Back Talk: Poetry and Social Justice in the Classroom

Lesson Introduction

Often, poets use their craft to comment on social issues that are personally, politically, and culturally relevant. In this unit, we’ll look at the Poetry In Voice anthology as a place where poets, especially Indigenous ones, use their voices to speak back to cultural and political norms, and historical wrongs in order to disrupt commonly held beliefs. This series of lessons was first presented at the 2016 Poetry In Voice Nationals Teacher's Workshop. The Powerpoint presentation is included in the materials.

Learning Objectives

In this lesson, students will have opportunities to:

  • Discuss different perspectives on learning, including the “First Nations Principles of Learning.”
  • Examine stereotypes and assumptions about Indigenous People through poets and poetry.
  • Look at our own identities and how that influences our understandings of the world.
  • Analyze poems with a political or cultural message that goes against “the mainstream.” 
  • Connect verbal and visual ways of communicating ideas.
  • Write our own identity poems based on stereotypes others have about us.

Materials and Resources

To teach this lesson, you will need:

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