How Can Teachers Use Poetry To Promote Self-Expression In The Classroom?

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Poetry is a way for students to explore topics they might not otherwise talk about…

Annie Dillard, an American author, says, “the purpose of a book is to serve as an axe for the frozen sea within us.”

Language, and literature in particular, are the mirror of our world. It captures and reflects emotions and the release of emotion is a tool for self-expression.

Poetry, in particular, is a great way for students to find their creativity. It’s also an excellent way to expand vocabulary, which helps both with self-expression and language. Many teens find that they can express themselves better on paper than they can verbally. With today’s technology, just about anybody can share original poems with other artists through social media and online forums. So, let your students know that they don’t have to be published or famous in order to be a poet. Learning about a list of lesser-known poets and those who may not be officially published will be encouraging to any budding writer.

What poetry can do for your students:

  1. Develop accuracy and understanding in perceiving self and others.
  2. Develop creativity, self-expression, and greater self-esteem.
  3. Strengthen interpersonal skills and communication skills.
  4. Ventilate overpowering emotions and release tension.
  5. Find new meaning through new ideas, insights, and information.
  6. Promote change and increase coping skills and adaptive functions.

Getting your students started:

  1. Let your students pick a topic, an issue, a feeling or a word that interests them and let them explore it a little bit.
  2. Encourage students to find some sites that have poems about this topic. One of the best resources is
  3. Later, ask your students to think about what line or part of the poem affected them the most and why.
  4. This can be followed by students writing one line of their own, sitting with it a bit and allowing the line to evolve until it is a mirror for what they want to say. Encourage them to let this line grow into a few more words as they work to express themselves. Your students will feel some degree of clarity and a sense of expression as they do this.
  5. Finally, since poetry involves the courage to share, ask your students to consider sharing just one line of their work with the rest of the class.

Additionally, one of the beautiful things about poetry – both reading it and performing it – is that it allows students to explore different ways of being and living. If they perform their poetry, it’s also an opportunity to amplify their voices, to help others better understand them and their lives. Here are some lesson plan ideas teachers can use to promote self-expression through poetry.

1. The Idea: Middle and high school students are in love with pop culture. Teachers can enhance their chances of spreading the wonderful world of poetry by providing some contemporary examples. Teachers can play the songs in class, providing a more interactive, multi-sensory experience.

Result, Vocabulary Expansion: In addition to the contemporary aspects of poetry, this art form is a wonderful way for students to expand their vocabulary. Reading and writing poetry introduces students to an amalgam of words with different emotional meanings. Many of today’s high school students struggle to choose the word that best represents what they intend to express. Writing poetry in particular will help students search for these words while experiencing creativity.

2. The Idea: Teachers can have each student write a poem in the simplest language they can think of and then ask them to tab over to They can update their word choices to find the most poetic, expressive language.

Result, Creative Outlet: In addition to vocabulary expansion, students who want and need creative expression often feel more relaxed when they find a way to express their words. While some students will choose painting to express themselves, others will choose drawing, photography, or sculpting. Some students will find that a picture is not – for them – worth a thousand words and that they would rather write a thousand words of poetry to express themselves.

Like this article for teachers?

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