This is the third installment on “How to Teach Poetry with Images.” For the first installment click here and for the second click here. As a refresher my brother, a TESOL teacher in TX, asked about teaching figurative and connotative language. I suggested poetry.
In our last post we discussed authoring poetry using images. Let us now turn to responding to poetry. Using images to analyze the word choices authors use aligns well to the CCSS. It also moves beyond the peck and hunt of, “Find a poem that uses a simile, a metaphor, allegory, etc.”
How It’s Done
Sue and I use canonical poetry for this activity such as: Preacher, Don’t Send Me by Maya Angelou
Preacher, Don’t Send me
when I die
to some big ghetto
in the sky
where rats eat cats
of the leopard type
and Sunday brunch
is grits and tripe.
I’ve known those rats
I’ve seen them kill
and grits I’ve had
would make a hill,
or maybe a mountain,
so what I need
from you on Sunday
is a different creed.
Preacher, please don’t
streets of gold
and milk for free.
I stopped all milk
at four years old
and once I’m dead
I won’t need gold.
I’d call a place
where families are loyal
and strangers are nice,
where the music is jazz
and the season is fall.
Promise me that
or nothing at all.
- Have students complete read the poem and complete a free response.
- If you want to scaffold here are a few prompts:
- What struck you forcibly?
- What might be “clues” to meaning?
- What puzzled you?
- What words hold deep meaning?
- Then have students circle words or phrases that affect the tone of the poem. Tone refers to the poet’s attitude toward the material and/or readers. Tone may be playful, formal, intimate, angry, serious, ironic, outraged, baffled, tender, serene, depressed, etc.
- Have students circle 10-12 words or phrases you feel contribute to the tone of the poem.
- Then have students list the words.
- Here is an example from a student
|1. when I die|
|3. rats eat cats|
|4. grits and tripe|
|5. I’ve seen them kill|
|7. please don’t|
|8. promise me|
|9. streets of gold|
|10. milk for free|
|11. pure paradise|
- Then have students search for images of that poem either in a magazine or using the web.
- Give every students an “image tableau.” (fancy way of saying construction paper).
- Explain to students they are to arrange the images on the tableau based on the meaning of the poem and how the words affected tone.
- Put students in small groups and have them explain their tableaus.
Using the tableaus creates a space for students to consider how word choice affects meaning.
We put the birch on the top, but we focused on being able to go only one way. There is a traveler… We picked the sigh thing because of the stanza of him sighing. We put the picture to the side because it is not important.-Student discussing A Road Not Taken
I noticed that certain words contribute to the point of the poems more. The images gave me a picture. The image tableau showed what was most important to the writer in the poem. Discussing with other people gives you a chance to hear others’ interpretations. -A Student
Did I mention he teaches primarily bilingual students? We know, even before the test, that understanding the differences between literal, connotative, figurative language poses unique challenges.
So how would I use images to focus on figurative language and connotative language? As always I want our explorations of texts to be production centered, collaborative, and anchored in textual analysis.
Bob lives in Texas so the CCSS states standards don’t apply but I am sure this language exists:
By the end of 5th grade students are expected to determine how metaphors and similes affect meaning of texts:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.
By the end of 6th grade students are expected to also determine connotative meaning and analyze specific word choices:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
By the end of 7th grade students are expected to analyze the way words sound and how this impact meaning:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.
By the end of 8th grade students are expected to analyze allusions and allegory:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
Fine and dandy list. But I like to focus on reading with the ear and playing with prosody early on. Actually I just like typing and saying prosody. It’s a fun word….prosody.
Similes and metaphors? They are way too much fun to wait until 5th grade. Still the standards help us craft criteria of success with our students.
Lets start there. Teaching with metaphors and similes.
Metaphors and similes work because they contain embodied meaning. Saying someone smells like the docks at low tide works well as simile…..if the reader is from the coast and not Nebraska.
Metaphors are not only embodied in our memories and pasts but also in our senses. Metaphors make us me.
When we teach figurative language in diverse settings we must use the bricolage of meaning we bring together as a class. I find it easiest to start with food.
As Lauria Bandl points our food provides so many avenues into meaning we bring to the classroom. Each bite can be tied to a specific moment, an intense flavor, or deeply scarred pain. Food is universal.
