“Don’t do it,” my English teacher colleague said. “They can’t handle poetry.”
I’ve been wanting to do a poetry unit with my first year English students for quite some time. As I’m sure most readers are aware, poetry is one of my biggest passions and I wanted to share it with them. This is despite the fact that the average age in the group is sixteen and they could very well be bored to tears, as my colleague assured me they would be.
On the contrary, a lot of them really seemed to get into it, and it think it’s because of my enthusiasm for poetry. It really rubbed off on them. The same thing can be said about most subjects; if you’re exited about it then they’ll get exited about it, no matter what it is. And I made my students exited about poetry.
I introduced the subject by showing them a few of my own pieces, and had them try writing their own. I showed them how to write a haiku and had them give it a go. Some of them chose to write longer pieces too, which of course pleases me immensely. There was one boy who kept writing more and more pieces. He’d write one and turn it in, and then a few minutes later he’d bring up another one. He said it was hard to stop once he got going and I said that writing poetry is sometimes like that, almost like a drug.
They are now working on an assignment that entails choosing an well-known English or American poet and writing some brief details about his or her background. They are then to read one of their chosen poet’s pieces to the class. They’ve chosen Shakespeare, T.S.Elliot, Frost, Gwendolyn Brooks, Byron, Keats, Whitman, Oscar Wilde, etc, etc., some of the most brilliant human beings ever to walk the planet.
Maybe some of them were bored to tears, but I’m still glad I did this lesson. If by doing so I have kindled the poetic flame in one or two of them, then that’s absolutely wonderful.