When most people think of poetry, they think of complicated rules and language that is difficult to understand. However, poetry can be a very accessible and enjoyable form of writing for both readers and writers. There are many different ways to approach teaching poetry, but one of the most important things is to make sure that students are comfortable with the material. Poetry warm-ups are a great way to get students engaged and interested in the topic.
Keep reading for 8 poems you can share with your students in an engaging warm-up style!
If you want ready-made warm-ups for these 8 poems (and 6 more!) click here.
Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.Billy Collins
“Introduction to Poetry” is a great poem for students to read as it encourages them to explore poetry in a playful, open-minded way. It shows that instead of trying to analyze poetry, they should simply experience it and let whatever feelings or meanings come up. It also highlights how trying to dissect poetry can be a grueling and joyless process that takes away the fun of actually reading it.
Still Here- Langston Hughes
It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything down-Langston Hughes
Maybe because there’s nothing left to say.
I’ve been stuck in the same place for years now,
Just going through the motions day in and day out.
I don’t feel the spark of life inside me anymore,
But I’m still here.
“Still Here” is a short poem by Langston Hughes. The poem was published in 1951 in Hughes’s Montage of a Dream Deferred. The poem is about the speaker’s experience of living in America as a black man. It is written in free verse and is composed of three stanzas. The first stanza describes the speaker’s feeling of being “stuck” in America.
The second stanza speaks to the speaker’s frustration with the country’s racism. In the third stanza, the speaker says that despite all of America’s injustices, he is “still here.” The poem is significant because it speaks to the experience of black Americans living in a country that often denies their existence. It also speaks to the idea of resilience in the face of adversity.
Click here for a FREE warm-up activity with “Still Here”.
The Rose that Grew From the Concrete- Tupac Shukur
Did you hear about the rose that grewTupac Shakur
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.
“The Rose that Grew From the Concrete” is sure to connect with your students. Many are familiar with the famous rapper/songwriter; however, they are often less familiar with his poetry. This poem is great for analyzing personification and symbolism while also discussing grit and facing adversity.
Tattoo- Ted Kooser
“Tattoo” is a a great poem to use for analyzing symbolism and imagery. In the poem, the speaker observes and makes assumptions about a man based on his tattoos. The short poem also looks at aging and how this changes a person over time.
What once was meant to be a statement—Ted Kooser
a dripping dagger held in the fist
of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise
on a bony old shoulder
Two Kinds of Intelligence – Rumi
There is another kind of tablet, oneRumi
already completed and preserved inside you.
Rumi’s poem “Two Kinds of Intelligence” is just as applicable now as it was when it was written in the 13th century. In this poem, Rumi discusses that there are two kinds of intelligence in all of us- the kind that is observed and revered in a classroom and the kind that is inside you. This poem brings up a point in which many students can identify with when it begins with its opening lines,
“With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
With so much emphasis now placed on social-emotional intelligence, this poem is the perfect segway into discussing how schools can value this other intelligence of building self-confidence and positive mindsets as much as they value “retaining information”.
The Laughing Heart – Charles Bukowski
Your life is your lifeBukowski
Don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
Be on the watch.
There are ways out.
There is a light somewhere.
It may not be much light but
It beats the darkness.
“The Laughing Heart” is a great poem for teens to read and discuss as it is about learning to live YOUR life for yourself and can also be used to discuss the importance of mental/emotional health. Its use of contrasting the strong imagery of light and dark tells the reader to not allow their life to be controlled by others.
All The World’s a Stage- William Shakespeare
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;Shakespeare
I know, I know… not truly a “poem”. However, there is still so much that can be pulled out of this monologue and you can still analyze for many poetic elements. Figurative language, meter and rhyme, and there is so much to discuss with the general idea!
Fifth Grade Autobiography-Rita Dove
My grandfather sits to the far right
in a folding chair,
and I know his left hand is on
the tobacco in his pants pocket
because I used to wrap it for him
every Christmas.Rita Dove
“Fifth Grade Autobiography” is a beautiful poem that incorporates imagery and sensory details to share the joy and pain of memories of the grandfather who has passed. It shares with the reader all the little things that they remember about their grandfather- the smell of lemons, the look of his hand, etc. This is a wonderful poem to have your students explore sensory writing as well.
Are you looking for more ways to help your students analyze literature in a way that is engaging and interesting? Incorporating a poem warm-up into your classes could be the answer!
Analyzing a poem each week not only helps to build your students’ critical thinking skills, it can also help them to become better writers.
If you click here you can find READY TO GO slides and handouts to incorporate these 8 poems as well as others in your classroom now!