National Poetry Month (16) – Classic/Current Pairs

I love National Poetry Month! And I am pleasantly surprised at myself for keeping up with the daily posts. Yay me!

In previous posts I have mentioned how poetry can scare students off before we even get started. One resource I use to push this fear away is to show students how current lyrics to hip-hop and other genres of music are similar to or have the same poetic devices used as the classical poems many are afraid to read for fear of not understanding. I stumbled across the idea of pairing classic poems with current hip-hop lyrics through Alan Lawrence Sitomer‘s book Hip-Hop Poetry and the Classics.

This book includes lesson plans to use to teach poetic devices, such as imagery, using a classic poem like A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes and a hip-hop song like Juicy by Notorious B. I. G. I have used many of the pairings included in the book and students have always received these lessons well. Using popular culture, like hip hop songs, encourages the students to think critically about the world around them by making those connections between their world and the world before them.

Here is an additional list of poetry/hip hop pairings from Sitomer’s book:

To teach tone: Rakim’s “Paid in Full” with Francis William Bourdillon “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes”

To teach symbolism: Ice Cube’s “Three Strikes You In” with Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s “Sympathy”

To teach personification: Common’s “I am Music” with Robert Frost’s “Lodged” or Sylvia Plath’s “Mirror”

To teach metaphors: Mos Def’s “Respiration” with “Weaver” (anonymous)

To teach mood: De La Soul’s “A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays” with Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool”

To teach meaning: Tupac Shakur’s “Me Against the World” with Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”

There are many more opportunities to mix current with classic. These are just a few. Please let me know what you use to connect today’s world with the world of literature that came before.

Thanks for reading and commenting on my National Poetry Month posts!

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