October 8th, 2015

First Lady honors National Student Poets — Class Discussion

Arts & Culture

(Anita Wright/NewsHour Extra)


Have your students read the following article, then discuss the power of poetry as a class using the discussion questions. 

Five high school students from across the United States received one of the nation’s highest youth poetry honors at the White House Thursday.

The students come from Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, New Jersey and Ohio and were chosen from among 20,000 other youth poets in recognition of their creativity and dedication to the arts.

First Lady Michelle Obama congratulated the students and spoke about poetry’s ability to connect people of different backgrounds through shared emotion and experience. Creative writing was an important outlet for her as a child, she said, both as a means of remaining occupied during difficult times and as a way to express herself.

“It helped me on so many levels to pour out those feelings on paper,” the First Lady said.

The National Student Poets will spend the coming year as youth poetry ambassadors, using their skills and love of poetry to lead workshops and host poetry readings in their communities and elsewhere.

Ashley Gong, a 2014 National Student Poet from Newtown, Connecticut, said her experience over the past year helped her grow as both a poet and as a person. Gong attended Sandy Hook Elementary School — the site of a school shooting in 2012. Poetry helped Gong come to terms with her own feelings after the tragedy, and she used her year of service outreach to hold poetry workshops with local middle school students to help them better express themselves.”I wanted to share the cathartic power of poetry with others in my community,” she said.

Discussion questions:

  1. “Cathartic” is a word that describes the ability to provide emotional relief through the expression of strong emotion. Why do you think poetry can be cathartic for some people?
  2. Have you ever written or read a poem that helped you express something you were not able to before?
  3. Do you think poetry is becoming more or less relevant? Explain.

More activities:

Lesson Plan: Discovering Your Voice Through Poetry

Student Reporting Labs youth-produced video: Poetry program helps teens express themselves

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