When providing students with the choice of how to demonstrate learning through the arts, poetry is my favorite. It’s how I would, if given the choice by my teachers, demonstrate my learning, and it’s how I best express myself. Poetry enables teachers to teach their students how to write, read, and understand any text. Poetry provides opportunity for personal expression, analytical dialogue, and dense comprehension. Reading original poetry aloud in class can foster trust and empathy in the classroom community, while also emphasizing speaking and listening skills that are often neglected in high school literature classes.
Too often poetry is presented as a series of stuffy rules and word-search-type of activities for finding examples of poetic terms. What’s most important about the poem, the art itself, is glossed over or unrealized in the search for comprehension and analysis. When the focus is on the poem itself, such as when students write impromptu poems from a specific character’s or object’s perspective, the art becomes focused, and the understanding goes beyond itself.
Poetry aids in teaching details and structure, especially grammar. One of the biggest challenges in teaching writing is getting teens to expand upon a subject with details and explaining things with some depth. When students “Take liberty with ACTUALITY to find TRUTH,” a poet’s proverb, it gives them permission to embellish and dramatize in their compositions, poetic or otherwise. Furthermore, studying how a poet uses—or ignores—grammatical structure can give confidence to students in their own compositions. All forms of writing benefits from the powerful and concise phrases found in poems.