April: National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, so as you plan lessons for the coming month, consider incorporating poetry into your lessons.  For example, try pairing two short poems to make a mini-study of a concept, theme, structure, or perspective.  In the space of a class period, it’s possible to employ multiple reading strategies while enriching discussion and broadening perspectives.  With his Poetry Across the Curriculum idea, Brett Vogelsinger encourages students to compare two poems side by side to foster deep thinking and rich discussion—even in classes beyond English Language Arts.  Vogelsinger not only offers three lesson ideas but also shares a rationale for starting each day with a poem.  His ideas are designed for high school students, but with wisely selected, developmentally appropriate poems, the lessons can be adapted for any age group.

For other ideas on using poetry across the curriculum, check out science poems to supplement science lessons, and visit the Poetry Foundation to find concepts for exploring predator-prey relationships, the ecosystem, hibernation, the scientific method, constellations, astronomy, and deciduous trees.  To support math sense, check out this site, which implements poetry to support the Common Core for teaching number facts like adding to ten and adding double numbers for younger students, and reinforce geometry facts, fractions, and money math with older students.  

The Academy of American Poets has 30 unique ways of celebrating poetry. Visit their website, poets.org, to learn more about National Poetry Month and other educator resources about poetry. They have a Poem-A-Day section where today's talented poets publish a new poem every day.

One of my all-time favorite National Poetry Month activities is Poem in Your Pocket Day, which was initiated in April 2002 by the Office of the Mayor in New York City, in partnership with the city’s Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education. 

On April 18, 2019, the Academy of American Poets will sponsor Poem in Your Pocket Day.  If you carried a poem in your pocket, what would it be and why would you carry it?  In his book of concrete poems Blue Lipstick (Clarion, 2007), John Grandits features a pocket poem and considers the poem in your pocket practice "a good idea . . . in case of an emotional emergency," calling the poem, "a little snack for your soul."   Grandits even suggests that different days might call for different poems. 

>>Here's my entry as a model for the task: If I carried a poem in my pocket, I'd carry Taylor Mali's "What teachers make, or You can always go to law school if things don't work out" from What Writing Leaves (Hanover Press, 2002).  Mali dedicates the poem to "every teacher who has ever made a difference," and I love the brazen and bold attitude of the speaker, who talks back to someone's denigrating challenge: "What do you make?"  This poetic and inspirational tribute reminds me that teaching isn't a job and it isn't about the salary.  Teaching is about the transformational impact we choose to make in the lives of students.  With Mali’s poem in my pocket, I would have a powerful response to anyone who might criticize a teacher, especially those who are “waiting for superman.”  After hearing this poem, those critics would know that a cadre of super men and super women are already here fighting for the lives of students.

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