As I go back and think upon the year, I start to think about our Poetry Unit. To be honest we didn’t spent about 3 weeks on poetry, and I felt that was just fine. I enjoy poetry, but it’s not my favorite thing to teach nor did most of my students love it.
One thing I assigned before Winter Break was that they had to choose a poem that was school appropriate (I seem to have to clarify this every time I assign things). The poem also had to be a minimum of 100 words not including articles (a, an, the). They were to memorize this poem and recite it for the class 2 weeks after they returned from break.
When they returned from Winter Break, the first few days of class we worked on collages of their poems. They got a half piece of standard poster board and I had buckets of old magazines. They were to paste their poem on the cardboard and make a collage that goes with their poem.
On the day they were to recite their poem there was a music stand I placed their collage on in front of them and they had to stand behind the stand and recite their poem for the class.
I know many people who are not fans of students having to memorize things, but I wanted them to care about their poem and have fun with it. The best reciters I had gave such performances when reciting their poems. It also is a great way for students to overcome their aversion of presenting in front of their peers. Adolescents hate it, but I think it is so incredibly important to be able to stand and speak in front of people.
I showed the students when I assigned the project a few examples of what does not meet the standard, what meets it, and what exceeds it. I’ve done this for about every project I’ve assigned throughout the year. It gives students something tangible to aim for and compare their work to. They know what to expect and it goes along with their rubric.
After my students presented their poems, I had ballots for them to vote on 4 different categories. I called it the Candy Cane Awards (since it was still winter and we had lots of candy canes we got on sale after Christmas break). The categories were Best Recitation, Favorite Poem, Best Collage, and Best Overall. The students really enjoyed it.
The next day I had made certificates and stars with the students names on it. The stars were placed on the projects, and placed in one of the main hallways for display. The certificates were presented to those students in each class period and they got to choose a candy cane.
I think I’ll do this again next year. The kids seemed to enjoy it.
This project above is a good example of how a student might not get a great grade on their collage (all the empty space), but can still win best recitation because of the way they recite it.
This last project brought a story that must be shared to go with it. If you count the words in the poem not including articles there are 93 or something along those lines. This student, after I told him he couldn’t do the poem, proceeded to do his collage anyways on it. I told him again that he’d have to go pick another poem to memorize and sent him to the library. Another student of mine in the library with him about 10 minutes later comes to be with a paper folded and tells me Adam told me to hand this to you. I wondered why he had sent this student, as opposed to handing it himself until I opened it. He had proceeded to print out the definition of what an article is. It was frankly a very smart ass move on his part, and so I pulled him out of the library and asked him what he meant by printing out the definition. He told me that it was to prove that articles are words. I told him Adam, that I had never said that articles were not words, but that they would not be counted in their poetry project. He was not happy, and I didn’t like what he had done as opposed to talking to me. This student tends to act out a lot. So I made a deal with him. I told him that it was fine that he kept the poem he wanted to do so badly, but that because he chose to not follow directions and pull the stunt that he did, he would also have to recite the entire paragraph of the definition of an article with it. He was not happy. His parents thought it was well-deserved.
As you can see, he did a great job on his collage. He even got it laminated.