I’ve been thinking…my classroom needs more poetry.

Alright, I will finally admit it.

No judgement, please.

Poetry is not my favorite.

Sometimes it scares me, sometimes it frustrates me, sometimes I am moved by it, sometimes I push it aside for my own comfort in the classroom.  That stops this year.  Just because poetry may be my weakness, doesn’t mean my classroom shouldn’t be filled with it.   More poetry is a goal of mine this year–more sharing of a poem just because, more independent reading selections of poetry, more writing beside and around, just…more.

In effort to ease myself and students back into the school groove and make good on my commitment, I will began this year where I left off last year, with Book Spine Poetry.  Perfect as a summative piece, an introduction to poetry, an introduction to more titles, or a one class period creation, Book Spine Poetry is a fun, low-prep activity that calls upon student’s critical thinking and creativity.  Book Spine Poetry requires students to use the titles of books to create an original piece of unique poetry, similar to Blackout or Found Poetry.

Screenshots 3TT

Emily analyzed Sethe’s killing of the crawling already? girl as an act of resistance against the cycle of slavery and the love between mother and child in Beloved.

My AP Literature students created original spine poems after their exam in May as a fun, creative way to close out the year.  Students were asked to create a poem of at least eight lines (eight spines) relating to a character, big idea, conflict, etc of a text they read in AP Lit this year, take a picture, then write a 1 pager that explains the connections and deeper meaning (Note:  I did allow students to add “filler” words, like pronouns or prepositions, so their Spine Poem was more clear and fluid). Spine Poetry also lends itself to teachers moving out of the way and letting students create, connect, and analyze due to the range of choice.  Additionally, Spine Poetry feels like an easy entry for students who, like me, may not enjoy poetry or consider themselves a poet (although these samples definitely scream “poet” to me!).

Largely, students created poems for the novel or poem that resonated with them the most that year, whether it was The Handmaid’s Tale in a Book Club or our study of Beloved, which turned into a fun reflection of the year.  When we shared our poems as a class, it was interesting to listen to different students who wrote about different aspects of the same text.

Above:  Elliot and Alysa’s different interpretations of Crake from Margaret Atwood’s novel Oryx and Crake.

Amaia reflected when sharing with her peers: “It would have been easy to write an original poem and then connect the poem to a character or whatever because I could control the words.  Having to find titles that made sense was more challenging, but made it fun.”  Amaia dropped knowledge on me all year in AP Lit, so I will trust this kernel of wisdom:  Poetry as fun.

This style of poem creation has the potential to be so much:  a fun activity when you have a bonus day or two, a sub-plan, an assessment, an assignment, a spark to discussions or conferences, even as a means to connect multiple texts.  Book Spine Poetry literally puts more books in students’ hands as they search for poem lines, too! You could plan this writing activity to introduce students to a genre during book shopping or as a means to add more “To Read” titles from your classroom library (just be prepared for some re-stocking and organizing).

Above left:  Aria wrote about Gatsby’s quest for Daisy in three stanzas (note the spines turned around to create stanzas).  Above right:  Sandra, who selected Frankenstein as a challenge choice read and read “King Lear’ in class, created a poem that connected both texts’ discussions of revenge and madness.

I will keep you posted through my intentional poetry endeavors.  I already have new titles for the poetry section of my classroom library, a poem to start the new school year, bookmarked poems to write around, and quick writes to spark poetic responses.  Any advice, suggestions, wisdom, favorite poets or poems?  Let me know.

Maggie Lopez is spending the last few weeks of summer traveling to see her sister, savoring the long days of sunshine and mornings without rush or routine.  She wishes all of her digital colleagues a wonder end to summer and start of the year.  You can find her on Twitter @meglopez0.


3 thoughts on “I’ve been thinking…my classroom needs more poetry.

  1. Poetry Out Loud | Three Teachers Talk February 10, 2020 at 5:00 am Reply

    […] We have discussed thematically related poems in small and jigsawed groups.  We have created Book Spine poems that connected to another work of literature.  We have found and shared poems connected to our […]


  2. Jen Knapp August 12, 2019 at 6:50 pm Reply

    I start each class by reading a poem, and the students come around to really liking some of the poems. I try to mix it up and have plenty of modern poetry, like Sarah Kay and Rupi Kaur. I keep some old books around, and the students really like creating blackout poetry. Sometimes in my AP Lit class, I’ll cut up some sonnets and have the students put them back together, explaining their reasoning.


  3. Ruth Harlow August 2, 2019 at 6:26 am Reply

    Poetry is so essential for the classroom. You should come to The Frost Place in Franconia, NH at the end of June for The Conference on Poetry and Teaching, It will be an experience beyond belief. Each year we gather, some of us yearly, to discuss how poetry matters for us personally and how we use in our classrooms. Many of us stay in contact all year long.


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