How, as teachers, can we help students to better enjoy poetry and find their passions/muses? I've heard diverse opinions about this, but there seems to be a sad dearth of actual concrete ideas to employ in the classroom. Some that have been suggested include starting a "coffeehouse," where students read open-mic style while consuming treats and beverages. What do you use to get kids intrigued and/or involved in poetry?
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Some universities have a sort of speaker's corner, where people sometimes get up and read their own works (or generally rant about anything on their mind). I taught a Duke TIP Creative Writing course for 13- and 14-year-olds at the University of Kansas a few summers ago, and these young writers really enjoyed getting up on a pedestal and reading their poems aloud. Maybe something like that could be recreated on your school campus or perhaps even in the classroom.
This is a difficult assignment. I choose poetry that contains subject matter and themes that students can relate to on many different levels, through experiences they have had or feelings they have experienced, etc. I also begin with "simpler" poetry that is easier to understand. If one begins with more complex, abstract poetry, students get lost easily.
One exercise that worked very well for me recently was in my British Literature I class. They read "The Shepherd to his Love..." and "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd." After we had discussed the poems and the students were clear about the themes and other literary elements, I asked the students to write a reply in poem form from the Shepherd to the Nymph; they had to use the same form and rhyme scheme and number of lines, however. They could respond in whatever way they chose, whether it was using anger, love, contempt, resentment, etc. The students LOVED this exercise and really got into it. Most of them wanted to read their original poems aloud, which was a great experience.
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