Poems present a unique set of challenges to readers—and to teachers. They look and often sound different from prose, for one thing, and they sometimes require that we use a special set of vocabulary terms when talking about them: stanzas, enjambments, dactyls, trochees, couplets, tercets, voltas, sonnets, sestinas. The list goes on.
So…how does a teacher confront the challenge of teaching students how to read and analyze a poem? Especially if he or she also finds parts of the poem somewhat puzzling? These concerns are just what our upcoming course, Poetry in America for Teachers: The City from Whitman to Hip Hop, aims to address.
This course, the first in our Poetry in America for Teachers series, is designed specifically for secondary school educators interested in developing their expertise as readers and teachers of literature. Offered through the Harvard Extension School and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, our program is grounded in four approaches to close reading literary texts (including, but not limited to, poems): Making Observations, Understanding Structure and Form, Situating Texts in History, and Enjoying Language.
Poetry in America for Teachers: The City from Whitman to Hip Hop will transport you through time and space: from the nineteenth century to now; from New York, to Chicago, to D.C., to San Francisco, to Detroit. Along the way, we will grapple with works by a diverse array of poets, including Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Sandburg, Robert Pinsky, Frank O’Hara, and contemporary hip hop and spoken word artists. We will also visit a number of classrooms around the country, where we will observe teachers and students putting the Poetry in America method for close reading literary texts into practice.
Students can take the course for undergraduate or graduate credit, and there is also a noncredit option. All enrollees are eligible to receive 90 participation hours from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Professional Education Program.
The course opens on January 23, 2017, and we hope you’ll join us!