Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A New Kind of Rhyme

Imagine: A place where students are adults and teachers are students. Imagine: A place where information is pulled, not fed. Imagine: A place where poetry can be real, deep, and fun at the same time.

Welcome to Ms. Smith's 9th Grade Honors English Class!!! Beware: This is NOT education as usual, please come prepared to learn in a way never experienced before. Please come excited to try new things, and to do your best, no matter the outcome. The same ideas will never be taught twice, but it will be a blast of fun!

That's what Ms. Smith told all of our expectant faces on the first day of our poetry unit. By now, we thought we were used to her new methods and challenging expectations, but we realized that poetry wasn' t like anything we'd learned before. And Ms. Smith never wanted to teach the same way twice.

So boom! Out came student-taught poetry explications, publishing of our poems, and a opportunity that, instead of ogling Shakespeare's brilliance, we could to create our own! And our poems wouldn't simply be pieces of paper with a red grade, they would be published on the world-wide internet for others to enjoy and reply with their feedback.

The limits of blogging were pushed past the max as, each night from my computer at home, I would post the rough draft of one of my poems. Then I could scroll through all my classmates' poems, and discover new ideas and ways to improve. The next time I checked back, it was thrilling to read others' comments and feedback. It felt like a giant fishbowl, where instead of agonizing over a poem by myself, I could throw it out to a ton of different minds and we could build it up together, achieving an end result that I knew was truely my very best work.

Of course, it also helps to learn from the professionals. Instead of Ms. Smith, who already knows what she is teaching, my fellow students and I stepped up to the plate. Working in teams of three, we selected published poems on the internet to interpret and explicate during class. From Dr. Seuss to Edgar Allen Poe, fishbowls to debates, and self-improvement to physically acting it out, each group came up with a brand new, yet creative way to reach deep inside a poem and find the true meaning. We learned and experienced every literary term, and discovered how we could apply that to our own writing. And the best thing was that we were a team working to learn together, instead of a regular class just being lectured by the normal teacher.
And the end result was amazing! We all compiled our poems into a portfolio project that only had one guideline: display all your poems in a creative way. With such an open-ended project, our talents had no limit, and together we were each able to create a product that was nothing like the same, old, regular portfolio. We could dare to be different, and reflect each of our minds in a manner suited to our personality and learning style.

I know I will never think or write poetry the same again! - Maria

Here are the assignments they completed. Keep on the lookout for their podcasts of their poems.

1 comment:

C. Makovsky said...

Clearly your students are having a great time writing original poetry. I applaud their efforts. However, I was disturbed by one comment from Maria's post. She wrote, "Instead of ogling Shakespeare's brilliance, we... create our own!"

Please, Maria, continue reading Shakespeare! The great poets from the past will instruct and inspire you as you develop your own writing style. Shakespeare is the best writer in the English language--and that is why teachers ask you to "ogle" his works.

I enjoyed reading the persuasive poems, and I can tell that your classmates have probably read and been influenced by Shel Silverstein, who writes extremely clever rhyming couplets. Silverstein is used in elementary school because little kids fall in love with his rhythm, rhyme, and humor.

High school students are asked to read Shakespeare because his thinking and style are complex and because his vocabulary is sophisticated. From him, you'll learn what a sonnet is and what blank verse sounds like. You'll also tap into a vast, rich vocabulary that--as you absorb it--will make your own writing more sophisticated.

Continue having fun with words and rhymes. But don't think the masters have nothing to teach you. If you keep reading Shakespeare, you'll step up to a higher level of thinking and writing. Shel Silverstein's clever couplets will only bring you so far.