I’m happy to host Betsy Hubbard today with some of her thoughts about poetry.
During one of my first memorable experiences with poetry I was asked to memorize a poem of my own choosing. MY CHOICE? What poems did I even know…I knew no poets. I went home anxious. When I told my mom she went to the bookshelf and we sat on the couch with a book of Robert Frost poems. There began a love for poetry. I chose The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost. I remember the poems vivid images as I read it for the first time. I was inside each of his words. I was facing the choice of two equally laid roads. That feeling still exists every time I replay his stanzas in my head.
As a teacher of kindergarten students I have read poems and songs countless times. However, expressing my love of poetry and talking about meaning…well, kindergartners just wouldn’t understand, right? Two years ago I began to take a different road. I had started writing poetry for myself, exploring my inner poet. My love was rekindled to that moment when I connected to Robert Frost’s words. I thought poetry was a lost road less traveled, when in fact it was right in front of me. When I gave the opportunity for students to really dissect poetry and write their own, all of our eyes opened up to a new world; a journey toward beautiful words.
I worry about the myth that poetry no longer needs to have a life in the classroom. I believe it is still there even if our intentions ignore its presence. Poetry exists in our hearts. Poetry is often seen as a separate road, a “road not taken,” but I challenge this because as learners, teachers and people we think in poems that are not recognized. When your eyes gaze upon a morning sunrise, the twinkle in your squint is poetry. As you smell a spring flower on a cool April morning that is the scent of poetry. When you notice your life and all you are grateful for you are writing poetry. When we reach our darkest moments and turn our thoughts to that most pure emotion, our tears flow. That is poetry.
Many beautiful poets have shared messages of hope, sadness, and nature’s mysteries. Poems exist in the dusty shelf pile of books in your basement. Words wait in your neglected library of poetry anthologies. Poetry sleeps inside the latest greeting card shoved in that pile on your kitchen table. Poems breathe in every part of our lives and beg to be read. How will children gain the appreciation of poems if they are not shown the song lyrics from that Beatles song you love? When will you pull out that favorite poem from high school and share it with your students? How will they know and grow a love for poetry if we keep it boxed up?
Carve a moment where words can last and linger. Place a poem on the projector or document camera for students to read as they transition into your classroom; turn and talk for a moment. Chart a poem for your little cherubs; share the story of those words for a moment. Start your day reading a poem–for just a moment–notice what it brings to your heart and the hearts of your students.
So when you come to “two roads diverged” and you must choose remind yourself that poetry is everywhere. It won’t matter which road you choose because poems will find you. The words live once you let them dance inside of you. Lay your heart on a line of poetry and encourage your students to do the same. Sharing poetry will give you a lens into your students that you cannot get anywhere else. Put it on and look through to that mystery which is “the road not taken,” the soul of the poet.
Poetry Resources for YOUR Classroom
For High School Teachers:
A great resource is Poetry Out Loud. You can listen to poems, find poems, get lesson plans and even find guidelines for a poetry competition for 9-12 grade.
For Middle Grade Teachers:
If you want to dig in deeper to poetry with your students here is a great resource. Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades, 20 Poems and Activities That Meet the Common Core Standards and Cultivate a Passion for Poetry. It includes poems and lessons to peel apart the layers in which poetry is wrapped.
For Elementary School Teachers:
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater of The Poem Farm is not only good for all those who love reading poetry but a wonderful resource for teachers as well. Amy features original poems, highlights student poets and includes weekly lessons on reading and writing poetry.
Betsy Hubbard is a kindergarten and first grade teacher in the little town of Olivet, Michigan. She is a poetry advocate and hopes more educators will share their poetry appreciation with their students. Betsy is the creator of Chalk-A-Bration, a monthly celebration of poetry and poem illustrations using chalk. She can be found at I Think in Poems, Teaching Young Writers and on twitter @Betsy_writes.