The word CENTO means “patchwork”. The goal of a cento poem is to pull together lines and phrases from the writers and world around you and arrange them in a meaningful way to create something new. If scraps of fabric can form a brand new object (a quilt), then so can language form a brand new poem. And that’s what I love to teach my high school students.
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I love this poem. I love the imagery, the title, the metaphor, but most of all, I love how teachable it is. The poem has a great deal of mystery and room for debatable discussions about author’s intent, but it’s also accessible to students who might feel intimidated by poetry - or even just intimidated by language.
That was the goal I had in mind while making this list: I wanted to find poems that were challenging and worth discussing in class, but also poems that could be tackled by students in one or two class periods. As a guide, I used The Big Six as my foundational analysis tool . If you’ve never used it, get on board!
Whether I’m starting a brand new school year, returning after winter break, or even just starting a new quarter, there’s always this itch in my gut that tells me to take a breather on those first few days together to regroup and reset our classroom culture and community. It’s vitally important to take the temperature of your classroom - has it been feeling toxic lately? Are students there to be the best versions of themselves? Are we having fun but not working hard? Are we working really hard and don’t know each other at all?
If there is one thing that is constant among generations of teenagers, it is the love of music. And if there’s one thing that English teachers know, it’s that music is the perfect gateway to getting students into poetry. Today, I’d like to share an awesome poetry/music pairing to try in your own classroom: Carl Sandburg's “Chicago” meets Patrick Stump’s “This City is My City”. The Literary Maven has an incredible blog post out about poetry mashups (coming in April!) with lots of suggestions from other ELA teachers, but I wanted to share my mashup here in a bit more detail for you all.
Have you ever done a Google search for "poetry ideas" to teach in your high school English classroom? Let me spoil those search results for you - THEY'RE LAME! Poetry, especially at the high school level, it too important to be treated as a coloring activity, or worse, ignored completely.
If you love poetry, and you're a little bit competitive (like me!) then I have just the challenge for you! How about jumping on the #30poems30days Challenge!
This year in creative writing, I've decided that I want my students to have access to as many different styles of poetry as possible. That's why I've narrowed down my 30 favorite types of poems to teach - and I'm going to teach them all in just 30 days!