Teaching poetry to young readers and writers can be challenging and also exciting. Prior to spring break, we spent two weeks looking a verse--poetry and a novel written in verse. We close out looking at verse and young adult readers with The Poet X, which mixes a bit of both.
Your prompt this week asks you to think about how you would engage students with poetry. You can consider all of the texts we've explored over this time, but do be sure to include The Poet X.
This Week’s Prompt: Let’s say that you managed to convince the faculty and parents at Brockton High School to let you teach The Poet X in a 12th grade English class that meets the outcomes for the International Baccalaureate Programme. Th IB is sort of like an internationally recognized version of AP. You can read about it here. Some quick facts about Brockton High (from Wikipedia, so, you know, grain of salt) and in general:
It's the week before Spring Break. It's midterms. Let's be kind to ourselves and the universe. Let's write poetry together. For, this week, please post an original poem. There are no other rules.
There will be other weeks we can talk about how we could teach poetry (the week we come back from Break we are reading The Poet X) as readers, but one way we help our students to read poetry is to write poetry, is to give students the right to be poets.
It's a brave act to write knowing people will read your work and so lessons where we ask our students to share their work in a safe setting is one way we help them to be brave thinkers, readers, and writers. One way we make safe spaces is to be brave and vulnerable with our students as well. When we write with our students we show them our process and we show them the all writers and readers have some sort of process. And, in that way, we help them to figure out reading writing processes of their own.
USE THIS SPACE NOW UNTIL THE WEEK AFTER SPRING BREAK (so until 22 March 2020). . .
If there was ever a time that I thought you might use this space, this is it. Here is a good space to use to crowd source tips and tricks, get answers to clear up confusion, ask questions about how to complete your Pecha Kucha.
Trust me, if you have questions, other people do to. And it's in everyone's best interest to get that information out to everyone. If you ask me a question via email that is not specifically private, this will be the space that I answer it.
This week’s scenario is West Bridgewater Middle-Senior high school. West Bridgewater has an enrollment—for both middle and high school—of 606 students. It’s a small school in a small town. Also, Plymouth county is one of the most politically conservative towns in the entire state. That doesn’t necessarily mean any one thing in particular, but the parents of these students live in this county and it’s these households they were raised in.
There is minimal information available about WB high. Here is what I could find:
I did find a little information about the town itself, which, again, can tell you something about who the students are who attend WB.
The challenge this week gives you two ends of a triangle: you’ve got a class (I’m going back to our 9th grade BR college prep class—not so old that middle school is a distant memory, not so smart that they will be so over it, not so young that we have to pretend nobody has sex or does drugs); you’ve got your media—any and all of the recordings accessible via the syllabus. How might you use this media and what texts would you pair with them—that’s the last leg of the magic triangle?
You’ve got a real opportunity to be pretty creative here. You are welcome to talk about any of the texts we’ve covered so far or will cover in class. Or you can go with something else you’d want to teach. Or you can go with a canonical text that might well be included in the framework. Or you can do a little of all three. Additionally, if there is other supplemental media—movies, TV, radio, news items, non-fiction, art-work, dance, whatever—you are welcome to use that.
Why do this? Here is something to think about as you move from being a student to a teacher: you are all English majors. You love literature. Some of you love the pretty heavy stuff--Joyce, Shakespeare, Morrison. Most of you love to read--I mean really love it (I am that person; this is late because I'm trying to finish a novel because I love it so much--it is not Gossip Girl). You will have classrooms filled with students who don't like to read and who don't do it well or often. And, also, you will have students who will go on to college or trade school and they will take, at most, one literature class: one. So the question to ask yourself as a future teacher is what is your actual job as a language arts teacher?
The frameworks stresses learning literary terms and concepts and exposure to literature, capital "L." All that is good. It's important and vital for students to have rich experiences with literature. But don't forget that the most important thing we teach our students is how to read and how to write. Anything. Not write only five paragraph essays. Not read only Shakespeare. I think it can be rough to think about. You've spent your entire college career studying literature, and now I'm telling you that teaching literature is not really the job. The job is literacy instruction. How to make students be good readers of all texts. And so a class that encourages students to apply the critical interpretive skills they would use reading Poe or Faulkner or Joyce is and should be what students do with any text, including the various media they will encounter in life much longer than they'll be in school and with much greater consequence if they do it badly.
As my contribution to the discussion: I have actually paired “Is your Dad Single?” with the stories we read during the first week of class, Girl & 7th grade, with actual rising 8th and 9th graders. I asked students to map out the story of “Is Your Dad Single?”—so what starts the story, what is the rising action, what is the climactic moment, the denouement, the “truth about life.” I ask them to do this graphically. Since that piece is really about deciding on who you want to be in your own life, we look at Girl and 7th grade through that lens—how do the various characters in each figure out who they are? That’s a final writing. Along the way, I have them write about their own stories of figuring themselves out, of 7th grade, etc. I also ask them to identify the “rules” of being a boy—so write 7th Grade as a series of “you” statements, but about boys, based on the story. The work requires listening, reading, note-taking. It requires working alone and in groups. It requires that they be able to prove a point about a text using the text as evidence. It gives them space to reflect personally. I really enjoy the entire sequence. We end with a very fun exercise where they make their own maps of their lives—who they are now, where they want to end up, how they are going to get there. They present that to the whole class. I do it with them. They marvel at the idea that a 49 year old could still possibly have a life plan.
This Week's Teaching Discussion: I'm asking you to, first, pick a popular YA text. My rule of thumb was if a movie had been made out of it, it's probably popular. That's not the only rule, but it's not the worst one. It gives you the choice of any Harry Potter Book, all of Twilight, The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson even. There are probably many, many others.
THIS WEEK'S CLASS: You are teaching a 9th grade College Prep English class at Bridgewater/Raynham high school. You are working with a class of 35 students: 34 students are white, 1 student is Cape Verdean, 19 are female, 16 are male, one male student is openly gay.
The BR pass rate on the 10th grade MCAS is 84%.
Roughly 85% of the students in your class come from a household where at least one parent has some college education. You have two students in your class whose parents are on the faculty at Bridgewater State University.
You have limited access to technology in the classroom, but your students have access to computers, phones and the internet at home.
You can familiarize yourself with the school here.
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: It's 9th Grade and you know what that means: Wherefore art thou Romeo--and Juliet, of course. R&J is one of those texts you can't get out of teaching if you are teaching 9th Grade English. Shakespeare, of course, always presents challenges in the classroom (for instance, for me, a play where 14 year olds sneak off, get married, and then kill themselves, but that's just me).
My challenge to all of you is to consider a popular YA text and think about how you could use that to help students really value and think about Romeo & Juliet. How could the one text serve as a bridge to better, richer, more useful understanding of the other? What cool things could you do? And, as always, what might be the joys of this plan? What might be less joyous?
Rather than a Teaching Discussion this week . . .
If you were going to update Little Women, how might you do it? Post to CLASS DISCUSSION BOARD (link is live). In 300 words, provide a synopsis of your 2020 version of the classic Little Women. RESPOND in 200 words to at least one of your colleagues by either building on their update idea and/or suggesting why you think, as a reader or a teacher, this would work as an update (or wouldn’t).