Poetry Up Close: Amanda Gorman + Magnetic Poetry Tiles

A few months ago, a teacher named Jennifer Harrington wrote to tell me how she had combined a conversation about Amanda Gorman’s work with my education-themed magnetic poetry activity.  I was so inspired by what she wrote, I wanted to share her story with you.  

“After I spent some time discussing the works of Amanda Gorman this week,” e-mailed Jen, “I asked kids to write their own poem discussing education today. There were many different responses, but some of these were so telling. I just had to share because not only was this a great lesson, but it was some of the most important feedback I’ve gotten from kids about how they are feeling. Some poems were encouraging, some were discouraging, but all were honest. In a world where kids don’t speak in online classrooms, it just gave me such incredible insight. “

She shared the poetry her students had written with me, and I was floored. I wanted to share it with you, and share the context, so you could try the same thing if you want to. 

So today I’m going to walk you through Jen’s lesson, and also share the poems of the students who gave permission for their work to be featured here. If you participated in Camp Creative back in December, you already have the education-themed magnetic poetry tiles that Jen used for this lesson. If you didn’t, I’ll link to them at the end. (By the way, you can now sign up for my free summer Camp Creative, all about hexagonal thinking! Just click here!)

Step One: Introducing Amanda Gorman

This lesson begins with some context about Amanda Gorman. Who is she? What is an inaugural poem? Jen used the interview below to lay a foundation for her students. 

Step Two: Exploring “The Hill We Climb”

Next up, Jen shared Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb.” She and her students analyzed the poem and discussed it. She used a Nearpod lesson, but you could approach this however you want. You’ll find the full text in this article

Step Three: Diving Deeper into Gorman’s Work

There’s much more to Gorman’s work than her inaugural poem, so Jen dove deeper with her students and looked at “Believer’s Hymn for the Republic” and “The Miracle of Morning,” again analyzing and discussing the work with them. You can find the video version of “Believer’s Hymn” below and listen to “The Miracle of Morning” or access the text in this post from PBS

Step Four: Launching the Creative Project

Now Jen felt her students were ready to write their own poetry. She asked each of them to create a poem about the current state of education, using the education-themed magnetic poetry slides, focusing on emulating the writing style of Amanda Gorman.  

She shared these two slides before having them launch into the creation of their own poetry slides, using the magnetic tiles. 

The Results

As I shared at the beginning, the student work Jen received really struck her, allowing her to connect with and understand her students in a way that was hard to come by during distance learning. Students and their guardians gave permission for the following four poems to be shared here. 

I hope you’ll find a day during this 25th annual National Poetry Month to try your own version of this powerful lesson. If you do, I’d love to hear about it! Tag me @nowsparkcreativity on Instagram or send me an email at betsy@nowsparkcreativity.com.  And as promised, if you don’t have them already, here’s a link to these digital poetry tiles. 

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