Our school is a small, rural school in Arkansas made up of students in grades four through seven. While they are going through a difficult stage in the transition from kids to teenagers (as all middle school students do), they are among the most energetic and exciting age group to work with. When they get excited about learning, their enthusiasm explodes out of the classroom!
Many of our students face the challenges that poverty brings every day, but at school they have a chance to escape and learn how to overcome their challenges.
When I mention that we'll be studying poetry for a lesson or unit, the immediate reaction from many students is dismay and frustration. Even though canonical poetry can be deeply meaningful and relevant to students' lives, many can't get past the difficult vocabulary or historical setting to really appreciate what poetry can do.
That's why, this year, we're going to start our study of poetry by reading Kwame Alexander's acclaimed novel in verse, The Crossover.
The accessible language and setting of this novel shows many students that poetry can be exciting and relevant, instead of stodgy and pretentious. Some of my students in the past have already read and fallen in love with The Crossover, and I'm sure that many more will love it as well once we read it together. And, hopefully, it will show my students the power of poetry and forever change their minds about the value poetry can have in their lives.
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