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The 2019 TCNJ Summer Institute for English Language Arts Educators- Day 2

The English Department at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) is offering a summer institute for English language arts teachers on “Teaching Poetry (without Fear).”  The four-day institute provides 20 hours of professional development, covers a wide range of topics, and is taught by TCNJ faculty.

Day 2: Practicing Confidence Through Approaching the Unknown: Contemporary Poetry in the Middle and High School Classroom

In this workshop, we’ll dive headlong into what we often, as educators, avoid: the dreaded moment, teaching a difficult or opaque poem, when a student says, yes, that’s all very well but what does it mean? and we don’t know the answer. Contemporary poetry embraces and sometimes courts indeterminacy. Let’s find a way to teach so-called “difficult” poems, to plunge into the unknown alongside our students.  Poems use techniques such as paradox, fragmentation, simultaneity, dissonance, sudden jumps in place and time, interruption, fractured or multiple voices and languages on the page, collage, erasure, and chance.  These techniques, tried and true methods in 20thand 21stcentury poetry, can frustrate the most careful and well prepared reader–often, they are intended to do so.  Together, we’ll look at some of the purposes these techniques can serve in fostering close-reading skills and engaged discussion in the classroom, we’ll challenge ourselves to dive into unfamiliar territory as readers and thinkers, and we’ll grapple with poems. We’ll practice together – approaching and starting over, looking for ways in, getting stuck and unstuck, and we will also try out a few creative reading exercises for the classroom. We’ll read exclusively contemporary poems for this workshop, including poems “hot off the press” featured in The New Yorker and Poetry Magazine, poems by John Ashbery, Layli Long Soldier, M. NourbeSe Philip, Hoa Nguyen, Solmaz Sharif, Laynie Brown, Terrance Hayes, Danez Smith, and others TBD.

July 16, 2019

facilitated by Prof. Laura Neuman

Return to Institute Information 

Day 1: Poetry Tool Kit by Prof. Diane Steinberg

Day 3: Sonnets: New Takes on an Old Form by Prof. Jo Carney

Day 4: Language and Poetry: from the Page to the Stage by Prof. Felicia Jean Steele

Register here:

For more information about registration, contact George Hefelle (
For more information about the institute’s curriculum, contact Glenn Steinberg (