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Pulitzer Center Update April 1, 2020

Five Printable Lessons for National Poetry Month

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Blackout poetry from students at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC. Image by Pamela Henderson. USA, 2019

April is National Poetry Month in the U.S., and to celebrate, we're offering up our top 5 poetry lessons, now complete with printable / fillable .pdf and .doc versions for students to explore independently during school closures. Click the title of the lesson to find these downloadable files.

Poetry can help us connect global events with our personal lives, empathize with people affected by crises the world over, and turn our emotional responses to current events into action. What's more, we have a student poetry contest open for entries until May 15, 2020! Read on for more details.

1. Fighting Words: Poetry in Response to Current Events [Workshop & Contest]

How can poetry be an effective response to current events? How can we use poetry to connect global issues with our local and personal contexts? This contest asks students to write a poem that includes lines from the Pulitzer Center news story of their choice, amplifying under-represented voices while making their own voices heard. Through May 20, Pulitzer Center education team members are available to facilitate this workshop virtually: email us to schedule!

Contest details: Open to all K-12 students in the U.S. and internationally. Winners receive cash prizes up to $100 and publication. Poems must contain at least one line from a Pulitzer Center news story; there are no other formal restrictions. The deadline is May 20, 2019, 11:59 pm ET. For complete guidelines and instructions on how to enter, click here.

2. Ekphrastic Poetry: Writing in Response to Images

How can you use poetry to illuminate the many possible interpretations of an image, and/or to give voice to your own interpretation? How can powerful photography and poetry, together, be used to make personal connections with global issues and to highlight the world's under-reported stories? In this workshop, students write ekphrastic poems based on powerful photography from global news stories.

3. Blackout Poetry for Thematic Connections to News and Literature

Through the visual deconstruction of texts and creation of poetry, students experiment with the ways in which words can inspire visual imagery; they also forge a personal connection with global stories while making thematic connections among texts. In this lesson, designed by Winston-Salem, NC educator Pamela Henderson-Kirkland, students explore stories about the experiences of Indigenous communities in North America and create blackout poetry that communicates themes from those stories. At the top of the lesson plan, you'll find a student-facing activity inspired by this Henderson-Kirkland's lesson. The activity teaches students about blackout poetry by asking them to analyze a blackout poem from a student from R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC, and then guides students in creating their own blackout poems inspired by reporting by grantee Daniella Zalcman on the lasting impact of government-mandated residential schools for Indigenous children. Click here for a preview of the student-facing lesson. Click the link above for materials that support this activity, and to see Henderson-Kirkland's full lesson.

4. Addressing Taboos Through Afghan Poetry

How can poetry be a tool for resistance and liberation? In this lesson, students explore landais, a short form of poetry used primarily by Pashtun women to speak openly about taboo topics, and find out more about the women who write them. In the process, students challenge their own ideas about Afghanistan and its people and consider the ways in which they can use this artform to open dialogues about important issues in our own communities.

5. The Power of Poetry

This lesson introduces two journalism projects that explore how poems can communicate information. First, students will explore a project about Afghan women addressing taboos through anonymous landai poetry. Then, they will explore a multimedia documentary poetry project by poet Kwame Dawes and filmmaker Andre Lambertson about people living with HIV/AIDS in Haiti.