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Poetry in America for Teachers: The City from Whitman to Hip Hop

6/19/17 to 8/4/17

Tuition: $499

Registration Deadline: June 21, 2017

Registration for Poetry in America for Teachers is processed through the Harvard Summer School. Please see the Summer School website for detailed information on tuition, payment, and cancellation policies. 

A limited number of scholarships are available. For more information, send an e-mail to with [Insert Your Name Here], Teacher Course Scholarship Inquiry in the subject line.

What You Will Learn

Offered in collaboration with Harvard Extension School and Harvard Summer School, Poetry in America for Teachers is designed specifically for secondary school educators interested in developing their expertise as readers and teachers of literature. In this program, you will consider those American poets whose themes, forms, and voices have given expression to visions of the city since 1850. Beginning with Walt Whitman, the great poet of nineteenth-century New York, you will explore the diverse and ever-changing environment of the modern city — from Chicago to Washington DC, from San Francisco to Detroit — through the eyes of such poets as Carl Sandburg, Emma Lazarus, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore, Frank O’Hara, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Hayden, and Robert Pinsky, as well as contemporary hip-hop and spoken word artists.

Program Overview

Poetry in America for Teachers is designed primarily for educators who would like to expand their own reading and teaching practice. As you develop and practice advanced strategies for studying American poetry, you will also gain rich new resources for the classroom. This program will introduce content and techniques intended to help educators teach their students how to read texts of increasing complexity. Specifically, Poetry in America for Teachers is anchored in four approaches to close reading literary texts:

  • Making Observations
  • Understanding Structure and Form
  • Situating Texts in History
  • Enjoying Language

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Program Objectives

In this program, you will:

  • Master advanced strategies for teaching students how to close read complex texts, and for facilitating productive classroom discussion centered on those texts
  • Develop teaching expertise relevant to the Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) standards in grades 6-12
  • Observe facilitated poetry discussions featuring a wide range of participants — students, teachers, poets, musicians, actors, athletes, and others
  • Engage in conversation with your peers and program instructors through online discussion forums
  • Apply skills learned during the program in a final lesson planning and delivery project
Who Should Attend
  • Teachers, principals, administrators, curriculum developers, and others who support teachers working with secondary school students (grades 6-12) in English, Language Arts, Humanities, History, and/or American Studies
  • Music, art, and theatre teachers, as well as instructors in extended-day and afterschool programs, community colleges, and programs for English Language Learners
  • The program is appropriate for educators at all stages of their teaching careers. No specialized knowledge of American poetry is required
  • Team participation is encouraged
Program Experience

Poetry in America for Teachers features a combination of video tutorials and conversations, archival images and texts, expeditions to historic literary sites, sample classroom visits, and practical exercises designed to support skills development.

You will experience the power of place through video excursions to the actual sites where our poets lived and wrote. Read along with guest interpreters including Nas, Frank Gehry, Andrea Mitchell, Elena Kagan, and John Lithgow, as we travel from New York to Los Angeles and beyond.

Each week will require 7-10 hours of work.


Elisa New is the creator and host of Poetry in America, the director of Verse Video Education, and the Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard University, where she teaches courses in classic American literature from the Puritans through the present day. Her multi-platform initiative, Poetry in America, has convened conversations with nearly 50,000 participants worldwide and features special guests Bill Clinton, Elena Kagan, Nas, Billy Collins, Herbie Hancock, and more. Her recent publications include Jacob’s Cane: A Jewish Family’s Journey from the Four Lands of Lithuania to the Ports of London and Baltimore; A Memoir in Five Generations (Basic Books, 2009); and New England Beyond Criticism: In Defense of America’s First Literature, A Wiley Blackwell Manifesto (Wiley Blackwell 2014). 

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