Monday, April 15, 2013

Poem in Your Pocket Day(s) Activity

Official National Poetry
Month 2013 poster.
April is nearly half over and I am just now finding time to fully support National Poetry Month (NPM) in the way I had hoped. Despite being busy with piloting lessons designed to address the new Common Core Learning Standards, which seemingly suggests a heavier reliance on non-fiction in school English classes, I have been looking for the chance to devote some instructional time to poetry experiences. Fortunately for my students and I, our school's Library/Media Specialist has done a nice job following through on a few building wide activities from years past such as the reading of poems by different students each morning during announcements and scheduling our semi-annual Poetry Reading next week.

Beyond analyzing poems such as "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns, "A Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes, and "Sonnet X" by John Donne, all which have thematic ties to traditionally taught novels (Of Mice and Men, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry,  and Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther, respectively), my colleagues and I do our best to infuse the curriculum with poetry. It is why many of us got into the business: a love a literature we wish to share. Given this, to me, it only makes sense that the poetry activity I use for NPM  promotes the sharing of student selected poetry with other members of our learning community.

The CCLS does include language which continues to supports the inclusion of poetry in hgihs chool curriculum. For example, one could fairly see this Pocket Poem activity of researching, selecting and sharing as meeting the Reading Standard 11.1 (Grades 11–12):
Interpret, analyze, and evaluate narratives, poetry, and drama, aesthetically and philosophically by making connections to: other texts, ideas, cultural perspectives, eras, personal events, and situations.
The subordinate Key Ideas get at the specifics even more, especially 11.1a.: "Self-select text to respond and develop innovative perspectives."

The task introduced.
Now that I have a level of alignment with the CCLS, over the next week, I will be assigning all of my English students to complete a slightly adjusted Poem in Your Pocket Day activity. I initially had planned the project for use in my Advanced Placement classes (primarily because I hope it will be something of a reprieve from preparation for May's assessments), my Regents level courses will also be participating. Though Thursday, April 18 is "officially" Poem in Your Pocket Day, our celebration will be stretched over the weekend following so that due dates will be between April 22-23.

I introduced the activity to the first class participating Friday morning, and will continue doing so today. The activity is a familiar take on the common "pick a favorite poem" task. The most significant change in the spirit of Poem in Your Pocket Day, is that the extensions of the task emphasis beyond the selection of a single poem. The sharing of a self-selected poem with a number of people from our shared learning community is where the real "work" is. As I explained to my students, it has been my experiencing that the act of sharing a poem is generally seen by the recipient as an invitation to conversation, even by those who  either "dislike" poetry or with who may never had experienced an authentic conversation around it.

Melancholy? Yes. A theme high
schoolers can relate to? YES!
The activity's introduction was prefaced by my own sharing of a poem with the class, "Dolor" by Theodore Roethke. As I explained to them after sharing it, "Dolor" was first given to me as a college assignment by a professor who was aware of my intention to teach. Of course, it was only years later that I saw the implications of the poem's theme on what would become my career.

Students will document their interactions with those who they are sharing with through one of two ways: having the recipients sign a copy of the poem or having a digital photo taken with all three "members" of the exchange (student, recipient and poem) in the frame. My hope is that despite a common task, the variation in poems selected, as well as methods of documentation will reduce "the dropping of fine film" which can result in dispassionate "duplicate grey standard faces" some activities can unwittingly produce.

But, therein lies the real challenge of teaching and the value of poetry in schools!

No comments: