For Your Classroom · Poetry

Engaging Poetry TED Talks for High Schoolers

Getting students to engage with, appreciate, or even pay attention to poetry is an annual challenge. 

But it’s been my experience that introducing the concept of poetry with fresh perspective and a genuine personal enthusiasm can help you make great strides toward student interest.

Check out these exciting TED Talks about poetry and choose your favorites to share with your high school students.

These talks are perfect for introducing a poetry unit, National Poetry Month (April), World Poetry Day (March 21), or any time you or your scholars need a reminder of the power, significance, and sheer beauty of the gift that is poetry.

Billy Collins (two-term U.S. Poet Laureate) – Everyday moments, caught in time

Length: 15:13

Billy shares several videos of his witty poetry set to animation, along with his brief commentary. At the end, he reads another humorous poem about teenagers. Interesting and funny.

free poetry project digital choice board

Amanda Gorman (the U.S.’s youngest inaugural poet) – Using your voice is a political choice

Length: 7:19

Amanda, in lyrical style, discusses how poetry is integral to our society and explains why she believes all poetry is intrinsically political. Opens doors for lots of good discussion. 

Oscar Schwartz (writer and researcher) – Can a computer write poetry?

Length: 10:45

Oscar raises philosophical questions surrounding the concept of computer-generated poetry. Thought-provoking and amusing. 

teaching poetry kit
If you’re teaching the mechanics of poetry, check out this teaching poetry kit that includes an in-depth PowerPoint walkthrough, plus interactive notebook components.

Sarah Kay (poet, performer, and educator) – How many lives can you live?

Length: 12:06

Sarah shares how stories, especially in poetry, allow us to live the lives we’ll never get to have. She incorporates two of her own spoken-word poems into her talk. Heart-warming and inspiring. 

free poetry project digital choice board

Emtithal Mahmoud (poet and advocate) – A young poet tells the story of Darfur

Length: 10:42

Emtithal talks about how and why she turned to poetry as a way of sharing horrific experiences, and performs two of her own spoken-word poems. Beautiful and stirring.

(Consider discussing the genocide in Darfur prior to showing this talk, so students will have relevant background information.)

Which of these talks did you share with your students? Please come back and share with us how it went in the comments below.

I'd love to hear from you!