Poetry in the Classroom

Students learn to read, critique, write, and perform poetry – from stunning haiku, to Shakespearean sonnets, to intricate hip hop poems. Poetry in the Classroom taps into natural skills of self-expression and observation; hones creative, analytical, and critical thinking skills; and ultimately builds stronger writers, thinkers, and public speakers.

Students begin each class with a free-writing prompt; they then read, hear, and analyze several poems that will serve as the inspiration and model for the day’s lesson. One of these poems will usually be a hip hop poem performed by the Writer-in-Residence, and another will often be a poem written by a student in a previous class. Students learn to dig deep into the poem for clues to meaning and connections to the world and student. Metaphor, simile, personification, and imagery are no longer dead words – they become exciting and necessary tools in the student-detectives’ search for a poem’s meaning.

Students then pen their own poems – mining moments from their own lives for the resonant details and deeper meanings that characterize good poetry. After revisions, a selection of student poems are collected in a chapbook and performed by the students themselves at a poetry café or slam.

Poetry in the Classroom is especially effective when working in conjunction with students’ regular English or Social Studies teachers, so the Writer-in-Residence can tailor the project to dovetail with topics, themes, and language lessons the students are learning in other classes.

Reflections on Aaron Jafferis’ Poetry Project residency at Fair Haven Middle School (2004-2006) by 7th and 8th grade Language Arts teacher Cindy Maturo:

Every time I think about the Poetry Project experience that we were fortunate enough to have this year with Aaron Jafferis, I smile with the joy of recalling its huge success – not only for our more motivated students, but also for many of our most “at-risk” students. Some of my most difficult to reach students suddenly “came alive” at the chance to express themselves with poetry.

I saw my Language Arts students not only grow in their appreciation and understanding of poetry and the writing of poetry; I saw them growing in their belief in themselves as thinkers and learners, and people who are able to express themselves in meaningful ways. I believe that this skill carries over for them to other types of writing and helps them become more confident when they are asked to formulate an opinion on any topic. Poetry is also an ideal vehicle for teaching metaphor, simile, imagery, and theme, because they are easily spotted by students in such short pieces – even students who would normally struggle with such concepts.

Also check out “Poetic Ed,” a 2006 New Haven Independent article about Aaron’s middle school poetry students.

To learn more about this workshop, contact Aaron.

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  • Stuck Elevator: Audacious, compelling and hugely imaginative.” – Huffington Post
  • About Aaron

    Aaron Jafferis is a hip hop poet and playwright. Read his bio, his CV, or contact him.