Breathing Life Into Poetry


Organized around essential questions and thematic literature selections, each Whitfield English course combines collaborative experiences with individualized instruction; the hallmark of the English department is writing as a process. Student-centered design means that students examine ideas, read critically, make presentations, design media products, and communicate using a variety of technology resources, balancing deep thinking and concrete skill acquisition to prepare them for college, careers, and citizenship.

In English 9 Literature and Composition: Encountering the Other, freshmen recently completed a capstone project in conjunction with a unit on poetry—Breathing Life Into Poetry. For this assignment, students were asked to design a digital presentation that brings a poem to life through image and sound.

Using Adobe Spark and Google Slides, each student designed a slideshow that used images to illustrate the figurative language and imagery of the poem. Graphic representation, either existing artwork or original pieces designed by the students, were chosen intentionally to represent a deeper understanding of the poem’s message, mood, tone, as well as imagery.

“My approach to teaching poetry is all about teaching the image of a poem and creating an understanding of how poetry is ‘word art’ in a lot of ways,” said faculty member Tim Kohler. “The unit on poetry is a space for having students think about the intentional images of poems—that was the spark for this assignment.”

Students recorded a recitation of their poem as the presentation’s voiceover. The presentation concluded with an Author’s Note slide which answered the questions: What is the deeper meaning of the poem and what are some ways the poet achieves their meaning? Why did you choose the images to go along with the poem?

“I think this project accomplished what we wanted it to accomplish,” said faculty member Sari Rotskoff ’00. Having students focus on a poem by a published poet allowed them to take ownership of that poem and become the expert. This project prompted students to practice the skills we taught during the unit, which they will continue to use later."

Project Examples

Eli Charmley
"The Moon was But a Chin of Gold," by Emily Dickinson

Audrey Roberts
"Making A Fist," by by Naomi Shihab Nye

Noah Epstein
"I'll tell you how the Sun Rose," by Emily Dickinson 

Grace Cooperstein
"I Hear America Singing," by Walt Whitman 

Derrick Palmer
"Making A Fist," by Naomi Shihab Nye