Poetry is a valuable addition to high school and middle school English and language arts classes because it encourages literary expression. Advanced vocabulary, the play on words, rhyme, rhythm and emotional elements make poetry an essential part of creative writing and literature. Students learn to read, write and understand poetry so they can effectively express ideas and make logical assumptions about literary works.
Poetry is colorful, revealing and detail-oriented, so it helps students visualize what the author is saying. According to the Scholastic website, poetry enables students to create mental pictures and use their imagination to reflect on the author's words. In a world full of video games, television and computer programs, poetry forces students to create their own images rather than rely on illustrations provided for them. Poetry stimulates creativity and encourages students to see beyond the obvious.
Reading poetry aloud helps students build confidence and develop self-awareness, according to Dr. Susan Weinstein on the Mass Poetry website. Students learn to read poetry with proper rhyme, rhythm and intonation, and express themselves by writing and reading their own poetic creations. Poetry encourages the "spoken word" and challenges students to share their values, fears, hopes and ideals through verbal expression. This type of peer-to-peer communication creates a healthy classroom environment that encourages close relationships between classmates.
Middle and high school students learn vocabulary and literary terms associated with poetry. For example students are taught terms such as iambic pentameter, couplet, stanza, sonnet, alliteration, personification and onomatopoeia. Novels, plays, essays and historical journals are important literary sources, but they don't teach poetic forms of speech or writing. Since many of these terms show up on standardized tests, poetry assignments prepare students to meet classroom and national testing requirements.
Many subjects, such as math, science, technology and history, have straightforward academic content that doesn't necessarily require students to make inferences. However, poetry encourages students to make assumptions and draw conclusions without definitive right or wrong answers. Poetry prompts middle and high school students to think outside the box and make logical conjectures about the meaning behind an author's poetic words. Critical thinking is a valuable skill that helps students prepare for college classes and eventual workplace interactions.
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