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Students don’t typically react with enthusiasm when their teacher announces they’ll be studying poetry.

Generally, teenagers assume poetry is archaic, boring and difficult to understand. However, with these 11 awesome poems for high school, you can challenge their preconceptions. Studying poetry is a key part of the curriculum, so there’s no getting around it for students. By selecting the right poems, however, you can make your classes more engaging and rewarding.

Check out these 11 spectacular poems for high school

Poems for 9th graders or prose for high school seniors, we’ve got you covered.

1. Tattoo by Ted Kooser

Witten by the 13th Poet Laureate of the United States, Tattoo is a fantastic example of poetry to study with high schoolers. As an introduction to poetry, the relatively short prose is non-threatening. In addition, Kooser’s use of language is descriptive yet understandable. For students who are apprehensive about studying poetry, Tattoo will inspire confidence.

The subject of the poem – an elderly man’s aging tattoo – gives rise to a variety of interpretations and meanings. This ensures the text is ideal for stimulating classroom discussion. As well as inviting students to discuss the meaning behind Kooser’s words, teachers may want to encourage the class to consider what purpose tattoos serve in a wider context, based on their interpretation of the prose.

2. The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

Bukowski’s poetry is an excellent choice when you’re looking for poems for 10th graders or any middle schoolers. The Laughing Heart, in particular, captures feelings which many teenagers will recognize. With a focus on risk and life choices, The Laughing Heart resonates with teenagers and often makes students realize how relevant poetry is to today’s society.

In terms of learning objectives, The Laughing Heart gives you the opportunity to study a variety of concepts with students. Personification, juxtaposition, symbolism and repetition are featured throughout; so there is plenty to discuss when you incorporate Bukowski’s words into your classroom-based learning.

3. Loud Music by Stephen Dobyns

Music is an integral part of life for most teenagers, which makes Loud Music by Stephen Dobyns and excellent choice. A must-read when it comes to poems for 11th graders and 12th graders, Dobyn’s words resonate well with students of this age.

As well as featuring symbolism, similes and divisions, the meaning behind Loud Music is one which will appeal to students. Furthermore, Dobyn’s differentiation between his experience of music and that of his step-daughters raises interesting questions.

Studying this poem will encourage students to reflect on their own musical experiences and what role music plays in their lives – as enjoyment, unity, relaxation and escapism. Asking students to pen their own words reflecting what music means to them can be a great exercise when studying Loud Music.

4. The Rose That Grew From the Concrete by Tupac Shakur

Widely believed to be one of the greatest rappers of all time, Tupac Shakur’s work can be a great way to introduce students to poetry. Focusing on resilience and succeeding despite adversity, the themes of this poem speak to teenagers and young people.

While The Rose That Grew From the Concrete is a fantastic example of poems for 12th graders, many of Shakur’s other works feature adult themes and explicit content. Due to this, teachers may only want to use this example when teaching mature students.

5. Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

The use of metaphors and symbolism in Thomas’ classic poem makes it a perfect choice to study with high schoolers. While the poem does contain emotional themes, it can be an excellent choice in the right classroom.

Written by a son to a father, the poem’s protagonist is urging his father not to accept his fate with resignation but to fight instead. Students are quick to pick up on the metaphor of light within this poem, so it’s an ideal introductory poem for high school classes.

6. All The World’s a Stage by William Shakespeare

A key monologue from As You Like It, All The World’s a Stage is a popular text to use in poetry classes. Reducing life to seven stages, the arguably depressing tone of the speech is ideal to spark classroom discussion. Indeed, the claim that the world is a stage, with each person merely playing a series of parts, is thought-provoking and highly debatable.

Of course, Jacques use of metaphor throughout the monologue is an excellent example of the concept. Teachers can use All The World’s a Stage to exemplify how metaphorical language is used and why it’s so powerful.

If students are unfamiliar with the text, it can be fun to introduce them to the poem without telling them who the author is. Students often disengage when they hear they’ll be studying William Shakespeare; simply because the assume the language is difficult, outdated and confusing. However, All The World’s a Stage will rid them of these preconceptions and enable them to see just how relevant 16th century work can be today.

7. If by Rudyard Kipling

Arguably Kipling’s most famous work, If is a meaningful text to use in class. Including themes of resilience, integrity and forgiveness, the poems speaks to young people and resonates well with high schoolers. If you’re looking for 11 awesome poems for high school, this should definitely be on your list!

As well as being thematically powerful, If uses an important range of writing techniques. By including this poem in your class syllabus, students will have the opportunity to study personification, parallelism, symbolism, rhyme scheme and anaphora.

8. Fifth Grade Autobiography by Rita Dove

The subject of Dove’s poem is one which can be recreated by students, which means it’s ideal if you’re looking for poems for 9th graders, 10th graders, 11th graders or 12th graders.

Fifth Grade Autobiography focuses on the author recounting memories related to a photograph. With an excellent use of imagery, students can learn key concepts and writing techniques. Asking students to choose a photographic that’s important to them and writing their own version of Fifth Grade Autobiography can be a great assignment based on Dove’s poetry.

9. How To Be A Person by Shane Koyczan

Although How To Be A Person does contain an example of profanity, this shouldn’t prevent it from being used in an appropriate classroom setting. Koyczan is known for writing and speaking poetry which centers of themes for teenagers. From bullying and depression to eating disorders and resilience; the content of his work is relevant to today’s teens.

The use of list form in How To Be A Person, along with metaphors and personification, also exposes students to a different writing technique. Furthermore, encouraging students to write prose containing list form can be an excellent learning experience.

10. Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

An exceptionally powerful poem, Still I Rise features themes of resilience, power and femininity. Angelou’s work as an author and civil rights activist should be an integral element of any study of her work.

When studying Still I Rise, students will have the opportunity to see metaphor, repetition, simile, rhyme and questions used skillfully to create meaningful prose.

Although this poem does contain some sexual references, its content is entirely suitable for high school students. Indeed, many teachers believe Angelou’s work is vital to their teaching plans.

11. We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks

Perfect for teenagers, We Real Cool focuses on a group of young people playing pool. Often believed to be about a gang, the poem could, in fact, relate to any group of teenagers.

As well as being powerful in terms of its message, We Real Cool contains interesting writing techniques. When using this poem in class, students can learn about juxtaposition, alliteration and internal and end rhyme.

Teaching Poetry in High Schools

Although students aren’t always keen to study poetry, it often becomes one of their favorite topics. By using innovative teaching techniques and poetry games, for example, you can make studying poetry fun and interactive.

Teaching poetry enables you to be as creative as you like. While students will learn more about important writing styles, they can also try their hand at writing their own prose.

As well as preparing students for assignments and exams, choosing the right texts, stanzas and prose can help to instill a lifelong love of poetry in your high school students.