Using Instagram to Teach Poetry

Last year, in my first class with my all my Grade 9s, I did a quick quiz to find out what they enjoyed about studying English, what they struggled with, and what were their areas of weakness. As you would expect, their answers varied. Yet there was one resounding finding: they hated studying poetry. 

I was devastated. Poetry made me fall in love with language: beautiful nuggets of human experience, wrapped in delicious words and stunning imagery. How could one not love it?

My work was cut out for me... and Instagram helped me out. 

I tried many things last year to inspire my students, but by far the most successful was Instagram. This is no surprise: my students love social media, and poetry is having a mini-revival on Instagram. Indeed, if you delve into the depths of poetry on Instagram, you will find post after post of simple, block-colored, squares images with a few lines of verse. Sometimes even just a few words. But they pack a punch.

Take, for example, this poem by the extremely talented and enigmatic Nayyirah Washeed:

There is SO much here to analyze when teaching poetry: 

  • Discuss at the effect of the repetition and how it contributes to the imploring tone.
  • Analyze the punctuation and discuss the effect of the caesura in the fourth line. 
  • Examine the word choice and discuss the impact of the word “seducing.”
  • Delve into the imagery inherent in the deliciousness of something dripping down your chin – like a juicy mango.

All this in just six lines.

I get why my students love this: it is manageable, succinct and accessible. And a great hook into more complex poetry.

One of the bonuses of using Instagram in the classroom is the ability to introduce your students to current poets from across the globe: diverse perspectives from a variety of voices, writing about issues which are relevant to the world today. 

I have compiled a free Google Slides presentation of just a few great accounts which I recommend to students; this is a great way to introduce students to the concept of using Instagram for reading poetry, then you and you students can find more!

Personally, I start with this presentation and then we spend some time exploring the work of these poets and discussing students' reactions. 

Please Note: As these pages are constantly being added to, I cannot say that it will all be appropriate, always. It is important that you check the content to make sure that it is appropriate for your students, when you recommend. 

There are so many ways in which you can create activities which incorporate Instagram poetry in analysis and assessment in the classroom. Below are just a few ideas, but I would love to hear if you have more. 

  1. Use this FREE WORKSHEET for students to find examples of poetry on Instagram, and then answer questions prompting deeper analysis.
  2. Set up your own classroom Instagram page – have students write their own poems and collate them throughout the year on a class IG page.
  3. Have a "IG post of the day" projected on the board as students walk in and start the class with a 5 minute analysis and discussion of the poem. 
  4. Have students compare and contrast an IG poem with a famous piece of work. 

So, there you have it. Instagram is not just for the Kardashians. ;-) 

If you are looking for more engaging materials for teaching poetry, please do check out my resources, and click the comment button below to share your thoughts and questions. 

The other Coffee Shop gals have some fabulous resources for using Social Media in the classroom; check them out: 

Back to Top