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10 Awesome Reasons To Teach Poetry

Learn about these 10 reasons to teach poetry to middle and high school students.

Do you need some reasons to teach poetry? Do you find yourself searching for compelling reasons to integrate poetry into your teaching curriculum? Amanda from Mud and Ink Teaching and Kristy from 2 Peas and a Dog have teamed up to share our top 10 reasons to teach poetry. 

In this comprehensive discussion, we will discuss the benefits and impactful strategies that shed light upon the significance of poetry in educational settings. You will gather some great teaching suggestions and reasons to teach poetry that will hopefully help convince you to add poetry to your lessons. 

10 Reasons To Teach Poetry

Inquiry (Amanda)

Poetry gives us an opportunity to teach inquiry. Inquiry-based learning doesn’t immediately feel like it should be connected to poetry, but let me assure you – poetry and inquiry are great friends! When teaching through an inquiry lens, my units shift their focus from a novel-centered approach to a question-centered approach (and I have 96 Free EQs to inspire your creativity right here!).  

So, for instance, if we are studying the Essential Question: To what extent is the American Dream more likely to inspire or destroy?  I’m counting on a bunch of varied texts to help my students discover their answers to the question. Poems help add texture, dimension, and fresh perspective to inquiry-driven units.

Analytical Skills (Kristy)

You know when you solve a puzzle or a secret code? That’s what poetry’s like! It’s all about digging into the hidden meanings, finding themes, and spotting symbols. Teaching poetry helps kids work their brain muscles, giving them time to practice thinking deeper and analyzing content. This skill extends beyond poetry–students can transfer these skills to other texts and real-world situations through enhanced critical thinking. Students can practice both these skills with this Poetry Digital Escape Room.

Diversity (Amanda)

Poetry allows us to explore more diverse voices. In a frustrating turn of events, more and more ELA teachers are finding themselves being asked to follow curriculum scripts and major text mandates. And in many cases, this ends up limiting the opportunity to expose students to more voices, more perspectives, and underrepresented authors.  

Here’s where poetry saves the day: poetry is short and contains a massive variety of voices, so it’s simple to pair poetry with mandated text to create those opportunities that may have been missed by sticking to the script.  

Read 6 Ways To Diversify Your Poetry Curriculum.

Imagination (Kristy) 

One of the most beneficial reasons to teach poetry is activating imagination. Reading and writing poems lets students unleash their imagination, creating pictures with words. Poetry’s vivid imagery, metaphorical language, and creative expression shows students that poetry contains many variations. They learn they might like one form of poetry over the other. When students engage with the poem “Ode To Our Ocean” by Amanda Gorman, they can use their imagination to understand the powerful words and images that come to mind. Students will watch the poetry performed alongside visuals and music and see how poetry can be relevant in the modern world.

Argument (Amanda)

Poetry gives us the chance to teach argument in a unique way. Poems explore the deepest parts of the human experience, and, inherently, are making an argument for the way the world is. At the end of nearly every poem is an opportunity to ask:  what was the speaker’s claim? What does the author claim to be true about the human experience? The Big Six is the framework that I use with my students to analyze poetry and help them break down the pieces at work to construct that argument. It’s a framework that invites open discussion about poetry and doesn’t stifle creativity or imagination.  

Literacy Skills (Kristy)

Poetry helps students build their literacy skills such as close reading, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and grammar, and encourages a deeper appreciation for the English language. These are all transferable skills that students can use in other areas of the ELA curriculum or other school subjects. Check out this blog post, Fresh Ideas For Teaching Poetry, for more ideas and reasons to teach poetry.  

Social-Emotional Learning (Amanda)

Poetry supports social-emotional learning. Poetry’s natural instinct is to be emotive and this provides us with ample opportunities to connect to social-emotional learning. Through both the reading and the writing of poetry, students learn how to interpret as well as well as how to express emotion. I especially like to do this at transition points during the year as a reset to our classroom culture. Shane Koyczan’s poem “How to Be a Person” is my go-to lesson plan for this exact circumstance!

Critical Thinking (Kristy)

Poetry is a great way to practice critical thinking. It asks students to dissect and interpret verses, helping them establish a habit of questioning, evaluating evidence, and forming opinions. If you need more reasons to teach poetry, know that encouraging students to explore multiple perspectives within poems cultivates decision-making and problem-solving skills. Check out Teaching Poetry to Middle School Students to learn how Sara Cuzzo from The Red-Haired Reader makes poetry more accessible to middle school students.

Tactile Learning (Amanda)

Poetry provides opportunities for hands-on learning. One of my favorite ELA and Makerspace experiences is when poetry is involved. In Episode 129 of the Brave New Teaching podcast, I discuss how to create a tone bottle. Tone bottles are created by students to reflect the tone of a piece of text by using food coloring, water beads, glitter, and more fun add-ons. Poetry and makerspace gives students the hands-on experience of physically creating representations of ideas that can be hard to grasp in the abstract. 

Community Building (Kristy)

When students write poems and share their work, this helps build a sense of belonging among classmates. A great way for students to share their work is a gallery walk or a coffee shop format. As they express their thoughts through poetry, it creates a shared experience, bringing about empathy and understanding. These types of activities help to build a cohesive classroom community. Need more convincing reasons to teach poetry? Read the blog post, 4 Awesome Reasons To Teach Poetry

If you’re looking for reasons to teach poetry, remember that it offers an array of invaluable advantages, from helping students develop and enhance their critical thinking and literacy skills to nurturing diverse voices and building a vibrant classroom community. With these compelling reasons in mind, embracing poetry becomes not just a pedagogical choice but a transformative journey toward enriched learning experiences. For more inspiration and reasons to teach poetry, explore our blogs and resources that are linked below.

About The Authors

A high school English teacher of every level from ESL to AP Language, Amanda has made it her life’s work to encourage students and teachers to join her on an adventurous teaching and learning journey. Amanda is a full-time teacher author after spending thirteen years in the classroom. She writes curriculum for the high school level, coaches teachers 1:1, and travels with her family whenever possible. Amanda’s obsessed with poetry, argumentation, and showing students the power of taking chances in their writing.

Amanda is the author of Mud and Ink Teaching and a collaborative blogger on Teachwriting.org. She is also the co-host of the podcast Brave New Teaching. Visit Amanda on Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube for English teacher inspiration and powerful community.

Kristy has taught ELA and other subjects to middle school students for over 17 years in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario, Canada. She is guilty of always having a book in her hand – even at the dinner table! She shares teaching content on her website, 2 Peas and a Dog, and sells middle school education resources on Teachers Pay Teachers and Shopify. Visit Kristy on Instagram, in her Facebook Group, or on YouTube.

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