Ten Must-Have Learning Tools

Yes, you too can have a classroom this exciting!

For Better for Verse

Only a Victorianist could think of such a pun! But that aside, this is a nifty interactive way to learn how meter works in poetry. You can select from poems by author, title, type, or even difficulty, and then click on the lines to add stressed and unstressed syllables and metered feet while the tool checks your work.

Penn Sound

Curated by the University of Pennsylvania, this is an amazing collection of poets reading their own work. Start with some William Carlos Williams; it’ll make your day.

The Poetry Foundation

There’s so much here. The Foundation’s web site is not only a great source of poems, but also biographies and commentaries. Edward Hirsch’s brilliant “How to Read a Poem” is here. And all of this doesn’t even get to the content they have in their Learning Lab.

The best part, though, is the podcasts. Listen to Curtis Fox explore contemporary poetry in Poetry off the Shelf or Don Share talk about the current issue. Before going back to school, I listened to these podcasts to keep my mind going. Some of my favorites are:

  • “Poetry Cannot be Skimmed.”
    • I especially want to use this one in class because it looks at the relationship between poetry and rap.
  • “Poetry Lectures: William Carlos Williams.”
    • In which the poet quips, “You should never explain a poem, but it always helps nevertheless.”
  • “Poetry off the Shelf: Much Casual Death.”
    • Fascinating close reading of Anthony Hecht’s “More Light! More Light!”

Haiku Chronicles

Speaking of podcasts, the Haiku Foundation has a great one. If you ever wanted to know the difference between haiku, senryu, and tanka, then this is your podcast.

British Library Timeline

Starting with Beowulf, this visual timeline links English literature with world events. Each entry has an image and may even have a recording, such as the authors reading their own work. Scroll to the end and check out Moniza Alvi’s poetry.

Zen Pencils

Gavin Aung Than makes brilliant comics based off quotes. My favorite is an illustration of C. P. Cavafy’s poem, “Ithaka.” I dare you not to cry once you read, “you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.”

The Forest of Rhetoric

Once you get past the fact that it’s designed with frames, this is a great resource for the study of rhetoric. Different figures are categorized according to the canons of rhetoric or the branches of oratory. There’s even a list of basic questions for rhetorical analysis that can be helpful for students who are new to rhetoric.

Literary Terms and Definitions

This has not changed since I was in high school, but it doesn’t need to. Professor Wheeler has compiled an extensive list of vocabulary terms. I’ve used it when students were asking a question about a term or technique that didn’t lend itself to further discussion, but I still wanted them to dig a little to practice finding these things for themselves.

Purdue’s Online Writing Lab

Every time a writer has a question about citation, I suggest this website. Everything you need to know about MLA, APA, or Chicago is here. Thanks to Purdue’s OWL, we never have to buy style guides again!

The Dictionary of Victorian London

“An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Great Metropolis” says it all. Learn more about advertising, architecture, and crime. Read extracts from newspapers and journals. My absolute favorite part of this site are the jokes. How can you think of Victorians as stuffy, humorless prudes when there’s gold like this:


With all these great puns, this post’s coolness factor is almost too much to handle.

What is the proper way of addressing the Admiral of the Fleet?

Your warship.

Wow, move over Anglo-Saxon riddles!

When is water most likely to escape?

When it is half-tide.

Remember what I said about Victorian(ist)s and their puns?

Okay, one more.

Who is the greatest chicken-killer in Shakespeare?

Macbeth, because he did murder most foul.

Okay, I’m done, and I apologize profusely.

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