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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.”
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:
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.
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:
- Using Art to Inspire Poetry from Read, Write, Think
- Writing Poems about Art: A Looking Activity from Art 21 Magazine
- Ekphrastic Poetry Lesson from Smithsonian Learning Lab
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.
Back in 2015, I found out about CommonLit from Richard Byrne and pointed people to his post to learn more about this free resource for teachers. Since then, CommonLit has added a Guided Reading feature that can really be helpful for differentiation in your classroom, Book Pairings, and probably a few other tools that I haven’t mentioned – yet it has continued to be free. This is huge in the world of EdTech, where teachers often find ourselves priced out of “free” programs.
Since it is National Poetry Month, I thought I would remind you of CommonLit, which does have quite a few poetry offerings. Once you log in and go to the library page, you can see some of the featured poems selected by the staff for this month. You can also go to the “Browse all Text Sets” page in order to search for particular genres, themes, grade levels (3rd grade and up), and lexiles.
I love looking at the Book Pairings, which offer supplemental short texts to accompany novels. For example, my 5th graders read The Giver, and CommonLit links to 4 poems that nicely fit with the themes of the book (along with some news articles and informational texts as well). The search page helpfully identifies the genre of each link, its lexile level, and grade level. CommonLit even gives you advice on which point in the novel would be a good time to add the paired text.
CommonLit offers a Teacher Dashboard so that you can assign passages within the site. There are also short assessments and suggested discussion questions for each assignment.
Because CommonLit is a nonprofit organization, it promises that its resources will always be free for teachers. Take advantage of this site to encourage deeper reading, discussion, and connections.