Voices in the Cloud

Those that know me know I am fond of saying I love juxtaposing the oldest genres in the world (poetry) with our newest texts. Each year Sue Ringler Pet, Ian O’Byrne, and myself celebrate a poet laurete at NCTE through the use of digital texts and tools.

This year Leanne Drapeau, a classroom teacher we partnered with joined us in Boston. I found the inclusion of a teacher,who could contextualized the young poets we celebrated,  in our presentation to be a rewarding experience. It also fit our theme quite well.

This year we dove into the work of Natasha Trethewy. Specifically we examined her work in documentary poetry.

Once again the project allowed students new access points into poetry. Here are a few takeways:

The Best Learning Activities are Grade Agnostic

When Sue and I first started this project we began by using Powerpoint to create extended metaphor poems. We have taught this lesson in early elementary school up to our graduate students. The best lessons in poetry work with any grade level.

Our work with documentary poetry was no different. We completed the project with 7th grade students, high school seniors, and pre service teachers. At every turn the students, no matter their age, were inspired by other young poets.

Delve into Poems not Devices

When we first looked at redesigning meaning through multimodality we framed the work through Billy Collins’s, “Drop a Mouse in Poetry.” For Sue and I we found poetry taught too often in isolation. Students did not search for emotion and truth instead they went on a scavenger hunt for similes and hyperbole.

Once again our work with Trethewey reminded us that teachers should not be afraid to spend immense amount of time on a single poem. The more we used and analyzed mentor texts the louder student voices become.

Sample of The Poems

Reflections and Thoughts

There was a different in topics and narrative voices

A pattern became evident to myself and the audience as we listened in on our young poets. Our older pre-service teachers seemed to write with a more meta detached voice. Topics included ideas such as Edward Snowden and the Korean War.

Students from New Haven and Hartford had a more personal and present narrative. Topics included Sanday Hook, child slavery, and gender discrimination. The voice giving  witness to the tragedy or emotion being documented seemed louder.

Do not teach a formula but a poet’s toolbox

In an earlier post I spoke of my 7th graders reading in a voice that was more prose than poetry. Their poems read like a narrative. Originally I speculated this may have been a product of a short time frame but after hearing from Leanne’s approach I realized the teachers I was supervising may not have provided students with the poetic toolbox.

Leanne and her students focused on four elements in their poems: juxtaposition, credibility, internal rhyme, and repetition. I only worked with a few group of students during writers conferences on repetition. Given more time I would have loved to work with tmy students and have them listen to their poems. They could identify elements that were poetic and revise the poems to include the toolbox Leanne shared with her  students.

Communal collaboration

Our original goal was to have students collaborate on these projects. Soundcloud, unfortunately, like many social networks was blocked in most of the schools. This did not allow for the collaboration and sharing of voices in the cloud.

Yet we also want to go beyond collaboration. We want to use digital poetry to highlight the interconnected elements of communities. That will be our focus next year. We are currently drafting a plan to not only witness other communities but to delve into personal and interpersonal perspectives. I will share later as we finalize the design, and I hope to highlight this work in D.C. at #ncte14.

Test you tech

I tried to present from my iPad and use Reflector to mirror to my laptop so I could screencast our presentation. Yet when we went to play video and audio we had no sound. This required us to pivot to my laptop. This lead to a downgrade in sound quality as we as speakers worked the room.


The Presentation

(Apologize for sound quality. I could not stream media from my iPad seamlessly and needed to use my laptop. We lost the proximity or the mic.)


14 responses on “Voices in the Cloud”


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