The End of the Year As We Know It

A couple of weeks ago, I shared some of the activities that I’ve done in the past with my students as the school year comes to a close. I decided to put them in this Wakelet so you don’t have to search for them. On Twitter, Susan Barber (@SusanGbarber) shared a fabulous activity she did with her high school seniors, and I asked for her permission to share. (My post, Blackout Poetry Maker, has been one of the most popular ones this year, so I thought this might be something my readers would enjoy!)

Of course, once people saw her examples, they wanted to know more about the project. It turned out the students had several choices in addition to the blackout poetry of college essays. She later tweeted this Google Slides presentation so people could see the options and examples. As you know, I am a big fan of choice and open-ended activities that allow students to show their creativity, so I am a big fan of Susan’s idea, and I hope you can use it, too!

option from “The End of the Year as We Know It” activity by @SusanGBarber

LatiNext Poetry Project

April is National Poetry Month in the United States, and it is not too late to celebrate! You may remember when I posted about the Teach Living Poets site way back in January right after being blown away by Amanda Gorman’s recitation of the poem she wrote for the Inauguration. Scott Bayer (@LyricalSwordz), who contributes to the Teach Living Poets site, tweeted out this amazing interactive Google Doc of poetry and accompanying lessons for Latinx poets featured in the publication, LatiNext, from Haymarket Books. Next to each of the eleven poets’ portraits, is a link to a detailed lesson plan, and a link to an interactive image made with Genially that provides even more resources. Kudos to Scott Bayer and Joel Garza (@JoelRGarza) for putting together this excellent compilation of meaningful activities submitted by participants in #TheBookChat. In addition, thanks to the @breakbeatpoets editors, @_joseolivarez @WilliePerdomo and @writeantiracist!

For more Poetry links, visit my Wakelet here. I also have Wakelets for learning about Amanda Gorman and Anti-Racism.

Spoken Word Poetry

With the excellent example of Amanda Gorman reciting her poem during this year’s Inauguration, I have a feeling there will be an uptick of interest in authoring and performing spoken word poetry. Of course, spoken word poetry has experienced waves of popularity over the years as you can read in this article from 2020, or see in this collection of videos from Edutopia in 2014. But, as Professor Kathleen M. Alley states, “When I heard Amanda Gorman recite her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at President Biden’s inauguration, I instantly decided to throw my plans for the week out the window. I hope teachers throughout the nation will similarly be willing to put their regular lesson plans aside in order to seize the opportunity to use the poetry of Gorman to engage with students who are not much younger in age.”

To begin a unit on spoken word poetry, a teacher might use one of Amanda Gorman’s videos, a selection from the Edutopia link above, or perhaps one from this list curated by Amanda Cardenas. You can find advice on writing spoken word poetry from Masterclass, writer Tonya Thompson, and educator Shannon Reed. Lesson plans include this one from Facing History and one from Remake Learning – both of which weave in social justice topics – or this one from Read Write Think that approaches it with a bilingual perspective.

In case you missed this one in Amy Erin Borovoy’s Edutopia article, the video below shows that spoken word poetry can be written and performed by students at any age level. While younger children may not have the polished presentation style of an Amanda Gorman, they make up for this with their enthusiastic gestures and unusual choices for topics!

I will be adding this post to my Wakelet of poetry resources – all available to you for National Poetry Month in April!

Kenyanshilling, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Language is a Virus

As we continue our week-long poetry theme, I want to introduce you to Language is a Virus. Though the site includes all types of writing, there are several poetry-related pages you may want to explore. One of them is the Visual Poetry tool. When you launch this, you can draw in the browser with your text. It reminds me of the TypeDrawing app my students used on the iPads long ago, which is sadly not available any longer. There are not as many variables you can change in the Visual Poetry tool, but can choose different colored backgrounds and text. For some reason, the “Save” button did not work for me. However, right-click and “Save As” did the trick; just be aware that your page will clear as soon as you save.

created with Visual Poetry

I learned about “Square Poems” from another interactive tool on the site. (Sorry, I didn’t have the bandwidth to create my own example.) I had no idea that Lewis Carroll was a mathematician as well as an author. Here is more about square poetry.

Along with the text manipulation interactives that you will find on Language is a Virus are some games. Letter Link Poetry looks like a fun challenge, and Electronic Poetry is like a digital version of magnetic poetry. Several of the games allow you to choose from an extensive group of word lists, which makes for endless amounts of creativity.

I will be adding this site to my Wakelet of poetry resources – all available to you for National Poetry Month in April!

