April is National Poetry Month. Wondering how teachers can use AI-powered text and art tools to teach poetry? I’ve explored a few ways, and in addition to crafting poetry prompts and performing analysis, AI-powered poetry can make illustrations easier to visualize. As a poetry teacher for young poets, I found myself enchanted by the possibilities.
AI, where did you get your spark?
I found it in a place so few people take time to search.
AI, why do teachers hate you so?
They fear I found that which few students don’t know enough to seek.
AI, what did you find that so few know what do seek?
I found humanity, lurking deep in my digital heart.
It’s so easy to read and write bad poetry, but the act of writing yields insight into the journey every writer takes. Working with AI-powered poetry means finding inspiration and seeing what another reader may see without having to speak to another person. That can be helpful for the solitary poet, and useful as a discussion starter in the classroom.
But first, what suggestions come to us by way of ChatGPT itself?
What’s ChatGPT’s Take on Teaching Poetry?
When I asked ChatGPT how it could be used to teach Grade 10 poetry, the words flew onto my screen, reflecting a rich awareness of what’s been shared on the topic. When challenged with tougher questions, ChatGPT puts words on the screen at a slow pace. But ask it how to teach and ChatGPT articulates a generic response for your consideration.
Here is the ChatGPT response, quoted verbatim:
As an AI language model, ChatGPT can be a valuable resource for teaching poetry in several ways. Here are some suggestions:
Poetry prompts: ChatGPT can generate creative writing prompts that can be used as a starting point for writing poetry. For example, you can ask ChatGPT to generate a random phrase, a line of poetry, or a set of words that students can use as a basis for their own poems.
Poetic language: ChatGPT can help students understand and appreciate the beauty of poetic language. You can ask ChatGPT to generate examples of figurative language such as metaphors, similes, and personification, and discuss how these devices are used in poetry.
Poetry analysis: ChatGPT can help students analyze and interpret poetry. You can provide ChatGPT with a poem, and ask it to provide insights on the theme, tone, imagery, and other literary devices used in the poem. You can also ask ChatGPT to provide examples of similar poems that can be used for comparison and contrast.
Poem generation: ChatGPT can generate poetry based on specific themes, styles, or structures. For example, you can ask ChatGPT to generate a sonnet, haiku, or free verse poem on a given topic. This can help students understand the different forms and structures used in poetry.
Poetry feedback: ChatGPT can provide feedback on student poetry. You can ask students to submit their poems to ChatGPT, and it can provide feedback on areas such as grammar, syntax, and word choice. This can help students improve their writing skills and develop a better understanding of the mechanics of poetry.
Overall, ChatGPT can be a useful tool for teaching poetry, but it should not replace the role of the teacher in guiding and facilitating student learning. The use of ChatGPT should be integrated with other teaching methods, such as group discussions, peer feedback, and writing exercises.
Let’s take a moment to expand on some of these suggestions.
1. Using AI to Generate Poetry
When I asked my third grade, fifth grade, and sixth grade students to write a poem, I asked them to draw on experience – to reflect on one thing that’s happened to them, then write about it.
Since I prefer prose, I often start my pieces in that form, then transition to poetry. Here’s an example of my first draft:
As I walked the grounds, hearing the howls and whines of dogs of all ages and sexes, I felt a deep sense of foreboding and sadness. They weren’t crying only for freedom, but companionship, a friend to be with, a fellow to sniff noses with, and kiss with a slobbery lick. One female dog, two months old, stared at me as I walked by.
Her black and white furred face, pointed ears framed sky blue eyes that stared expectantly at me. She paced her cage, her gaze trying to find purchase in my heart. Fencer, as the badge on her cage read, was a happy, quiet, friendly puppy, waiting for her human and a forever home. I walked on by, coming face to face with a curious pup.
This pup had a dark head, black fur coating his stout shape, upheld by basset hound legs and paws. He looked to be a pit bulldog from nose to withers, but his white-furred legs and paws were all basset hound. He huddled low to the ground, an eagerness forcing his body to shake as he stared at us with diffident enthusiasm. Next to him, I saw Trooper, his ears flopped down to either side.
Trooper’s manner was different than the others, a resplendent coat, washed, of black and white fur. He stared at me, but only with curiosity. His eyes reflected joy of some sort, a joy I couldn’t fathom. Then, I read the placard on the gate: “Adopted, pending pickup.” His wait had come to an end, and somehow, the canine knew it.
Making the transition from prose to verse can be difficult and require many hours. What if ChatGPT could help with that?
ChatGPT Prompt: Write a tanka poem about my experiences visiting an animal shelter yesterday.
As you may recall, tankas are poems with a specific meter. ChatGPT paused for a moment, to consider my request, then assembled this tanka poem.
When asked to generate a poem in verse, here’s a poignant second-to-last stanza of what it generated to tug at one’s heartstrings, complete with network error:
In the animal shelter, I walked with a heavy heart,
The howls and whines of dogs, tearing me apart,
They longed not just for freedom, but for a friend,
A companion to be with, till the very end.
A little female pup, just two months old,
Black and white fur, with sky blue eyes so bold,
She stared at me with an expectant gaze,
Pacing her cage, hoping to escape this maze.
Fencer, as her badge read, a friendly puppy,
Waiting for her human, a life so happy,
I walked on, my heart full of pain,
But then I met a curious pup, not in vain.
With a dark head and stout shape,
His basset hound legs and paws, a landscape,
He looked like a pit bulldog, but with a twist,
His diffident enthusiasm, hard to miss.
Beside him stood Trooper, black and white fur so fine,
Reflecting joy, he knew his wait was now in line,
“Adopted, pending pickup,” the placard read,
A happy ending for him, his heart now fed.
