should cause you to turn away from poetry no more than an encounter with an unpleasant or bland person should cause you to avoid people.

If you do engage with the poem, a rich and deep relationship can form. A poem is all about the relationship between its language and the reader. As you examine a poem, as you consider its language and structure and meaning, you may enjoy the riches that lie below the surface. Let there be no misunderstanding: I am not talking about examin­ing a poem the way a marine biologist examines a dead fish. A good poem is alive, and we can keep it alive by making it a part of our lives. As readers (and teachers), we must ensure that poetry stays alive for us and for our students.

The point of reading a poem is to experience it.

At the same time, I am not a believer of the Oh-it’s-a-poem-so-anything-we-say-about-it-is-OK school of thought. Nor do I encourage students to speculate about what the poet “meant” in the poem. Unless we have a written account of the poet’s comments on a poem, we will never know what the poet “meant” in his or her work. That sort of speculation is not the point of reading a poem. The point of reading a poem is to experi­ence it. And that doesn’t mean a once-and-done reading, although we will encounter poems that we feel deserve no further exploration. More often than not, further explora­tion of a poem can deepen our experience.

In fact, I wrote Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades to offer a map for teachers who wanted a path to help them and their students further explore a poem. For each lesson I chose a poem that I thought offered a rich opportunity for the middle school language arts class. Some of the poems rhyme; others do not. Some follow a pattern; others are free verse. I included a few “classic” poems, but most were written by contemporary poets. Taken together, the poems offer a comprehensive study of the basic elements of poetry, including image, word choice, line breaks, figures of speech, and theme.♦

Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades: CCSS Exemplar Poems and Lessons is available as an eBook here: http://www.heinemann.com/products/EBK05756.aspx. There you can read the poems featured in the book and download its companion resources.