About Middle School Poetry 180

I don’t know if Billy Collins has copyrighted the term “Poetry 180″, but since he coined the idea to help teachers bring poetry into the classroom I don’t think he’ll mind (let me know, Billy). I bought his Poetry 180 with the idea of doing a poem a day, only to find most of them too complicated, inappropriate, abstract, or demanding too much background knowledge for middle school students. I have done “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” with the kids, but that’s been a two-day lesson (worth it, but not exactly embedding poetry in what I do daily). I believe in high standards and the power of great art, but finding a reliable (and easy) source has eluded me.

So, here we are.

As to using “dead white males” and “poets with three names”, I have found that those old poems revive students who find poetry inaccessible. They get it, and I’ve found some really fascinating-in-their-simplicity ideas among the old masters. What’s old is new? I think these are what the teacher, poet, reader or student brings to them.

I’ll add as I can, and welcome suggestions. Enjoy and share.

Image of young poet in blog header is Mary Barnard.


12 thoughts on “About Middle School Poetry 180

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  1. I just discovered your website. I’m a 7th grade ELA teacher, and I’ve been hunting for good poems that students find challenging, engaging, and accessible. Glad to be here. I look forward to browsing!

  2. I hope to connect and learn with other teachers. I teach 7th grade ELA. I enjoy using the SPIDER method to help students connect with poetry.

    1. I would be interested in what poetry might be taught at fifth grade. My students are seventh and eighth, and as you might notice some of the selections are on the mature end of the middle school spectrum. Hopefully, there’s something for everyone.

  3. I’m a 9th grade Math teacher, but I was hoping to change to ELA. These poems are amazing, I’m hoping to read new ones! Keep up the great work Tom.

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