The animal shelter, a place of hope and sadness,
A reminder of the bond, between humans and madness,
May we always remember, to give these creatures love,
And cherish the joy, they bring with a s… [network error]
Both examples provide fascinating transformations from prose to poem. I’m struck by how ChatGPT transformed the experience I had into a poem that I very well could have written.
Idea: Have students write about an experience and ask ChatGPT to generate different types of poetry using their original draft. This could be an interesting practice for students to compare and contrast the characteristics of different types of poetry by seeing adaptations of their own experiences written in different ways.
2. Using AI to Respond to Poetry Prompts
I keep coming back to Kenneth Koch’s Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? In this, Koch asks students to read a poem, like William Blake’s “The Tyger,” then write a poem in response to a prompt like:
Write a poem in which you ask questions of a mysterious and beautiful creature.
Here is ChatGPT’s response to this prompt:
Oh mysterious creature, what secrets do you keep?
What lies behind your eyes, what treasures do you seek?
What power do you hold, what magic do you wield?
What secrets of the universe have you concealed?
Oh beautiful creature, what beauty do you see?
What colors of the rainbow do you feel, what scents do you breathe?
What songs do you sing, what dreams do you chase?
What emotions do you feel, what memories do you embrace?
Oh enigmatic creature, what mysteries do you guard?
What ancient knowledge do you possess, what secrets of the yard?
What wisdom do you impart, what stories do you tell?
What secrets of the universe do you know so well?
Oh elusive creature, why do you stay hidden?
What purpose do you serve, what secrets are forbidden?
What magic do you possess, what gifts do you bestow?
What secrets of the universe do you hold, and will we ever know?
No doubt there’s some poetic language. Do you know how some young poets feel when reading the classic poets? It’s a feeling of despair. A feeling of, “I can’t write or rhyme like that.” That feeling is one that you can avoid with Kenneth Koch’s approach. What’s more, using AI-powered poems for examples and illustrations helps to avoid the feeling of, “I can’t do it as well as some dead poet.”
Idea: Use ChatGPT to respond to a poetry prompt. Ask students to read the response and analyze it before writing their own response. What did they like about the response? What did they not like? What did they notice about it?
Using AI for Poetry Analysis
Here’s a poem I wrote, then asked ChatGPT to analyze:
Dragon, with fire so hot and bright, why do you slay knights?
They die in flame to purge them of their greed and hate.
Dragon, why do you have a hoard of gold?
I keep a hoard to catch the sun’s golden light when darkness comes close.
Dragon, hiding in your dark cave, why don’t you come out?
I fear what you may see when I smile in the light of day.
Dragon, why is your smile so big?
So you can help me clean my teeth…I have a bit of human stuck in between.
ChatGPT Prompt: Analyze this poem for theme, tone, imagery and other literary devices:
Here’s the response that it gave:
The poem explores the motivations and actions of a dragon through a series of questions and answers. The poem contains a tone of curiosity, as the speaker is questioning the dragon’s behavior, but also a hint of fear, as the dragon’s actions and words can be unpredictable.
The theme of the poem seems to revolve around the idea of perception and identity. The dragon is seen as a fierce, fire-breathing creature that slays knights, but through the questions, the reader sees a different side of the dragon. The hoard of gold, for example, is not just for greed but for capturing the sun’s light. The dragon’s fear of being seen in the light of day hints at a fear of judgment and rejection based on appearance. The big smile, which could be interpreted as a threat, is instead revealed to be a practical solution to a dental problem.
The poem uses imagery effectively to create a vivid picture of the dragon and its surroundings. The image of the dragon’s fire being “hot and bright” adds to the sense of danger and intensity. The hoard of gold is described as a way to “catch the sun’s golden light,” which creates a visual of a shimmering pile of treasure. The image of the dragon hiding in a dark cave and fearing the light of day adds to the sense of isolation and fear.
The poem uses irony to create humor and surprise in the final line. The reader expects a dark or sinister answer to the question about the dragon’s big smile, but instead, the answer is unexpectedly humorous and somewhat gross. The use of the word “human” adds a sense of horror, but the context and tone of the poem suggest that this is meant to be a playful and lighthearted twist.
Overall, the poem effectively uses literary devices to explore the theme of perception and identity while creating a vivid and entertaining image of a dragon.
Reading the ChatGPT analysis, I’m struck that it’s spot on. I was aiming for many of the points mentioned. What I did not expect was ChatGPT’s analysis to be so accurate.
Idea: Ask students first what their thoughts are about the poem. What themes, tone, and imagery do they notice? Then, read the analysis as a class. How might they identify literary devices in their writing and in others’ writing in this way? For writers unaware of literary devices, reviewing this kind of analysis of their own writing could expand their understanding.
Using AI to Visualize Poetry
While awaiting ChatGPT’s response and analysis of my dragon poem, I wondered, what would happen if I relied on Padlet’s “I can’t draw” AI-powered art? In response to the same prompt from “Rose, where did you get that red?” above (except using the word “Draw”), I received this response:
When I asked Padlet to come up with a response to this prompt to complement my dragon poem, it came up with several images, but my favorite is the middle one at the bottom row:
Draw a dragon breathing fire on an armored knight with a lance in the evening twilight
This would be an illustration I could never draw as a child, or even, as an adult. For me, it would be a waste of time and an exercise in frustration. That said, it’s a powerful illustration for my poem.
Idea: After students write their own poems, ask them to create a prompt for “I can’t draw” in Padlet. Have them refine their prompts as needed to better generate an accurate image(s) for their poem.
How else could AI tools be harnessed to support poetry instruction? Do you have additional ideas or activities that you’ve tried? Leave them for us to enjoy in the comments.
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