April is National Poetry month and oh dear readers have I got a web resource for you! (Full kudos to Katrina for the heads up on this web site). The Academy of American Poets has a fantastic web site dedicated to unfurling the world of poetry for inquisitive minds. I’m going to give you a quick run down of the web site and then link you to some Latino/a resources within this. As a learning tool, poetry offers children/young adults/everyone the chance to explore meaning and nuance behind language. Poetry artistically paints a different picture for each of us; poems are both familiar and distant, linear and disjointed, soothing and shocking. Poems offer us a new lens through which to view our ever changing and expanding experience.
- The Academy of American Poets has a comprehensive web site dedicated to the art and people of poetry. The web site offers everything from information on poetry and poets, to audio files, event listings, a poetry newsletter and more. Additionally, you can browse poems by theme or by poet, a wonderful way to increase your knowledge.
- The Dear Poet Project for National Poetry Month, “celebrat[es] the role that correspondence has played in poets’ development and writing lives. In the spirit of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, in which Rilke replies to letters from a young military cadet and aspiring poet asking for his advice, we are inviting students to engage with poetry by handwriting letters to some of the poets who serve on the Academy’s Board of Chancellors” (Poet Project web site). It suggests reading some poems and then composing a 1 or 2 page hand written letter to the poet describing your experience with their poem (remember when people used to hand write things? We should do that more, there is something romantic and meaningful in the action of putting pen to paper). (Sidebar: gold stars to those of you who first thought of Sister Act 2 when you read the words, “Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet“). The lesson plan for this unit, grades 7-10, can be found here. I suggest using these two poems in your classroom written by Latino Americans: Latin and Soul by Victor Hernández Cruz and You & I Belong in This Kitchen from a Vamos a Leer favorite, Juan Felipe Herrera.
Engage your students to feel the poems as they read them; engage them to imagine the words and meanings that float off the page as you read them poetry; engage them to interpret the poem’s meaning as it is to them; engage them to experience their senses while reading and responding to poetry. If you have suggestions of how you have used poetry effectively in your classroom, we strongly encourage you to post it in the comments section below! Happy Poem-ing.