Expressing Attitudes and Emotions through Poetry

By Whalen, Shannon | Journal of School Health, September 2000 | Go to article overview

Expressing Attitudes and Emotions through Poetry

Whalen, Shannon, Journal of School Health


At the conclusion of this technique, students will be able to:

1. practice literacy skills by writing a poem to express their attitudes and emotions surrounding a health-related topic;

2. practice technology skills by using word processors and clip art software to type their handwritten poem; and

3. share their "published" poem with friends and family members.


Poetry, a personal type of writing, is difficult for a health teacher, or any teacher, to assess in a traditional way. Teachers can use a rubric to assist in the assessment process. Categories in the rubric include creativity, ability to follow the structure of a selected poem, number of lines in the poem, number of health-related facts in the poem, and spelling and grammar. For example, if part of a student's grade involves the number of lines in a poem, one student may choose to write two or three haiku poems, while another student may write a longer, free verse poem.

The easiest way to assess this type of work is through the pass/fail method. Unfortunately, without the "threat" of a grade, students may not take the assignment seriously. English or language arts teachers may suggest alternative ideas on assessment.

Activities and Strategies

Health-related topics often are emotionally laden. They lend themselves naturally to class discussion and other types of affective activities. Poems allow students an alternative way to express feelings and emotions related to health issues. This activity also can improve a student's sense of self-esteem by seeing their work "published" in a collaborative class poetry book.

When assigning poems to the class, allow students anywhere from one night to one week to complete the poem. The younger the students, the more time they need to develop a poem. The poems can be written out, or the teacher can allow students to type their work in the school's technology lab.

Teachers face increased pressure to integrate technology into the curriculum. The poetry project provides an opportunity for a health teacher to use the school's technology resources. The teacher can reserve the school's computer room for a period and take the class to type their poems.

Encourage students to use different fonts and point sizes, and to paste clip art onto their poem page. Not only does this approach encourage students to practice word processing and technology skills, but the more unique each student's poem, the more interesting the final book of poems will turn out. Peer education and cooperative learning can be incorporated into the lesson by asking the more skilled students to assist other students in the technological crafting of their poems. If a computer room is not available at school, students can type their poems at home or in the local library.

The teacher collects the typed poems and arranges them to create a health education poetry book. If the school or teacher has funds to make copies of the book, the teacher can "publish" the students' poems and give copies to each student to take home and share with friends and families. Students achieve a sense of satisfaction, achievement, and self-worth from seeing their work in print!

Using poetry in the health education classroom also affords an opportunity for the health and language arts/English teachers to collaborate. The language arts/English teacher can assist the health teacher in developing the assignment and assessment guidelines. The health teacher can assign the poem project when the language arts/English teacher is teaching poetry in their class. If the language arts/English teacher appreciates the health teacher's efforts to incorporate poetry into health class, the language arts/English teacher may want to incorporate health material into language arts/English. The more exposure students have to health education material, the greater the chances they will make healthy choices in their lives. …

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