Activity One: What are similes and metaphors.
- Provide your usual explicit definitions and examples of similes and metaphors. If possible pull from lyrics from the top-40.
- Have students find or bring in a photo of a favorite food. You can use the Web or find food magazines, while you still can.
- Make a list of the senses. I know there he goes sensory details again, but trust me it is a good in road into the layers of meaning we bring to our tables.
- Then have students write a simile for each of those senses and share what you wrote about your food memory.
- Repeat the process with metaphors.
- Now have students write an ode to the food using any number of their similes and metaphors.
Activity Two: Compare Something to your Food
- Students will now choose to compare some event or person in their lives to a specific food.
- If students struggle to determine an idea have them think of a time when they ate the dish under review. Use that moment.
- Make a t-chart (I would have uploaded one but you got this). Put the person or event on side and the food on the other.
- Have students brainstorm memories of the event or characteristics of the person.
- Then compare that person to some element in the food.
- Write a poem
Up next in the teaching poetry with images series: Analyzing the impact of word choices using image collages.
I’d have to check the program but I think the first session Sue and I presented at LRA had a title of “Non-Vrbocentric Approaches to Teaching Response and Authorship of Poetry. We sat down to dinner with Rosenblatt but ended up leaving arm and arm with Bakhtin.
Remixing Tone, Imagery and Images
I always share this activity with other poets and teachers. I have my pre-service teachers think about imagery and tone by writing two different poems about the same picture. The only difference found in the mood and the tone. Poets can challenge (I didn’t) themselves by trying to play with the structue of the poem. Try for parralesim and antithetical meaning between the two.
How to Write With Students
This lesson is quite simple. I wrote it up fully on the maker menu for #walkmyworld. In this example I used Flickr, a Kindergarten skill, paper, Google Slides.
Find an image
I like to take every opportunity to reinforce open practices with other poets. I encourage them to use openly licensed work and to provide proper attribution.
Familiarize yourself and other poets of different Creative Commons licenses. Creative Commons does not mean Public Domain.
- Go to Flickr
- Use the Search Bar.
- Even though you begin on the creative commons page once you search you see images with all licenses. Much of the content have all-rights reserved.
- Choose only Creative Commons Licensed Images
- Note what you need for attribution
- I have been favoriting anything I use.
- If I download the photo I rename it and include photographer, title, license
- Download or get the link to the photo
Think Like a Kindergartner
Every poet young our old needs gentle reminders to paint a picture with words. I often use an excercise I taught 6 year olds poets t when writing. Make a list of the five senses. Use sensory details to show and not tell.
I often make a list of the senses and refer back to it as I struggle to assemble my bricolage of meaning.
Okay this is just me. You don’t have to subscribe to my method in any way but I always draft on paper first. I find my thinking to be much quicker and more non-linear in the mode.
Create Slide Deck
- Go to drive.google.com (or use your favorite slide deck, PPT, Hakiudeck, Explain Everything)
- Add the image as the slide background
- Type your words on top.
- Publish to the web and share with the world.
Last learning event you collected and curated all of your content, and shared it with us on Twitter. Ian O’Byrne collected all of these shares to a Google Spreadsheet. If you’re not listed on the spreadsheet, feel free to add your links and info on the spreadsheet.
For the next learning we’d like you to reach out to someone else in the project. First review the spreadsheet to find someone to connect with. You can scroll through past weeks of the project and find someone that has intrigued you.
Then write a response to their #walks. You need to walk their world.
Like always we do not tell you how to respond. You could summarize their walks in a poem, a blog post, a series of tweets,maybe just have a conversation with each other. The act of construction is up to you (though I give bonus emoticons for poems).
In learning event nine we asked that each of you include a piece at the end that describes who you are through the walks you posted. We wanted you to name your world. We provided the following prompts: What does this content say about your identity? How are you sharing your own private history?
Now we want you to name someone else’s world.
If you want to take on the challenge of writing about someone else world we would then ask you to get to know the person you wrote about.
Send a tweet back to the member of the #WALKMYWORLD project after you review and write about their content. Thank them for allowing you to take a walk in their world. If you feel moved, you can send them a photo, video, or…poem…to share your thoughts about their work.
