Teaching Diversity with Poetry

Teaching the issues of diversity can be a complicated subject unless you are prepared to deal with the controversial concerns and have lengthy classroom time to discuss and debate. Diversity encompasses a wide range of topics and in order to meet the social studies standards accurately, a good way to present and inform about the subject is through poetry. In an informative article by Ava L. McCall titled Using Poetry in Social Studies Classes to Teach about Cultural Diversity and Social Justice speaks about the ways in which poetry is useful as a teaching method. This source was from the journal Social Studies (v95 n4 p172 Jul-Aug 2004). The reason why I chose this specific article for my diversity project was because I liked how the information was presented to the students and I like how impactful it was for me as a student.

The teaching of poetry reading can take many different shapes and teach many critical skills from one poem. McCall’s main points were that through the broad range of diversity topics one can find very specific events captured in writings. Using old and new text, she examines the historical aspects of the authors before assigning the poems. She feels that the poetry confronts the issues of racism, sexism and classism in a non-threatening, and personal way. Poetry often affirms women’s strength and cultural groups less values in society. Also frequently praises individuals who resist oppression or portray harm resulting from discriminatory actions (McCall, 172).

Poetry itself is deep and thought provoking, which is exactly what I want my students to feel! Using this medium as a way to transport the readers into that history does not stop when we are done reading the poem. Usually poets are vague and mysterious. This leads to discussion and higher learning through critical thinking and analyzing not only the words and vocabulary, but the author’s background, bias and point of view.

I feel that students should not only practice with poetry for meaning, but will have enjoyment in discovering each hidden clues within the short, potent stanzas. The possibilities are endless and save more time than reading a lengthy book. Also the teacher is benefiting because the lesson is more engaging and insightful. In conclusion, poetry is a great way to represent the issues of diversity to your students.

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