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The Poet X Summary & Activities

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is a young adult realistic fiction novel that is written in verse. It is about 15-year-old Xiomara Batista, a gifted poet who lives with her family in Harlem, NY. The novel is from Xiomara's point of view and reads like her personal journal of poetry describing her life, her views on religion, having to face constant sexism, her strict Dominican parents, her new forbidden boyfriend, and navigating the world as a young woman of color trying to find her voice. Some of the activities included in The Poet X lesson plans include a character map, plot summary, vocabulary, The Poet X quotes, and more!

Student Activities for The Poet X

This novel may or may not be appropriate for some groups of students, as it deals with sexual content, including harassment and assault. Please use your best judgment when selecting materials for your students.

The Poet X Discussion Questions

These essential questions can be used in groups, or individually in reader’s notebooks.

  1. Who are The Poet X main characters and what challenges do they face?
  2. What are some of The Poet X symbols and motifs presented in the novel? How does the symbolism help you better understand the characters and their motivations?
  3. What is the theme of The Poet X and what lessons does the author try to impart to the reader?
  4. What does poetry mean to you? How does the style of this novel influence our understanding of the characters?
  5. What are The Poet X poems about?
  6. What are some of The Poet X important quotes?

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo Summary

15-year-old Xiomara Batista lives with her twin brother named Xavier (whom she calls Twin) and their parents in Harlem, NY. Her parents are immigrants from the Dominican Republic. Xiomara's father is not involved in his children's lives. She says, "Just because your father's present, doesn't mean he isn't absent.” Her mother, Altagracia, is extremely hard working and a very devout Catholic who had always wanted to become a nun; her mother's religion is sacred. Mami is also brutally rigid and subjects Xiomara to corporal punishment for anything she deems to be blasphemous or against her strict rules.

Xiomara has many serious questions regarding her religion, or more accurately, her mother's religion, and gender roles all while her mother is forcing her to partake in Confirmation, a rite of passage for Catholics that typically occurs at age 14. Xiomara's best friend Caridad is her complete opposite. She is very devout and does not question the teachings of the Church. She is also Xiomara's close confidant and is always there for her. Twin is also quite different from Xiomara. He is an exceptional student who has won a scholarship to a school for gifted students. He loves science but also loves his religion and actively participates. Xiomara, on the other hand, has difficulty in school and struggles to find her way.

Xiomara is quite tall and has a full figure. She endures near constant sexual harassment in her neighborhood and at school. Twin is mild mannered and effeminate which has also made him a target of bullies. From an early age, Xiomara learned to handle any disrespect and mistreatment of herself and Twin with her fists. She always stands up for herself and for Twin even though it gets her in trouble. While Mami is encouraging and easy going with Twin, she is very hard on Xiomara, expecting her to live up to the same uncompromising rules that she had growing up. In Mami's eyes, Xiomara must be very pious, unquestioning, take care of the home, be mild and well-mannered. While Xavier was given a saint's name, Xiomara's name means warrior. She writes that Mami "Gave me this gift of battle and now curses how well I live up to it". Oftentimes, Xiomara Batista feels unheard.

Xiomara's new English teacher, Ms. Galiano, sees Xiomara's potential with writing and poetry. She encourages Xiomara to join the school's poetry club. However, the club meets the same day as her confirmation class. Xiomara is initially shy in Ms. Galiano's class. She prefers to melt into the background, a defense mechanism cultivated from years of bullying. However, with the help of Ms. Galiano's gentle persistence, Xiomara begins to open up and participate more. She has always loved writing. Twin had given Xiomara a journal as a present and after school, she fills the pages with poems. Xiomara pours out all of her frustrations, anger, and confusion into her poetry. She finds catharsis in writing all of her thoughts, questions, and passions into her journal. It is her one refuge in her tumultuous life.

