What books have other teachers found helpful? Which ones will work best for you? How do you find out without spending more time than you have in research? Here's an admittedly incomplete, but annotated bibliography arranged alphabetically by title. You can read through this page in a few minutes, and it will give you a feeling for what you might wish to purchase.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Slam Poetry, Smith, Marc Kelly, with Joe Kraynak. Indianapolis: Alpha, 2004
You’re no idiot, of course. You’ve heard about slam poetry. Maybe you’ve been up to a few slams and had a blast. But when it comes to actually getting up onstage yourself, you come down with a bad case of stage fright…
Shatter your fears with the right information. Take some tips from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Slam Poetry— and you’ll be a slammin’ poet in no time at all. In this Complete Idiot’s Guide, you get:

  • Behind-the-scenes views of the world of slam, from several of slam’s most avid pioneers
  • Idiot-proof analysis of what it takes to become a slammer and slam showmaker
  • Inspiration and insights to help you compose and perform powerful slam poems
  • Practical tips for memorizing and rehearsing your poems

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Poetry, Moustaki, Nikki. Indianapolis: Alpha, 2001
You’re no idiot, of course. You’ve read poetry that has touched your heart, and you’d like to improve your own writing technique. But even though you have loads of inspiration, you’re discovering that good instruction can be as elusive as a good metaphor.
Don’t let your Muse leave you! With loads of smart advice and helpful exercises, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Poetry will help you compose powerful, emotion-packed poems that you can be proud of. In this Complete Idiot’s Guide, you get:

  • Simple explanations of the building blocks of poetry— metaphor, imagery, symbolism, repetition, and more.
  • A step-by-step guide to the poetic process— from your first inspiration to your poem’s last stanza
  • Easy-to-follow guidelines for writing sonnets, sestinas, narrative poems, and more!

Favorite Poetry Lessons, Janeczko, Paul. New York: Scholastic, 1998
Paul B. Janeczko gathers the poetry-writing exercises that have scored the most "home runs" with students he’s taught all over the United States and overseas. Believing that poetry should inspire and amuse rather than intimidate, Paul includes a far-reaching mix of model poems, from Walt Whitman’s splendid "I Hear America Singing" to Paul’s own "Ten Little Aliens." With each full-page reproducible poem, he provides suggestions for reading it aloud with students, discussing it, and using it as a model for kids to write individual and collaborative poems.
Written in a warm, conversational voice and packed with guidance, personal anecdotes, and student samples, Favorite Poetry Lessons is sure to make teaching poetry-writing a little easier for you— and a lot of fun. Other classroom-friendly features include:

  • more than 25 reproducible poems by both professional and student authors;
  • insights and advice from leading contemporary poets;
  • lessons on the types of poetry kids love: opposites, synonym poems, clerihews, list poems, and more;
  • "Craft Close-Up" sections on tough-to-teach techniques, such as rhythm, word choice, and metaphor;
  • Motivating activities and ideas for linking poetry to other subjects;
  • and fresh, easy ideas for publishing students’ work.

Gonna Bake Me a Rainbow Poem, Sears, Peter. New York: Scholastic, 1990
You don’t have to be a genius to write a poem. This entertaining, step-by-step book shows you how. With the help of poems by the winners of the Scholastic Writing Awards, noted poet and teacher Peter Sears explains:

  • How to choose a subject for your poem
  • Using poetry to express your thoughts
  • Poetry as art
  • How to write fantasy poems, love poems, humorous poems, and more

How to Write Poetry, Janeczko, Paul. New York: Scholastic, 1999
A well-known poet and anthologist, shares his love of poetry and poetcraft in this guide filled with examples of poems that are both fun and serious. Offering tips to follow and pointing out pitfalls to avoid, How to Write Poetry will show you how a few words can capture an image, a person, a feeling, or an idea, and how writing poetry helps you give form to your imagination.

If you’re trying to teach kids how to write, you’ve gotta have this book!, Frank, Marjorie. Nashville: Incentive Publications, 1979

"My kids groan when it’s time to write!"
"Teaching writing is such hard work!"
"I don’t have time… there are too many other things to teach."
"Lots of my kids are too shy or fearful to express themselves."
"I always run out of writing ideas by October!"
"How can I start writing with my very young students?"
"I have this kid that just WON’T!"
"All those stories take forever to read and grade… I’m up all night!"
"What do I do when a kid says, ‘I can’t think of anything!’ ?"
"Should grammar and spelling count?"
"I don’t seem to be able to get the kids to write on their own."
"So what do I do with their writing when it’s finished?"

