Using Poetry in the Health Classroom

I wish I had the confidence to stand up in front of people and deliver a passionate, well composed and powerful poem. A poem so powerful that there would be spontaneous applause. Which is exactly what happens when I share Taylor Mali‘s “An Apple A Day Is Not Enough” with my Health students. I’ve written about this poem before but I can not emphasize enough how amazing this poem is. In 3:26s Taylor says all that I hope to say to my students in a semester.

I tweeted Taylor about my thoughts and this was his response:

mali quote

Not only does this highlight another benefit of being a connected teacher but now when I play the poem to my class I can ask them “Why do I, as a health reacher, love this poem? And who, and why, might this poem have haters?” It’s a great conversation starter!

I recently went to a performance by Taylor at a local high school and asked him if he would be prepared to answer a series of questions that could be turned into a podcast for the Voxcast series. He graciously accepted and over a few days he recorded his answers. They reveal his love of students, his tips for success in the classroom, the reason why he left the classroom to pursue his passion, plus he shares his remarkable resting heart rate figure. Although the podcast will be shared in it’s entirety via the Voxcast link, here is my raw version of our ‘conversation’.

Many teachers will first have come across Taylor’s work as a result of hearing his much-shared poem “What Teachers Make”. It’s a passionate response to a real incident at a party when a lawyer mocked the teaching profession.

Another poem that I share in class as part of my Cyberbullying unit is entitled “Where Are You”. Created by Mark C. Eshleman and featuring Tyler Joseph it suggests that when engaging in online activity there are two sides of the line. One is safe and responsible, and one is definitely not. This poem is guaranteed to get students thinking about their online behavior.

Although I haven’t asked students to create their own poetry I know that many health teachers use journaling in their classrooms. Scott Todnem told me that he has encouraged students to extend that jounaling task into poems but these creations have remained private. Scott said that he uses “To This Day” by Shane Koyczan. Scott told me that his asks his students to break down Shane’s poem in class with a print out of his words and a discussion about what the stanzas mean to the students as they relate to the topics of self-esteem, bullying, mental health, etc.

Dozens of collaborators from around the world helped to bring this piece to life. Learn more about them and the project at

Find anti-bullying resources at

The last poem I’ll share, is another one by Taylor Mali. I haven’t shown it in class, and possibly wouldn’t do so unless it was with students applying to college, is entitled “The The Impotence of Proof Reading”. This video shows Taylor reciting the poem alongside an ASL signer for the deaf, which makes the performance that much funnier.

Here are this weeks question:

Q1. How have you used poetry or other non-traditional texts in the #healthed classroom? #slowchathealth

Q2. Why might #healthed teachers love this poem, and who might be a ‘serious hater’ of it? #slowchathealth

Q3. Listen to the Voxcast interview with Taylor Mali, leave a comment on iTunes to maybe win a signed copy of What Teachers Make #slowchathealth

Q4. What Q’s might you ask Ss after showing them this poem? #slowchathealth

Q5. What Q’s might you ask Ss after showing them this poem? #slowchathealth

One thought on “Using Poetry in the Health Classroom

  1. Pingback: Health Haiku Competition 2021 – #slowchathealth

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