Once again, this is all about community. We’re motivated by one last thought from Robert Hass. In a interview he was asked how things are connected, and what makes up a community. He responded:
They are the kinds of things that make us a community: attachment to place, attachment to local arts traditions, the ability to read literature, the ability to look at paintings, the sense of connectedness to the land, the sense of community that comes from people taking care of their own. The market doesn’t make communities. Markets make networks of self-interested individuals, and they work as long as there’s more than enough to go around.
As you review the work of someone else in the project, consider what they shared and think about what this content says about their identity.
Who do you think this person is, based on the content that they shared? Do you agree with the thoughts they shared in their Storify curation? Share your thinking in an original piece of writing.
Start a conversation and reach out to someone else in the project. Consider their work and connect with them by responding with your thoughts and thanks.
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We began #walkmyworld with a purpose in mind: to use poetry so people could see how we name our world. We wanted you to explore the layers of power and meaning in the act of naming.
After deliberation it was decided to clothe these goals in the rich fabric of Robert Hass. Hass’s work, especially how he used his world to illustrate that which is named and unnamed, captures idea that writing is a vessel for perspectives. Hass explained,
I live in my place and live my life and write about my subjects, whatever they turned out to be–love, grief, the nature of things, the nature of our nature, the riddles of existence–and drew on the materials of my place as the idiom of that expression, then that would be the kind of environmental writing I’d doI wanted to collect the poems.
I am new to Hass, but have quickly fallen for the complexity of his simple observations. When Hass describes the natural world I find myself being taken to the limits of language while finding unchartered depths in the most literal of meanings.
So I have tried to experiment with his form, or at least try explore my identities, “in the place I live my life.”
The first poem was based off of Letters to a Poet:
from fresh rain
drops of dew
past the iron gate
sullied and slurping
an unnatural mix of
rain and nutrients for
feeding manicured lawns of
houses hidden behind
placemats and carpools
our stoop, Rodin’s Rock
that need no answer
Watching waste flow
Traversing and twisting
to a retention pond
Do our questions follow?
Inquisitions of adolescent angst
Unnecessary, irrelevant already asked
seeping into the soil
allowing the skunk cabbage to sprout
The next poem built on the dialogue in “Seventh Night.” Except I tried to capture the same effct with an internal dialogue
They are all signals. Its about
Balance. Outreach. Contacts
Finding it hard to function when not
in crisis mode
Refresh. A new window. How
can thinking be so in situ? So
outside when I spend so much time
Thinking in the cloud.
A band-aid. The glue holding
my code together
Yet when I think. I mean really
Ponder, write. I grasp for my pad
Scribbling. Often illegible; yet so critical
Connected thoughts lost in an
unbroken chain of incomplete links
pulling it closely, Holding tight.
The last poem was also based off of “Seventh Night.”
This time I tried to imagine a conversation at the end of an event that was filled with antithetical statements:
The final note glistened from the ceiling
hanging in the air, perched in the rafters as
light floods the room with the
color of thunder. The
masses rise in a cacophony
of silence and he wonders,
wonders as worker bees draped in black
pour from the darkened and dusty curtain which is
stained with past dreams and passions.
Its ruffles witness to the rise and fall of many.
They scamper and he wonders,
wonders if they are more of a collective thought
collapsing tresses, snaking
wires to only hit the road one more time. To travel down
north for that final curtain.
And then he stood to join the herd and he saw her.
Recoiling at first, fearful of a glitter bomb
Her thoughts as scattered as the strategically placed patchwork stitches on purposefully disheveled clothes
“I brought you this,” handing over the sticker, “I have been waiting to meet you.”
“Knowing someone out there owned this sticker.”
“I can find my center, get lost in place, hold in the energy so I can set it free,” I replied my eyes hiding back an exhaustion for desire.
The masses pushed on as burnt sage brush chased misplaced spirits
through a wash of middleclass deficiencies. She continued, “The tension built tonight, so peaceful.” He glanced, wary of one last drive not sure another rider was needed, or wanted.
