Several teachers who attended the Favorite Poem Project summer institutes suggest opening a high school poetry unit with a lesson that encourages students to explore poetry independently (with resources provided and guidance as needed), seeking to find poems that are in some way meaningful to them — that speak in some way to their hearts, minds, memories or experiences. Following are five lessons that, with various approaches, encourage students to make connections with particular poems, and then to share those poems, along with some personal remarks, with the class.

Some of these lessons begin by showing Favorite Poem videos to demonstrate poetry's significance in people's lives, through a variety of stories about individual encounters with particular poems. This more personal initial approach reveals poetry as a powerful form of art, rather than a rigid, formal arrangement of words which demand deciphering. Deeper analysis will follow, but only after students have taken some interest in poetry and have demonstrated that interest to each other. It's the teacher's task to make sure the students have access to plenty of poetry, to volumes of poems and collections, magazines and quality Internet resources — but from there, the students should have freedom in this initial assignment. You may suggest that the students try to learn a little bit about the life of the poet whose work they've chosen, and significant details could be a part of the class sharing. There are many wonderful ideas here, so you may choose to combine elements from a few of the following lessons.

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