Resources for Bringing Poetry to Life: Part 1

We all know students are resistant to poetry.  Maybe it's because it takes real brain power to understand and appreciate it.  Maybe because they've sadly been forced to read poetry silently and haven't been able to learn to enjoy it.

I don't know about you, but students reading poetry outloud makes me cringe. And when I read it aloud, I don't do it justice.

So, in honor of April being National Poetry Month, I have compiled for some of my favorite videos and audio recordings that bring poetry to life.  The next time you teach or use a poem, pick one of these, and bring it to life for students with an amazing reading or visually supportive video.

Below are six of my favorites.  Next week, I will be sharing six more picks.

"Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley - Breaking Bad Teaser

What high schooler doesn't love Breaking Bad? (Or teacher for that matter.)  In this teaser trailer for the final season of the show, the preview is set to Walter White himself reading Shelley's poem.  For students that are familiar with the show, ask students to consider why the poem is a good fit for the show or the character of Walter White.  For those who want to stay away from the show, analyze how the visuals presented in the promo enhance the theme or mood of the poem. Or, perhaps look at the symbolism in the clip.

"Oh Me! Oh Life" by Walt Whitman, Read by Robin Williams - iPad Commercial

This iPad Air commercial features a reading of Walt Whitman's poem by the late Robin Williams, taken from his reading in the film The Dead Poet's Society. For this clip, you could have students analyze the mood or theme and how it is supported by the visuals in the commercial, as well as how the poem relates to the purpose of the commercial. Also, if you watch The Dead Poet's Society in class, don't forget to pair it with this!

"The Laughing Heart" by Charles Bukowski - Levi's Commercial

Levi's put out a series of poetry-based advertisements for their "Go Forth" campaign, and this is by far one of my favorites.  It features a wonderful, modern poem that is perfect for analyzing theme or pairing with other "carpe diem" classic poems.  It might also be a cool task to analyze all of the advertisements in this campaign together as a whole! One more is posted below, and I'll post the other ones in next week's post.

"America" by Walt Whitman - Levi's Commercial

Here's another one of Levi's commercials, this time to a lesser known Whitman poem.  This would be great for analyzing what the poem is trying to say about America as a country, as well as analyzing the effect the black and white visuals have on the tone.

"Ulalume" by Edgar Allan Poe, Read by Jeff Buckley

You may know singer Jeff Buckley from his rendition of "Hallelujah." In this audio recording, the musician reads Poe's poem set to music to create a true ethereal and haunting atmosphere.  Great for musically inclined students and for analyzing the mood of the poem.  I remember hearing this in college, in a class on Poe that I took, and it has stuck with me since.

"Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas - Clip from Interstellar and/or Anthony Hopkins Reading

Here's two spectacular choices for this classic poem that we often teach! One is a clip of a partial reading of the poem in the new movie Interstellar.  This would be great to connect the theme of the poem to outer space travel & missions, especially since the poem is about death, it would be great to look at the meaning from a different direction.  I also am a huge fan of Anthony Hopkin's reading of the poem - that voice! Also, this particular YouTube video pairs the reading with some visuals.

Hope you will find some of these interesting and usable!  When trying to obtain audio readings for the poems you are using in class, I suggest checking out the audio library at Poetry Out Loud.

Book Review: Stella by Starlight

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

When the Ku Klux Klan's unwelcome reappearance rattles Stella's segregated southern town, bravery battles prejudice in this Depression-era tour de force from Sharon Draper, the New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind.

Stella lives in the segregated South; in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can't. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn't bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they're never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella's community - her world - is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don't necessarily signify an end.  -From

I had really high expectations for this book: I loved Draper's Out of My Mind, I was excited to read a book dealing with the KKK, and I am a sucker for a great title and beautiful cover.  I was hoping that this would be an awesome book to buy a class set of and teach.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed.  Now, it may just be me.  Looking at Goodreads, I'm noticing that most reviewers gave it 4 or 5 stars.  But for me, I found myself dragging to get through it, and more than once, rolling my eyes at the dialogue.  I felt like the characters were one dimensional, and I often felt the dialogue felt forced and unnatural.  Stella didn't seem to sound like an authentic little girl to me.  I was also disappointed about the inciting event Stella witnesses that was teased in the book's description.  I was hoping it would be something significant, maybe a nighttime clandestine meeting between a black and a white, or perhaps an act of violence against a black.  Yes, I know it is middle grade fiction, but I was expecting some exciting, just toned down for the age group.  Spoiler alert: The big event teased was that they saw the KKK meeting and burning a cross. Yawn. That being said, this is an important era in history that students need to be exposed to, and its definitely worth a read for teachers and middle school students alike.  It just didn't do it for me.

Classroom Application: Buy a copy for your classroom library, add it to students' independent reading lists, or get a small set for a Literature Circle/Book Club group on the theme of racism or that era of history.  It's definitely worth a spot in your classroom, but I don't think it's the best novel to buy a class set of and teach. Recommended grades 5-8.

Happy Easter Sale!

"Peep' into my store on Easter Day (Sunday, April 5th) for a 20% sale on all of my items! This is a great time to stock up on novel or short story units as the year winds down and we start planning for the next.  Many other sellers will have their stores on sale as well, so catch the savings while you can!

Jasper Roberts Consulting - Widget