Taste Poetry on Your Tongue

April is National Poetry Month, and I’m celebrating by inviting you to join my students and I in a personal challenge to memorize a new poem each week and recite it for others.

To be honest, I never got excited about poetry recitation. It seemed boring. I’d rather create poetry than memorize it. Reciting poetry seemed like an “old-school” activity for antique pedagogy and desks in rows.

But in the simple act of memorizing my first poem, I discovered something powerful. I shifted from being a reader outside of the words looking in, to feeling the words from the inside out.

My First Recitation

I chose “Bilingual/Bilingüe” by Rhina Espaillat as my first poem to memorize and recite across fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms in a primarily ELL school. My goal was to get students excited about reciting poetry, and I needed to memorize a poem to model.

When I began working with the poem, I read again and again to memorize the words, but as soon as the stanzas settled into my tongue, I could taste them. They moved up and out from inside me and I got choked up in a part of the poem that hadn’t me before.

I voiced an experience I’d never had as if it were my own. My tongue stretched syllables and syntax in unfamiliar ways.

For eight stanzas, I became the poet and the poem, discovering peace through understanding across our different points of view.

Is this not why we read and write–to reach across space and time, and connect people’s hearts and minds?

It’s National Poetry Month, so join me in bringing the poetry of others to your tongue. Get students excited to embody and recite a poem each week this month. There are no limits to topic, to style, to tone; find poems that excite you and learn them as your own.


Reading of “Bilingual/Bilingüe” by author Rhina Espaillat.

Popular Poetry Books for Kids via Goodreads

Poetry Foundation – Children’s Resources Access poems and resources for sharing a love of poetry with children.

Poetry Out Loud A national recitation contest for ninth- through twelfth-grade students. Website includes lesson plans, videos and a fabulous database of poems.

30 Ways to Celebration National Poetry Month

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Will you take the poetry recitation challenge?

Which poem will you choose today?


I am a keynote speaker, author and educational leader helping educators teach and lead for equitable schools. My books include EL Excellence Every Day, Breaking Down the Wall & Opening Doors to Equity. I'm a descendant of colonizers and enslavers deeply committed to transforming my family legacy for healing.

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