Meanwhile, Xiomara meets and begins to develop feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, but her parents have forbidden her to date. She secretly texts Aman and begins to meet him after school in the "smoke park" where they talk and listen to music. Aman and Xiomara become very close, sharing aspects of their lives they normally keep hidden. Xiomara talks about her family and shares her poetry with Aman. He confides his love of winter sports and ice skating and how much he misses his mother who lives in Trinidad. While Xiomara is falling in love with Aman, Twin is falling in love too, but with a boy named Cody. Xiomara thinks she might have always known that Twin was gay but knows it is not something that her strict, religious parents would accept. While Twin and Xiomara don't express all they are feeling out loud, they know that they are always on each other's side while they navigate these difficult waters.

While at confirmation class, Xiomara openly questions different aspects of the Bible and its stories. She doubts much of what she is supposed to believe in to become confirmed. Father Sean is gentle and kind and asks Xiomara to continue to take time to think before continuing with confirmation class. For Xiomara, this becomes a fortunate loophole. While her mother believes she is still going to confirmation class, she secretly joins the poetry club after school. There she finds three new friends who love writing as much as she does: Isabelle, Chris, and Stephan. Together under Ms. Galiano's mentorship, they write and share and support one another.

Xiomara's relationship with Aman is abruptly disrupted when a neighbor sees them kissing on the subway. This sends Mami into a rage and she brutally punishes her daughter, forcing her to kneel on grains of rice until she is bruised, taking her phone and lunch money, and forcing her to come straight home after school. After this ordeal, Xiomara is groped by a boy at school. Xiomara realizes that Aman is there to witness this harassment but does nothing. Hurt, humiliated, and feeling utterly alone on top of all that she endured from Mami's punishment, Xiomara tells Aman she never wants to see him again.

Xiomara turns to her writing, filling the pages of her journal with poems. She writes, “Late into the night I write and the pages of my notebook swell from all the words I’ve pressed onto them. It almost feels like the more I bruise the page the quicker something inside me heals.” Xiomara continues to go to poetry club and enjoys spending time with Ms. Galiano and her new friends. At Caridad's urging, she even performs at a Slam Poetry night at the famous Nuyorican Cafe! However, all of Xiomara's newfound happiness comes to a crashing end when she comes home to find her mother standing in her room with her diary... and a match. Her mother had found her journal of poems and read them. Mami believes that what her daughter has written is against God and is blasphemous. She lights the journal on fire, completely burning it while Xiomara watches in horror begging and pleading for her to stop. “Burn it! Burn it. This is where the poems are,” [she says] thumping a fist against [her] chest. “Will you burn me? Will you burn me, too? You would burn me, wouldn’t you, if you could?”

Xiomara runs away from home and turns to Aman, whom she hasn't spoken to in weeks. They make up and she stays with Aman without telling her parents. In the morning, Xiomara goes straight to school without going home. After confiding in Ms. Galiano, Xiomara decides to attempt to make amends with her mother. Aman, Twin, and Caridad all lend their support. However, Xiomara knows that she will need more help to face Mami so she brings Father Sean, their priest, to come along as a mediator. With Father Sean's help, the family begins to reconcile and attends regular therapy sessions. While the deep wounds remain, some walls start to break down and Xiomara and her mother begin to feel more at peace with one another.

At the end of the novel, Xiomara courageously participates in the huge Harlem neighborhood Poetry Slam at the Nuyorican Cafe at Ms. Galiano's urging. Unlike her last poetry slam, this time she has many people cheering her on and supporting her in the audience: her friends from poetry club, Aman, Twin, Caridad, Ms. Galiano, and most importantly, her parents. Xiomara says, “Learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life."

Ideas for Post-Reading Activities

Storyboard That is an excellent tool for students to create fun and engaging projects as a culminating activity after finishing a novel. In addition to our premade activities, here are some ideas that teachers can customize and assign to students to spark creativity in individual students, pairs, or small groups for a final project. Several of these big ideas include Storyboard That templates that can be used for organization and printed out or copied into your teacher dashboard and assigned digitally. All final projects can be printed out, presented as a slide show, or, for an extra challenge, as an animated GIF! Check out our other free resources for more inspiration and ideas!

