Often, teens (and even some teachers I know) dread the study of poetry, complaining that it’s too stuffy, sappy, or difficult to understand. It’s true that some poems are intentionally obtuse or overly self-aware; others, though, are little nuggets of awesomeness for us to mentally savor.
To hook students and maybe even create some poetry fans, equate poetry with song lyrics. Do we like every song we hear? Of course not. Will students like every poem we study? Of course not. But some songs become favorites because the lyrics make us feel like the songwriter understands us as no one else does. When done well, poetry can do the same.
First, students will need floaties to help them tread these new, potentially very deep waters. The lifesaver? A specific, step-by-step plan to use with decoding a poem. Show them the steps to take and have them complete a guided notesheet to help them remember the strategy. Then, use well-written modern songs lyrics that feature poetic techniques to hook their attention and serve as a bridge into studying classic poems with similar themes. They’ll be swimming and diving for jewels in no time!