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POETRY across the curriculum, and across town…

April 5th, 2012

Strands Post #2 – April 2012

Hopefully, many of you were able to see the TRC suggestion list of titles and authors that was distributed via your Teacher Librarian or LRA. If not, here they are for elementary and secondary.

In that correspondence, I had made mention of a research summary document by Dr. Janette Hughes of the Faculty of Education at UOIT in Oshawa. I found this document very interesting, and a couple sections really resonated with me. Dr. Hughes highlights the advantage of using poetry as a content light approach to using digital media. The students can devote time and effort into utilizing the sound, image, and text features of the software, when the amount of text they are required to create is shorter and less structured than traditional paragraphs for narration. Check out her recommendations for trying Digital Poetry Performance as an evaluation format that utilizes technologies many students hold in their hands everyday.

Another section discussed reluctance to use poetry. Dr. Hughes states, “Much has been written about the problems associated with teaching poetry….More than other genres, poetry seems to elicit the most groans from students. Often language arts teachers report feeling uncomfortable teaching poetry, either because they aren’t sure how to teach it effectively (owing to lack of pedagogical role models), or because they find it elusive themselves.

I agree with Dr. Hughes that discomfort with the medium on an instructor level can lead to avoidance. Opportunity lost! Poetry can be a great ice breaker, and a springboard for discussion regardless if you have a degree in Literature or not, or whether you teach Algebra, Social Studies, or English. It allows the student with a flair for language a chance to shine in math class for a change, it can encapsulate concrete concepts for an abstract thinker, and by seeing you incorporating it into your class, it role models for students that it really is ok to be a person who likes sports AND literature. And you don’t have to do a Poetry UNIT for it to count, just sprinkle it into your daily lesson.



Here are some great resources – that we just happen to have here at the TRC- that include content that can help incorporate poetry into Language Arts as well as into some other subject areas.

For laughing out loud: poems to tickle your funnybone / edited by Jack Prelutsky

One section of the book includes poems entitled, Nuts to you and Nuts to me, Oodles of Noodles, Forty Performing Bananas, and Bananananananana. What a great way to springboard or augment a lesson or unit about nutrition or the food groups.


Click rumble roar graphic
Click, Rumble, Roar: poems about machines / selected by Lee Bennet Hopkins

Garbage Truck – March Ridlon

Hungry Monster, you grumble, wheeze,
never seem full.
You stop everywhere to graze
and go off again
in search of more
for your keepers
to shove between
your greedy jaws.
Do you digest
when you rest?

I can see this simple yet poignant poem being a conversation starter about the disconnect between consumption and waste; applicable anywhere from grades 3 to 12! Another option for use is to include responding to the poem – or another one you like – as a bonus question opportunity on a test in any subject discussing sustainability at the Intermediate or Secondary level. At the Elementary level, the Community units of the Canada & World Connections strands in Grades, 1, 2 and 3 Social Studies could all incorporate this poem into their content.

I found this cute poem in a collection of poetry here at the TRC called: Poems for Brothers, Poems for Sisters.

Skating in the wind / Kristine O’Connell George
I crouched.
My brother Bill shoved hard.
I held up my jacket;
the wind caught it, shaped it taut like a sail.

The wind slammed into my back.

My skates clattered.
like butter in a hot skillet.

Mouth dry,
the wind roared in my ears.

Bill said I was almost flying
Until that fence.

At the beginning of a term, this poem could be an opportunity to have students respond to you about activities they do and do not enjoy doing in Phys.Ed class and the reasons behind their like or dislike. Maybe they have a great passion for an activity that they would be willing to share and provide them with an opportunity for leadership, or maybe the poem evokes memories a student may have – good or bad ! – about an activity. Perhaps more importantly, it may open up communication about potential reluctance to participate, and allow you to engage with that student about ways of overcoming anxiety or fear of certain physical activities.


Local Resources

Representing local writers and educators, Terry Ann Carter, an Ottawa based teacher and Haiku poet,
is the author of Lighting the global lantern : a teacher’s guide to writing haiku and related literary forms.
This work is available to TRC users through the Queen’s Education Library collection.

Another way to engage your students in writing poetry is to get involved with
In Your Own Words: the City of Kingston Poetry Project.
Online poetry submissions in Haiku, couplet, free verse and Twitter form can be made to the website, and are reviewed and selected by Kingston’s inaugural Poet Laureate Eric Folsom.

( I wonder, is there such a thing as a Haiku Tweet ?? )

Mulitmedia Resources
Learn 360 has a 4 minute piece by National Geographic entitled Poetry Slam, that will give students an introduction to Spoken Word performance. For our younger learners, a character series by TVO called the League of Supercitizens has a 3 minute piece called Poetry Jam.
A great example of cross-curricular applications is a 6 minute piece Sandburg’s Arithmetic, where the author himself reads aloud his poem set to music and visually stimulating moving imagery.

If you are not set up with Learn 360, or would like some support with its use, please contact the TRC and we will be happy to get you started !


I hope this blog entry starts you thinking, or furthers an already held conviction, about the many ways poetry can be incorporated into your grade or subject area. Even more importantly, I hope it encourages those who haven’t used poetry as a teaching medium before, to give it a try.

Please feel free to post your responses or suggestions!