He said, “Yes the tight spirals and sprawling sounds left me trapped in open space. She looked inquisitive, “Yes an empty space but so full of vibrancy as if the lillies themselves sang to the heaven.” She glanced down at her feet, uncovered and unkempt
the dirt of the chosen poor, and said, “atonal soloing flooded the fog laden synths” and he said,
“Yes misplaced wanderings along the fret quickly slapped down on the bass.” She flirtatiously danced in what little space the masses afforded and said, “I know. The notes were so tight I felt lost so many times.
The doors open and they squeeze by.” Is the strip deserted, shakedown dead?” On horseback and in riot gear, the law was peacefully shuttering economies of size.
She glanced up, height level with steam pouring from a majestic nostril and said, “I guess it is time for the leafs to turn,” and with that he fell off his axis. Only to head north, just one more time.
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Once again our friends from across the globe amaze us. In fact new poets, learners and readers join #walkmyworld every day. To this end we will no longer publish weekly challenges but will shift the focus to learning events. This will allow folks to step in and out of our burgeoning affinity space.
In the last learning event we asked you to think about what it means to name things, and to consider the power of what you name in the pics you share. We considered what Hass meant when he said, “naming things is a way of establishing your identity through one’s surroundings.”
Many turned to to the the poem “Meditation at Lagunitas.”
Next Learning Event
Letter to a Poet
A mockingbird leans
from the walnut, bellies,
riffling white, accomplishes
his perch upon the eaves.
I witnessed this act of grace
in blind California
in the January sun
where families bicycle on Saturday
and the mother with high cheekbones
and coffee-colored iridescent
hair curses her child
in the language of Pushkin–
John, I am dull from
thinking of your pain,
this mimic world
which make us stupid
with the totem griefs
we hope will give us
power to look at trees,
at stones, one brute to another
like poems on a page.
What can I say, my friend?
There are tricks of animal grace,
poems in the mind
we survive on. It isn’t much.
You are 4,000 miles away &
this world did not invite us
Karen Brennan sparked my thinking today. She presented her work on using Scratch. The programming, games, and stories children created made a large impact on everyone at the conference.
For me it wasn’t the take away of creative computing I found most moving. It was Brennan’s point that making take two things: creating and community. She argued that you can’t have interactive writers without both.
I witnessed this yesterday, but it wasn’t with coding,computers, or even a classroom. I saw the synergy of creating and community in a dingy basement in a dark dusty bar.
Ian and I were heading home after dinner and wanted to stop in somewhere. We like dives. Dust on the floor, ripped stools, and low lights. That brought us to CanTab in Cambridge. It also brought us to a community of creators.
After sitting down we saw a steady stream of people heading to the basement. We asked what was going on. Turns out CanTab is the home venue for the Boston Poetry Slam team. Turns out Wednesday is Open Mic night. Turns out this was the last open mic before Boston hosts the National Poetry Slam.
What we witnessed encapsulated Brennan’s lesson about community. The camaraderie among the poets flowed through the room. Poets did parodies of each other’s work. Talked about revising together. Read about being struggling artists.
For the CanTab crowd community leads to creation, and creation leads to community. This was Karen Brennan’s take away. So what does this mean for teachers and participants at MNLI?
Community of Writers and Readers
When I am awed by quality literacy teachers it always comes back to community. The students in the room feel, no they know, that they are among readers. They know they can turn to other writers for support. Just like the students in Brennan’s study who remixed, offered feedback, and helped each other grow. A great literacy classroom builds upon community.
Each year at MNLI some of the administrators choose the creation of a PLC, professional learning community as their project. I cringe a little. You can’t force community. Most PLC’s that exist in schools are simply committees that meet more frequently than others. Can schools use PLC’s? Yes, but they need to be interest driven and faculty lead. They need to have open memberships and recognize and build expertise.
Coding as Poetry
The CanTab experience was a serendipitous connection for me. I have little experience with code. In 6th grade I did a show and tell using Basic and made a rocket ship take off based on a dice role. Then during my dissertation work I had to edit XML files as we made a simulated environment. I do not know code but I do see poetry in code. I see these patterns that somehow standout like stanzas. What I saw at CanTab was the type of creating Karen Brennan wants out our students.
It isn’t just about creative computing and interactive writers. We also just need learning experience that create a community of learners both offline and online. We need interest driven classrooms that recognize student expertise. We need connected learning.