  1. Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X is filled with many interesting literature devices for students to explore. One element that is used often is irony: verbal, situational and dramatic. Students can storyboard the examples of irony they come across in the text! To learn more about how to teach irony in the classroom, see our article: The Three Types of Irony which includes a sample storyboard for The Poet X!

  2. For Groups: Choose a scene from the story and write a short play to reenact to the class. Use the traditional storyboard layout to plan out your scenes. You can add text to your storyboards, or simply use the cells to visualize each scene of your play.

  3. Using the timeline layout, retell the story in chronological order. Our timeline layout gives you the options to include year, month, day, and even hour! You may also choose to omit these altogether.

  4. Choose a setting from the story and create a map of the setting using the small poster or worksheet layout. Use free form or other text boxes to include a key or label the different parts of the map.

  5. Using one of Storyboard That’s board game templates, create a game based on the book for your classmates to play!

  6. For Groups: Divide the chapters of the book amongst your group members. Each member of the group creates a storyboard for their assigned chapter. This can be done as a collaborative project, or separately for longer novels.

  7. Using the worksheet layout and Storyboard That’s worksheet assets, create a test or a quiz for other students in the class. You can create all kinds of questions such as multiple choice, short answer, and even matching! When you are done, be sure to make an answer key.

  8. Using one of Storyboard That’s biography poster templates, create a poster about the character of your choice. Be sure to include important biographical features such as: place and date of birth, family life, accomplishments, etc.

  9. Choose a chapter from the novel and create a storyboard that shows that chapter from another character’s point of view. For an extra challenge, use the T-chart layout to compare the original point of view with another character’s point of view!

  10. Create a book jacket of the novel using one of Storyboard That’s book jacket templates. Use Storyboard That art to create the cover, and write a summary of the story on the back, just like real books have!

  11. Using one of Storyboard That’s social media templates as a starting point, create a social media page for one or more of the characters in the novel. Be sure to think how the character thinks while creating this page.

  12. Create a scrapbook page made by one of the characters in the novel. Storyboard That has lots of premade templates that you can use as is, or change to fit your character’s personality! Check out our scrapbook templates today!

How to Analyze and Interpret the Use of Poetic Form and Language in "The Poet X"


Introduce Poetic Form and Language

Explain the importance of poetic form and language in "The Poet X." Discuss how the novel is written in verse, a form of poetry, and how the use of poetic techniques enhances the reading experience.


Identify Poetic Devices and Techniques

Guide students in identifying and analyzing various poetic devices and techniques used in the novel. Examples may include imagery, metaphor, simile, repetition, alliteration, and enjambment. Encourage students to annotate specific examples as they read.


Analyze the Impact of Poetic Devices

Discuss the impact of the identified poetic devices on the overall meaning and tone of the novel. Prompt students to examine how these devices create vivid imagery, convey emotions, and enhance the themes explored in the story.


Interpret the Language and Style

Guide students in interpreting the language and style of the poetic form used in "The Poet X." Encourage them to consider the rhythm, pacing, and word choices, and discuss how these elements contribute to the overall poetic experience of the novel.


Connect Poetic Elements to Themes and Characters

Encourage students to make connections between the identified poetic elements and the themes and characters in the novel. Prompt them to analyze how the poetic form and language deepen their understanding of the characters' emotions, struggles, and growth throughout the story.


Reflect and Respond

Engage students in reflective discussions or writing activities where they can respond to the use of poetic form and language in "The Poet X." Encourage them to share their interpretations, insights, and personal connections to the novel's poetic elements.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Poet X

What is the main theme in The Poet X?

The main theme that is present throughout the story is the theme of religion. The main character, Xiomara, struggles with her lack of devotion to her Catholic faith.

Why is The Poet X written in verse?

The Poet X is written in poetry form to represent the main character’s point of view. It is written as if Xiomara wrote these poems in her own diary and as if it’s told first hand.

What age group is The Poet X appropriate for?

The Poet X is recommended for students ages 13 and up. Since it is not written in the typical prose fashion, it may be difficult for younger readers to comprehend. Additionally, the content is most appropriate for older students, as it deals with some mature issues.

Find more activities like this in our 6-12 ELA Category!
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