Teachers Explore Poetry and the Common Core

Earlier this month, 15 teachers and New Visions staff members came together at the Academy of American Poets for the first of a series of three meetups on poetry and the Common Core.

The Academy of American Poets, an eighty-year old literary nonprofit that supports American poets and fosters an appreciation for contemporary poetry, partnered with New Visions to explore the value of poetry as an art form that can inform deeper learning across the curriculum.

Educators often think of Common Core Standards primarily in terms of informational (nonfiction) texts.  Engaging with poetry through close reading, however, provides students with an opportunity to practice and explore a number of the Common Core College and Career Readiness Reading Anchor (CCRA) Standards: make inferences based on texts and cite textual evidence to draw conclusions (CCRA 1); analyze how word choices shape the meaning of texts (CCRA 4); and analyze the structure of texts (CCRA 5).

At each meetup, a poet shares his or her work and a small group of high school English and social studies teachers have the opportunity to explore selected poems and discuss how they would approach these poems with students. Each of the three sessions has a different theme, based on key concepts typically taught in high school English classes. New Visions staff worked with the Academy of American Poets to select a poet to feature at each meetup, based on the themes present in their poetry. The theme of the first meetup was “Identity.

The meetup began with Brooklyn-based poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths sharing from her poem, Self Portrait/This Dust Road” A snippet of the poem reads:

My spine is an orchid
& through my flesh

a clean line pushes

through the full mouth & wild mind

This road tended
by element

& cracked at its fault

I go on
daughter and salt

She went on to share her experiences with writing and teaching, discussing the ways in which she has used photography as inspiration. Rachel Eliza also suggested using media and photographs as a way to help students become more engaged with reading poetry. 

The second half of the evening gave teachers an opportunity to explore Adrienne Rich’s “Diving into the Wreck,”with discussion facilitated by Madeleine Holzer, the Academy’s Educator in Residence. As Madeleine explained, the act of reading a poem multiple times and through various lenses is a way for students to develop critical Common Core-aligned close reading skills.

Kristen Rush, a teacher from the High School for Public Service, was present at the meetup and shared her thoughts on the benefits of attending events like these.    

“I believe teachers should take on the role of students as often as possible, each year,” she said. “It is such a tremendous reminder to be in touch with both what is challenging and what can be thrilling about being on the student-side of the classroom.”

Teachers left requesting more information about the Academy’s educator newsletter, and feeling excited for the upcoming meetups, which will focus on “Community,” and “Coming of Age.” The next meetup is scheduled for February 11, 2015.

For more information on this series, please contact Shanell Lockhart at slockhart@newvisions.org. Additional resources to support the use of poetry in the classroom, including lesson plans, can be found here:  http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/lesson-plans.

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