CONCEPT: Many students—and teachers–only encounter poetry as part of a language arts lesson or “poetry unit.” This activity gives your colleagues as well as the student body an opportunity to experience poetry as part of everyday life, as one more art, like music or dance. Encountering poetry in everyday life can change the notion that poetry is inaccessible or challenging. Teachers and students alike may begin to depend on poetry to provide a mini-respite from their everyday life, a small journey in the midst of their day.
In the Dodge offices, we have what we call “bathroom poems.” There is a continually changing display of poems inside our bathroom stalls. We also leave poems in the small kitchen where we make coffee and keep our lunches. Sometimes Dodge Poetry staff post a poem. But often it is staff from other departments who tape up their favorite poems. We enjoy trying to guess who posted each poem but some remain a mystery. We enjoy seeing the same poems for several days, and reading them over time. There’s a way that a poem resides with you when you read it multiple times and give it time to marinate in your mind. Just remember to choose short poems so that people can read the poem in its entirety.
Below are a few of the poems we’ve placed around the office in creative ways. See if you can guess where (or when) we placed the following poems:
Who Burns for the Perfection of Paper, by Martin Espada
A Short History of the Apple, by Dorianne Laux
The Painter of the Night, by James Tate
Could that envelope or small box on the outside of your door be kept filled with poems for anyone in the school population to share? Are there are other locations for poetry boxes in your school? The cafeteria? The main office? By the cot in the nurse’s office? Perhaps there are student volunteers who could help change the poems regularly. Remember that the poems should not be written by anyone from the school, or by any of their personal acquaintances. The poetry boxes should never invite personal attacks on the poems’ authors. You can use poems that you’ve discovered in your own reading or that students may encounter in the curriculum.
If you’d like, we can send you one or more of the Teachers Kits from the 2010, 2012 or 2014 Festivals. The Teachers Kits contain poems which we’ve selected from every poet who read at the Festival for that particular year. They are licensed only for educational use, and we can only distribute them to teachers. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a PDF.
Common Core Standards:
- Key Ideas and Details: RL.9-10.2, RL.11-12.2
- Craft and Structure: RL.9-10.4, RL.9-10.6, RL.11-12.4, RL.11-12.5, RL.11-12.6
- Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: RL.9-10.10, RL.11-12.10
Speaking and Listening
- Comprehension and Collaboration: SL.9-10.1, SL.11-12.1
- Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: L.9-10.4, L.9-10.5
- Knowledge of Language: L.11-12.3, L.11-12.5