3 Ways To Use Poetry In Your Classroom

3 Ways To Use Poetry In Your Classroom

I was recently contacted by a teacher (and student) from Mexico City. The high school students are studying poetry, and the teacher wants to find more ways to engage the students. They asked me to answer these questions. My goal is to help them understand poetry and to feel more connected to it. If you are an educator, please use this as a guide to help you in your classroom. These questions were asked by the teacher.


How can students understand and feel poems?


  1. Read each poem aloud.


With each poem, ask the students to read it aloud.  Then ask them to find one line they feel connected to. The line will serve as a thread they can pull from, a door and enter.  Ask them to write down 1 line that connects them to something in their own experience.

  1. Use Diverse Examples Of Poetry

Some may not agree with this, but when I was a teacher I learned that connecting with students on their level was helpful. Don’t be afraid to use music as a reference. If your students prefer musicians to written poets, let them reference that and discuss how it relates to poetry.

The Personal Will Become Universal for New Poetry Students

I believe the personal is universal.  Poetry is a collection of personal stories strung together by metaphor and a hunger to be seen while observing the world. In understanding some of the most personal stories of another human being, we begin to understand that nothing in our story is unusual.  We live in different parts of the world at different times and have different eyes and different skin, but we all hunger for the same thing: to make meaning of our lives and the world around us. we want to know that our lives signify something.

This is how the students will understand a poem. They will find that one line that becomes a window or a door into their own world and they will remember that they also want to have significant life and have mattered to someone.

How can students feel inspired to participate in poetry class?

Write A Collective Poem

I suggest aking the students to write a collective poem, where each person contributes one line.  I usually start with one line and pass the paper around until each student contributes something. Hopefully, this exercise will create community. Sometimes students feel shy to write a poem on their own, so this is a great way to involve everyone.

I think teachers should also participate and add a line.

How To Write A Collective Poem

  1. Start with one large piece of paper.
  2. Ask each student to contribute one line.  They should not think too much about this. The line does not have to be perfect. They can write down anything that comes to their mind. This exercise should be fun.
  3. The teacher should also add a line to the poem.
  4. Pass the paper around the circle 1 or 2 times. It depends on how many students you have. If you have 30, then one time will work well. If you have 5, then I suggest passing the paper around 2 or 3 times.

Has poetry helped you in your work as a web designer and entrepreneur?

Approaching Web Design As A Digital Storyteller

Creating websites is a form of storytelling.  Before I build or design anything, I try to find the story.What is the story each business is trying to tell?  This work is (in part) digital storytelling. I use modern tools like coding, web design and digital marketing but it is the story that connects it all.

Good Web Design Is Good Storytelling

An impactful website tells a good story. That story then takes website visitors on a journey. At the end of that journey, your website visitors can choose to leave or arrive at a destination where they are asked to take action.

Businesses ask customers to buy from them, sign up for their newsletter, contact them or read their content.


The late poet Mary Oliver said this about poetry and professional life:

“Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”

Mary Oliver explains poetry as a container


So yes, poetry does help me in my work as a web designer and entrepreneur.  It gives me a perspective, a container through which I can put my work into. And that container helps me when I design from the perspective of a storyteller and a lover of language.

It also helps me when I speak at conferences and poetry festivals.  My work as a poet prepared me for the public part of my tech work. Some days I design websites. Some days I also travel and speak at business conferences. When I walk onto the stage, I feel more confident because I have experience doing this as a poet.

I believe that we all so desperately need a perspective that informs how we connect with the world on a personal and professional level.

Poetry is my container and my worldview that informs (and enriches) the work I do.

recording my mother

recording my mother

#NaPoWriMo Day 30

I can’t believe I made it to day 30. It’s an amazing feeling. My mom has been visiting me and this poem was inspired by her and all the wisdom she shares with me on a daily basis.


i pretend to take her picture
but this game will play is pointless
she knows that I’m recording her
but my mother doesn’t mind

something tells me to document it all
something tells me to do more than see her
to do my best to hear her
to encapsulate the wisdom of an African woman
my African woman

my mother has lost two sons and buried dreams
she had to let go of
coming to America was not always easy

she just says things that everyone else is thinking
but pulls you in close rests your head on her shoulder
when she has difficult news for you

we call her the 5 foot mountain
she just is

one day i know i will cry myself to sleep
just missing my mother
but i will play her voice
and for now keep


© Uchechi Kalu 2017

grace II

grace II

#NaPoWriMo Day 28


she brought me a plant
said it was meant to usher in new beginnings
i’m changing
we all are
and there we both stood
women who just by looking at each other
no we really knew
that now we had truly lived
the disappointment muddled with our knowledge
of just how powerful we both could be
welled could be bathed us both in my tears
i couldn’t stop crying

maybe this is what grace is
the understanding of what the moment we are each seen
in our less than perfect states
and told that yes we too
will always be loved
and guess what?
there’s enough of the love to cover all of our

Copyright 2017 Uchechi Kalu

the passport

the passport

Today’s poem was inspired by a conversation I had with my mother earlier this week. I knew her immigration story from Nigeria to the United States, but what I didn’t know was the story she told of applying for her first passport. I didn’t know what it was like for her to hold that in her hand and to also connect the dots and see the possibilities that were about to open up for her. This poem is for my mother. Thank you for applying for your first passport.


#NaPoWriMo Day 14

the passport

my mother never knew just what it felt like
to hold one
the smooth slightly pebbled jacket
the anemic yet sturdy spine
for the first time
she held her future
she took that spine
and built a whole back
for her children to stand up

good enough

good enough


#NaPoWriMo Day 12


good enough

the words sit in the back of our throats

we disguise it as wonder

we disguise it as fear

it’s this one question

that always seems to be in the way

are you good enough to have him

to keep her

to embrace yourself under the most yourself during the most

dire day

this is the question i want to pose

what does it mean to be good enough?

in the space of enough

i fill up a room

crooked teeth ashy skin

rememberances of adolescence gone wrong

this is how i right it

i allow myself to take up space

in the space of good

it is an asking of broken bread

fresh baked and smelling of mornings

goodness is in the everyday small things

not in that one time when you thought you were not good enough

and chose to do the wrong thing

are you good enough?

we are enough if we allow ourselves

to fill up our bodies the rooms we move in

the circles we gather

if we allow ourselves to claim

our very precious right to be here

smelling of baked bread

another day

another chance to simply be