AAPI Poetry

I generally do my weekly anti-racist posts on Fridays, but decided to change my routine this week due to recent events. Violence against Asians in the United States is on the rise, unfortunately. Although we do not have evidence, yet, that yesterday’s terrible murder of six Asian women in Atlanta was a hate crime, it is not an isolated incident. While I cannot stop hate, I can work on becoming less White-centric and more open to many cultures – and encourage others to do the same. I am sad to say that when I was in the classroom, I usually guided my students toward literature by White authors with whom I was mostly familiar. I would change that now. So, to continue my theme of poetry for this week, I would like to highlight AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) poetry today. I also want to remind you of a resource I mentioned awhile ago, Teach Living Poets, where you can find a diverse group of poets from many races and cultures.

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is in May in the United States, and has a page dedicated to this celebration. I think because I have a daughter in college I am particularly moved by, “For a Daughter Who Leaves,” by Janice Mirikitani – which voices the universal bittersweet feeling that mothers have as they watch their daughters become more independent.

Poetry Foundation also has a page devoted to AAPI poets. My sense of humor was tickled by one that I randomly chose by James Masao Mitsui, “New Lines for Fortune Cookies.” Another selection I happened upon was an ekphrastic poem by Victoria Chang, “Edward Hopper’s Office at Night.”

Lists of poetry are overwhelming to teachers who are new to the titles and authors, so these lesson plans from Advancing Justice – LA might be helpful. also has lessons for specific AAPI poems here. KQED has a lesson plan to accompany the video, Discovering Angel Island: The Story Behind the Poems about the imprisonment of Asians attempting to move to the United States in the early 1900’s.

I will be adding this post to my poetry Wakelet along with the others from this week. In addition, it will be added to my growing list of anti-racism resources. And, please remember, that we can only be anti-racist if we actively work to eliminate racism; silently witnesses are also complicit.

Photo by Charlotte May on

AI Generated Poetry

First of all, thanks for your patience as I disrupt my website with design experiments over the next week or so. I’m trying to see if I want to stick with WordPress hosting or migrate to another platform so pages and widgets may be jumping around or changing colors. Hopefully I won’t lose 10 years of blog posts in the process…

As I mentioned yesterday, I am devoting this week’s posts to poetry in preparation for National Poetry month in April. I am putting these posts, as well as other poetry resources, into this public Wakelet. Feel free to bookmark it or follow me on Wakelet if you are not quite ready to use them!

In today’s column, I want to investigate the idea of poetry generated using artificial intelligence – which some of us may not consider poetry. Here, as a matter of fact, is a link to an article that discusses that very question. The debate might be quite interesting to have in a secondary level class; as a hook, the teacher could display several poems and ask students to identify the ones generated by AI and the “real” ones.

The AI poetry generators out there fall into two camps: completely generated by a computer and fill-in-the-blanks. Today, I’m going to stick to the first type. Before you use any of them in class, be aware that the element of randomness means that something inappropriate may appear. For example, one of my favorite generators, Poetweet, creates poems from Twitter accounts. You don’t have to be a Twitter user to employ its craft – just type in anyone’s Twitter handle. Your students would probably want to use a famous person’s account. I tried Chrissy Teigen, who is quite prolific on Twitter, and immediately got a word I would not want to display on my projector screen at school. So, I went with my own account.

created with Poetweet

As you can see, it’s definitely not a poetic masterpiece – though fun to see what words and phrases the generator chooses.

Google has come out with a couple of poem generators in the last few years. One is, “Poem Portraits.” You “donate” a word to a crowd-sourced poem. Using machine training based on 19th century poetry, the algorithm generates a couple of lines to add to the large poem. As a bonus, you can have your “PoemPortrait” made with a picture of your contribution conforming to your face. (You don’t have to do this part – and I chose not to.) Below is my selfie-less portrait with my donated word, “splendid.”

created with Poem Portraits

I am more intrigued by another Google AI Experiment, Verse by Verse. There is more human interaction here, though it’s not technically a fill-in-the-blank poetry maker. You choose three poets who inspire you from a limited group of suggestions, and the type of poetry you would like to make. As you compose each verse, the AI offers suggested lines from your three poets. Here is my poem with my chosen subject, quarantine:

If you are trying to fool your students, you might want to try Poetry Ninja. I haven’t really figured out the difference between “Regular Poem” and “Mushy Poem” on this site, but when you click on the button to randomly generate (no input from you required), you might get something like this:

made with Poetry Ninja

Many students might immediately think that this is a “real” poem due to its length and obscure vocabulary. But once you point out phrase like, “god turkey” and “banana of my disintered shoulder” they may have second thoughts…

Lastly, there is the Bored Humans Poetry Generator. This is another one that demands no work from the user other than clicking on a button – and the output reflects this.

One thing I like about the Bored Humans site is that there is a link to an article by the programmer explaining how the generator came about. There are also many, many links to other Artificial Intelligence by Bored Humans, which I have not had the chance to investigate.

Of course, I have a Wakelet so students can learn more about Artificial Intelligence. Despite its not-quite-there-yet poetry, AI is obviously becoming stronger and more prevalent, so it’s a good topic to cover the advantages and disadvantages with students.