To see a World in a Grain of Sand: Teaching Close Reading With Really Short Poems

Really short poems-just one, two, three, or four lines long-are a superb resource for teaching the art of close reading. Because they're so short, they ease the anxiety students often have about poetry as an art form, and they can be integrated into a longer class period as a "warm-up" or "cool-down" exercise, helping teachers cultivate close reading as a habit. By the time students reach longer poems-six lines! Eight lines! A whole sonnet!-they're ready to break them down into smaller, more approachable sections, and to make the kind of precise, detailed, and well-supported claims that characterize good close readers, not just of poetry, but of any type of writing. This class will equip teachers with a sheaf of classic and contemporary poems to teach, none more than nine lines long. It will also offer some handy, accessible terms and conceptual models that students can use to make any poem more interesting, whether as a character study, as a verbal contraption, or as part of a cultural conversation.