February slump

I am sitting on a spinning bike anticipating a very rough class. Today was rough in the classroom too: long periods, not a whole lot of inspiration, whiny students, whiny teacher. I am about to start a poetry unit focused on hip hop, which could either fall flat or be successful, depending on quite a few factors. Any tips or inspiration, teachers and language arts enthusiasts? For poetry and/or for beating the tail-end winter blues?




  1. Hey girl!

    Teach poetry and rap together. 2chainz, Eminem, 2pac are my top 3 go-to. “Dear Mama” by 2pac has a great video to go with it (the mom is shown in it). Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” is empowering and has a repeating “ot” sound that breaks my heart down. 2chainz “I’m Different” has some powerful sound devices. (Rap is perfect for teaching sound devices.)

    Use modern, approachable poetry to get your kids writing. “I have lost…” poems are typically winners and they’re easy to grade. Odes are okay but I find the kids typically only write about 8 lines and then they don’t know what to add. Have them write”Around” poems if you think they can. Try haiku: choose 1 small moment in nature or city and capture it. Mandate that they use 1 example of onomatopoeia. Approachable because it’s only a few lines. Six word memoirs are a huge hit. SHOW 2-3 VIDEOS FIRST (Youtube has some phenomenal examples) and set the kids free. I think you’ve taught found poems before. Copy a piece of Shakespeare, have students black out or circle cool/important words, and create a found poem out of something they’ve already read before.

    For hands on, do what we learned at the latest Writing Project Conference: have students draw out their neighborhoods, bring in small matchbox cars and have the kids “drive” down their neighborhood and tell/write stories and poems from it. Or bring in some scrabble sets and have them build words out of the letters. Those words could title or fit somewhere in their next poem.

    As for inspiration, I’m stuck in winter-blues mode. You and I both know it’s not permanent. We need some sunshine and some fresh air. Maybe beat the winter blues by acknowledging them. Using sensory language, write a class poem on why winter sucks, or create a class poem on all 4 seasons. Break kids into 4 groups (one per season and bring in a piece of food for each season to stimulate conversation and writing.

    One day at a time.

    1. Thank you Sam! I have done rap before, and yes—it’s amazing. I suggest the book Hip Hop Poetry and The Classics. It’s old school hip hop, which is fun. It exposes the kids to the hip hop ‘roots.’ Thanks for these awesome ideas! Love the Shakespeare found poetry idea. I’m doing the neighborhood write next week, thanks for reminding me of it 🙂

      Hey–we’ve had some sunny days this week in Cinci, and for that I am GRATEFUL. Hope you’re getting some sun shining in those winter-blues places. Keep on keepin’ on 🙂

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