The Making of a Poem, Strand, Mark, and Eavan Boland, ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000
Two of our foremost poets provide here a lucid, straightforward primer that "looks squarely at some of the headaches and mysteries of poetic form": a book for readers who have always felt that an understanding of form (sonnet, ballad, villanelle, sestina, among others) would enhance their appreciation of poetry. Tracing "the exuberant history of forms," they devote one chapter to each form, offering explanation, close reading, and a rich selection of exemplars that amply demonstrate the power and possibility of that form.

Marinating the Soul, Boloz, Sigmund. Ganado: Wooded Hill Productions, 1999
Author and educator, Sigmund Boloz, says, "Poetry is a process rather that a series of products. The product is only more important that the process when the product is truly a result of the process. To teach poetry, teachers need to marinate students in poetry and not simply delegate assignments. Marinating begins by providing adequate time to explore and write poetry." A lovely book by a man who loves the poetry, the process, and the students.

Opening a Door: Reading Poetry in the Middle School Classroom, Janeczko, Paul. New York: Scholastic, 2003
With Opening a Door, Paul B. Janeczko presents his most ambitious teacher resource to date. Working from his belief that young people will read poetry if we choose it carefully, he offers poems that span history, ethnicity, and gender— but share one thing in common: they ignite excitement in students. And a desire to read more.
Each of the 15 poem is framed by an "Exploration," a detailed lesson that contains suggestions for investigating the piece on many levels, background on the poet, a student response sheet, and a graphic organizer. You will also find a list of related poems and suggestions for approaches to the poem, including pre-instruction and key elements to emphasize.
The opening two chapters, "Becoming a Teacher of Poetry" and "Exploring the Possibilities of Poetry" contain a number of other poems suitable for classroom use, as well as invaluable insights into successfully introducing poetry to students.
Janeczko concludes the book with advice on becoming a lifelong reader of poetry, providing lists of printed books, audio books, and web sites to get you started.

Participating in the Poem, Blaine, Kathleen Q., et. al. Rocky River: The Center for Learning, 2000
The lessons in this book strive to balance student participation in creative activity with instruction in content and form. This enables the teacher to make meeting a poem an enjoyable and successful experience for the student. An added benefit is that the teacher’s enjoyment in teaching poetry increases.

The Poetry Dictionary, Drury, John. Cincinnati: Story Press, 1995
John Drury has designed an invaluable book for poets. He has not only provided concise, clear, accurate, and current definitions of the terms and traditions of poetry; he has also presented judiciously selected examples of each form, genre, movement, or period. One can read The Poetry Dictionary with equal satisfaction either as an informed guide to the practice and history of verse or as an annotated anthology of model poems. Students learn different things from abstract definitions and specific poems, and they need to see both.

Poetry Parade, Klawitter, Pamela Amick. Santa Barbara: The Learning Works, 1987
This book is designed to help boys and girls in the fourth through the sixth grades have fun with poetry and discover on their own that poems come in all sizes and shapes to express many feelings and to fit many moods. Poetry Parade is divided into four sections. The first section, entitled Poems That Follow a Pattern, contains simple, non-rhyming poems that follow a predetermined pattern of filling a prescribed shape. The second section, Poems That Rhyme, introduces four types of poetry that conform to various rhyme schemes. The third section, entitled Miscellaneous Poems, offers additional experiences in poetry writing and introduces students to such literary devices as alliteration, metaphor, onomatopoeia, and simile. The fourth section, Poetry Projects, which includes both a list of special projects and a mini-book, offers creative outlets for student-generated poems.

Poetry Party, Klawitter, Pamela Amick. Santa Barbara: The Learning Works

A Poet’s Guide to Poetry, Kinzie, Mary. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999
A Poet’s Guide to Poetry brings Mary Kinzie’s expertise as poet, critic, and teacher to bear in a reference work for any writer wishing to better understand poetry. Through examples ranging from medieval to modern and careful discussions of style and mode, she shows how the craft of writing can inform the art of reading poems. Replete with exercises, a dictionary of terms, a list of forms, and an excellent annotated bibliography, this book will become a standard reference guide for all who love poetry.

The Poet’s Companion, Addonizio, Kim, and Dorianne Laux. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997
From the nuts and bolts of craft to the sources of inspiration, this book is for anyone who wants to write poetry— and do it well. Brief essays on the elements of poetry, technique, and suggested subjects for writing are each followed by distinctive writing exercises. ("Compare an actual family photograph with one that was never taken, but might have been.") The ups and downs of the writing life— including self-doubt and writer’s block— are here, along with tips about getting published and writing in the electronic age. One word of caution: this book contains some subject matter that might not be appropriate for all students.

