Word Power

I teach high school Freshmen. Each year, as we begin the poetry unit, my students show little interest or excitement about the prospect of reading poetry. I begin by teaching them a technique for unpacking poetry that I have found to be effective. Then we read and study a number of poetry selections from the literature text. Just before the end of the unit, I show them my collection of copies of A Celebration of Poets and talk about my former students who have been published in them. Then I share with them a number of my favorite student poems from the past several years. The final piece of the unit is the assignment to write a poem. I don't give them any requirements, other than it must be between 12 and 21 lines long. They may use any style, and it may be rhymed or unrhymed, whatever suits them. I hold a contest in each class to choose the very best poems. These are the ones I enter into your contest. I have had student poetry published each year. One year I was honored because every poem I sent in (I think it was 18) was published! This has been a rewarding experience for me and for my students. Sharing poems that have been published in the anthology encourages them and gives them power. Being published brings success in an area that they may not have felt successful in before. When the older students hear that I am reading their poetry to my current students, they recognize that they have made a difference with their words. This is a highlight of my school year, every year!

Mary Flegel

Bonneville High School, Idaho