I may have presented a lesson to my AP Lit and Comp students on the third day of school that I'll have difficulty topping the next eight months, three weeks of school.
After seeing a tweet about Wacky Wednesday and reading a few suggestions about how to capitalize on Wacky Wednesday, and after perusing Pinterest for ideas, I used an adaptation of line-tossing to hook my AP Lit and Comp students into poetry.
We had more fun than I thought possible during the lesson, and I even heard one student tell another: "I love this class." Others asked, "Can we do this every Wednesday?" I told those students that the idea for Wacky Wednesday is to do something unique, something we normally would not do. Otherwise the wacky thing would become the normal thing.
Without further adieu, here's what I did:
First I selected poems for the activity. I like to start w/ metafictional poetry in AP Lit and Comp, so I picked poems that referenced reading and writing. Most of the poems came from our textbook: Literature and Composition, authored by Carol Jago, et al. and published by Bedford St. Martins. I selected a couple of poems from the Perrine's Literature book.
Next, I put the poems into a handout for students to annotate easily; since we have the books available to students, I see this as fair use. I then selected the lines I wanted to use for the activity. Here's a link to the document with the lines.
Next, I cut the lines and mounted them onto note cards that I distributed to students as they entered the room.
After taking attendance, I asked the students to mill around the room, sharing their lines with one another. Then I had the students write about the line for two minutes in a "quick" or "flash" write format. We repeated this step.
For the third line sharing, I instructed students to present the lines in the wackiest way possible. After all, we were experiencing Wacky Wednesday. Student wrote again.
By this time, students had worked with three lines.
Next, students paired up and created skits. Some used all their lines; others used only two. I gave students five minutes to prepare the skits and invited them to use props and costuming I have available. Most importantly, I told students to have fun and not worry about how the lines fit into the poems.
The skits were hilarious! Two students served as our directors, counting down to the performance: "Three, two, one, and action." The word action was accompanied by the smacking of a director's paddle, another toy I have in my room. Our directors stood on desks and waved pom poms attached to red pens.
As each group finished, the performers called, "scene." The class clapped in unison with our school's signature three claps.
When all groups had presented, we processed the activity with a discussion about what we noticed, what we learned, and what we liked about the experience. I then passed out the handout with the poems we would be studying, the ones from which I gleaned the lines we played with.
As a finale the students chose partners with whom to work on one of the poems, and together the pairs selected a poem.
As a follow-up, each pair has been leading the class in a discussion of a poem. This we do through a "think aloud" in which we project a poem on the white board and the students assigned it walk the class through it, giving their ideas about the poem. We eventually open the discussion up to the entire class for observation and comment.
At this juncture in the class, I don't worry about the formal considerations about poetry. Things like meter, form, symbolism, figurative language, sound devices, tone, etc. grow organically during these informal discussions and allow for a natural way of discussion a poem.
Now I'm working on a syntax Wacky Wednesday activity, but I worry I'll have a hard time topping our first foray into the Wacky Wednesday World!
The poems I used:
“Learning to Read” by Franz Wright
“Metaphors” by Sylvia Plath
“There is no Frigate like a Book” by Emily Dickinson
“A Study of Reading Habits” by Philip Larkin
The Writer by Richard Wilbur
“One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop
“The Author to Her Book” by Anne Bradstreet
“Shawl” by Albert Goldbarth
Two others I began the year with are "Introduction to Poetry" by Billie Collins and "Tell All the Truth, but Tell It Slant" by Emily Dickinson. Both poems fit the metafiction emphasis.
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Thank you TWT team!