Art, Creative Thinking, K-12, Language Arts, Writing

Ekphrastic Poetry

I hope everyone had a great Pi Day yesterday! In case you want to do a celebration with your students a day or two late, here is my collection of Pi Day Resources. And, with St. Patrick’s Day coming up in a couple of days, feel free to peruse my recently updated group of links for that topic.

If you’re a plan-ahead kind of person, you might be glad to know that this week will be devoted to all things poetic in preparation for National Poetry Month in April. I’m in the process of gathering resources here. After Amanda Gorman’s inspiring recitation at the Inauguration in January, 2020, I have a feeling many more students will be motivated to pen some verses of their own.

Today I want to give you some ideas for using ekphrastic poetry in your classroom. If, like me, you have no idea what that is, don’t feel ashamed. I’m half a century old and just found out when I saw this Tweet for an Ekphrastic Poetry Contest in San Antonio, and looked up the word. You can read the detailed definition here, but it is basically poetry written in response to art. You can see some examples, pairing quotes from the poems with the artworks, in this collection from Google Arts and Culture. (I must admit that my favorite is #6, “Stealing The Scream.”)

If you want to read full poems accompanied by their visual art muses, this site has four examples. For a wonderful list of books of ekphrastic poetry, Dr. Patricia Stohr-Hunt has compiled this review.

Once you see models of this type of poetry, you may wonder how to go about encouraging your students to begin writing it. Here are a few lesson plans to help you:

Once your students finish their poetry, you may want to try something I did nine years ago – create an interactive bulletin board. Though the original assignment was for students to draw artwork to go with their poetry, you could easily turn this around. With even more tools available these days, such as Flipgrid and mobile devices that scan QR codes instantly with their cameras, this would be a breeze.

One more note: I derived the idea for that interactive bulletin board from a post on the Langwitches blog. I am sad to say that the incredible author of that blog, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano passed away at the beginning of March this year. Here is a tribute to this beautiful educator, eloquently written by Jon Mitzmacher (@Jon_Mitzmacher). So many of us owe a debt of gratitude for Silvia’s generosity and innovation. She will be deeply missed.

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