Building an understanding and appreciation of poetry with Vaughan Rapatahana

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is important for so many meaningful reasons. Among the most significant are that it helps students to appreciate different ways of writing and word use, learn about settings and customs other than those they are used to, and – especially – set down their own emotions and ideas.


How has poetry changed in recent times?

Poetry nowadays is much more than rhyming lines and set patterns. It can include pictures and experimentation with line length and spacing, and can be written as rap or prose.


What is the best way to spark a life-long interest in and appreciation of poetry?

The best approach is to make everything to do with poetry fun! Don’t get caught up in poetic terminology – at least, not before your students are hooked on poetry. Also hold back from introducing overly complicated vocabulary and/or vague themes and ideas.


What are some ideas for making poetry fun?

  • Give students time to build their appreciation of the poem under discussion with fun activities that develop their understanding of any words they will encounter.
  • Choose poems that students can relate to, even if the setting is not one near them.
  • Ask simple questions about what the poem looks like and how it uses words, as well as questions about what happens in the poem and why. Look out for opportunities for students to work with a partner or group if it suits.
  • Keep in mind that questions about a poem usually have no “right” answers.
  • Have more than one reading of the poem out loud with lots of expression – involving both teacher and students.
  • Follow up with enjoyable activities that go beyond writing, writing, writing. Many activities may ask students to create their own poem.

Remember fun is the key. Poems can and should be humorous and happy. Why not, for example, write shape poems and acrostics?

If you are seeking a range of poems written by leading international poets, Exploring Multicultural Poetry is the resource for you. In completing the activities, students not only come to appreciate the language and images of the poems you are studying, but also explore other ways of life across the globe, as well as in an increasingly multicultural Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia.

Enjoy your adventures with poetry!

Vaughan Rapatahana

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