We want every student to leave Gear Up knowing they have a voice. They are “active players and not spectators in life” as Walter Dean Meyers., the author of Handbook for Boys wrote (our shared reading this summer). To this end we had students explore what it means to be a lost voice through poetry.
As many of our readers know I am also interested in exploring how the pedagogy of poetry can be enhanced with the use of digital texts and tools. Over the last six years, my colleagues Sue Ringler-Pet and Ian O’Byrne have been exploring the intersection of poetry and technology. We present a project at NCTE celebrating a poet laureate through technology.
This year we chose Natasha Trethewey and her work with documentary poetry. Trethewey says she attempts to find lost voices in historical events. This seemed like a perfect project for the 100 students attending our Summer Academy.
The lesson plan we used appears below:
Step 1: Read “The Elegy of the Native Gaurd” and “Beyond Katrina”
Step 2: Then discuss the following prompt in the Google+ Community: Trethewey in explaining why she writes said her purpose is, “giving voice to the groups and individuals blotted out of public memory.” In these two poems what groups and individuals were brought to the light? What words, phrases, or stanzas capture the emotion or plight of these voices?
Step 3: Annotate the text using the PDFZen. Identify key events, characters, and emotions
Step 4: Record and upload your poem (written in Language Arts) to SoundCloud
-Set up a Soundcloud Account
-Post your Account Name to Google+
-Follow everyone in the class
-Record your Poem
-Upload Your Recording to Soundcloud
In order to make the projects manageable the students coule pick from the following historical events: Slavery, Civil War, WWII, 9/11, and Katrina. They then had to create a narrator for their poem, draft, and record the poem
Here are a few examples:
Overall the project went very well. Yet it is not over. These poems will be used as models, and a few as mentor texts, for middle school students in Hartford who will complete the same project this Fall. We will share these voices in Boston at NCTE.
The lesson also demonstrates how good analytical reading does not need to favor informational, narrative texts, or poetry. In fact the best lessons will result in some type of performance piece (the poem) that required students to question and annotate a variety of sources for a variety of reasons.
9/11, with Katrina as a close second, seemed to be the most popular theme among students. I wonder if this is a due to proximity to New York (almost all know of a life touched by the tragedy). The boys (shocking) seemed to gravitate to lost voices in wars.
The poems are a good, but many have an overarching sense of prose, rather than poetry to the stories. Now I cringe at giving students rules when teaching poetry (in fact I asked teachers not to require stanzas at all let alone a minimum number) yet in the next iteration I want students to try to find more poetry in their voices. I may ask students to write their lost voice as a narrative first and then convert this prose into poetry. This had worked in the past as well.
Our Summer Academy is about building bridges to the future in the hope that the entire New Haven class of 2018 is college bound. I hope by exploring lost voices, we helped students find their own so they lear not to be “spectators in life.”
h3 class=”MsoNormal” style=”line-height: 200%; >Rosenblatt’s Transactional Theory
literary theory (1938/1995; 1978) diverges from the New Critical perspective that readers examine texts in order to extract “the meaning.” Rosenblatt states that during transactions with literary texts, readers draw on past and present literary and life experience to create meaning and posits that “'[t]he poem’ comes into being in the live circuit set up between the reader and ‘the text’” (1978, p. 14). Faced with traditional curricular and new highstakes testing requirements, today’s literacy educators are pressured by technology’s promise to expand the repertoire of students’ literacy experiences. At this juncture, Rosenblatt’s theory offers an important reminder thatregardless of, and perhaps even becauseof increased pressures, it is the role of the teacher to “fosterfruitful… transactions” (Rosenblatt, 1995, p. 26) between readers and allkinds of texts. Transactional theory also highlights the active, recursive, and multifaceted nature of reading andresponse, creating a model of classroom reading that values students’ initial responses as a significant first step in meaning negotiation toward mature,
considered responses (1938/1995; 1978).
Transactional Theory and Technology
unsystematically— not only with words but also with infinite combinations of images, sounds, and videos (Kress, 2003). Thus, today’s teachers must not only help students respond to text but also must acknowledge that when students transact
with literary texts, they do more than establish a “live circuit”: they add new transistors and switches (McVerry, 2007).