National Poetry Month
Teaching Guide, Lessons, and More
Art from the Amplifier We the Future series.
This National Poetry Month, we highlight the Rethinking Schools book Rhythm and Resistance: Teaching Poetry for Social Justice. As we approach Earth Day (April 22), we also offer lessons and film clips for teaching climate justice with poetry.

First, a poetic commentary by James Baldwin (1924 –1987) that is relevant to the times we are in.
Rhythm and Resistance:
Teaching Poetry for Social Justice
Rethinking Schools' teaching guide Rhythm and Resistance, co-edited by Linda Christensen and Dyan Watson, reclaims poetry as a necessary part of a larger vision of what it means to teach for justice.

Offering practical lessons about how to teach poetry to build community and social awareness, this guide offers students ways to talk back to injustice, and construct stronger literacy skills across content areas and grade levels — from elementary school to graduate school.

Rethinking Schools editor Linda Christensen and award-winning author Renée Watson shared ideas for teaching and writing poetry in a Rethinking Schools webinar this month. The full recording is streaming online.
Stream the recording and find out more about the book here.
Lessons and Related Resources
Unleashing Sorrow and Joy: Writing Poetry from History and Literature
By Linda Christensen

Explore different ways to incorporate poetry into history or literature classes in this teaching activity.
Because Our Islands Are Our Life
By Moé Yonamine

A teacher describes how students in their Pacific Island Club used poetry to refocus the narrative surrounding climate justice onto frontline communities.
Five Years After the Levees Broke: Bearing Witness Through Poetry
By Renée Watson

A reflection on the power of poetry to spark critical discussion and reflection on issues of inequality surrounding disaster response in the United States.
Teaching to the Heart: Poetry, Climate Change, and Sacred Spaces
By Michelle Nicola

Using Marshallese poet Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner’s poem “Dear Matafele Peinam,” 7th graders think about the sacred spaces in their lives and how they are affected by climate change.
Poetry of Defiance: How the Enslaved Resisted
By Adam Sanchez

Through a mixer activity, students encounter how enslaved people resisted the brutal exploitation of slavery. The lesson culminates in a collective class poem highlighting the defiance of the enslaved.
Video Poems
Performance poems by Marshallese artist Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner show the injustices and harm of environmental racism, nuclear weapons, and climate change.
Upcoming Online Class
April 26, 2021: The Carceral State
Join the Zinn Education Project for our next Teach the Black Freedom Struggle online class on April 26, 2021, when historian Garrett Felber and abolitionist organizer Stevie Wilson talk with Rethinking Schools editor Jesse Hagopian about the growth of the carceral state and resistance movements. The class begins at 4:00 pm PT / 5:00 MT / 6:00 pm CT / 7:00 pm ET and runs for 90 minutes.
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