The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach, Behn, Robin and Chase Twichell. New York: HarperCollins, 1992
The editors, who are themselves poets and teachers of creative writing, have collected more than ninety tested and proven exercises intended for poets enrolled in writing programs or working on their own.
Poetry, like any art, is best mastered through practice, and as Behn and Twichell point out in their introduction, "A good exercise serves as a scaffold… [and] helps you think about, articulate, and solve specific creative problems." The exercises in the Practice of Poetry address a broad range of topics: the struggle for inspiration, transforming memory and experience into writing, the process of revision, experimenting with formal structure, as well as many others. The result is a comprehensive, distinctive collection of exciting exercises that stimulate the imagination and increase technical flexibility and control.

Quick Poetry Activities, Sweeney, Jacqueline. New York: Scholastic, 1994
This book is designed to fill expected and unexpected moments that comprise a classroom teacher’s daily regimen, and also to help turn those moments into enjoyable, creative experiences for both the children and their teacher. There are poetry exercises in this book for teachers to use in numerous ways: as time fillers with solid language arts benefits, as supplements to a whole-language curriculum, or simply to stimulate new ideas and ways of thinking in a fun and interesting manner.

Reading and Writing Poetry with Teenagers, Lown, Frederic, and Judith W. Steinbergh. Portland: J. Weston Walch, 1996
Get your students reading, discussing analyzing, and writing poetry through poems and activities that speak to their personal experiences. This versatile unit presents a rich blend of classic and contemporary works— poems by women and men from different cultures writing in both traditional and experimental forms.
You can choose the appropriate depth of questions and exercises for your particular grade level or teaching situation. The poems are organized in thematic groups, progressing from the most concrete and accessible subjects to the most abstract and intellectual themes. Chapter discussion questions progress from concrete identification to abstract analysis.
Each chapter contains (1) poems for reading aloud, (2) poems for discussion, (3) models for writing exercises, (4) samples of student poems written in response to the exercises, and (5) a bibliography for extended reading.
Teaching materials give you goals for each unit, an extensive and up-to-date bibliography, suggestions— for implementing the program through a variety of approaches, ways to integrate the material with science and social studies, and guidelines for creating an atmosphere of trust in your classroom.

The Sounds of Poetry, Pinsky, Robert. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998
A former poet laureate, Robert Pinsky is one of America’s best advocates for poetry. This book is his brief guide to diction, syntax, accent and stress, verse form, and the like: the sounds we call poetry. "Poetry is a vocal, which is to say a bodily, art," he says, and he draws on dozens of great poems to show how poets use the "technology"— the sounds— of poetry to create works of art that are "performed" in us when we read them aloud. This "authoritative yet accessible introduction to the tools of the poet’s trade," as The Atlantic Monthly’s reviewer pointed out, "can be read with profit by the serious student and the amateur alike."

Teaching Poetry in High School, Somers, Albert B. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 1999
f you were teaching poetry in high school, which poems would you select? Those you studied in first-year English because they were "classics"? Would you teach form and technique? What about rap? Albert Somers answers these and other questions in his book, Teaching Poetry in High School, offering the teacher a vast compendium of resources in a highly accessible format. Convinced that the teaching of poetry must be engaging as well as challenging, he ranges far and wide— through well-known literate and lesser-known works, through anthologies and magazines, through the Internet and popular culture.
Teachers will learn how to engage students in talking about poetry, performing poetry, and writing poetry. The book contains a wealth of teaching options— practical approaches, guidelines, activities, scenarios— and it ends with appendices on poetry anthologies, reference works, media, journals, and awards. The book also offers

  • over forty complete poems
  • a discussion of assessment issues (including authentic assessment)
  • poetry across the curriculum (of special interest to teachers from other subject areas)
  • poetry on the Internet (addresses and annotations for over thirty Web sites)

A comprehensive resource for teachers, this book represents practical ideas and myriad ways for teachers and students to discover the joys of poetry.

Teaching Poetry Yes You Can, Sweeney, Jacqueline. New York: Scholastic, 1993
This book is for all teachers, but especially for those who want to teach poetry in their classrooms, but don’t know where or how to begin. It’s for teachers who aren’t sure where to look for poems to read to their students, or which poems to choose once they start looking. It’s for every teacher who ever said: "I really want to teach but I had such horrible experiences with poetry when I was in school— I don’t want to turn my students off! I never know how to begin."

Wishes, Lies, and Dreams, Koch, Kenneth. New York: Harper & Row, 1970
Long considered a classic in its field, Kenneth Koch’s book is a vivid account of a poet’s experience teaching Manhattan schoolchildren to write verse. Koch describes his inventive methods of teaching children to create poems and cites numerous examples of the students’ work, thus providing a valuable example to all those concerned with tapping children’s potential.

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