Sunday, November 14, 2004

Sharpen the Saw

Tomorrow begins another big step in my becoming-a-teacher process. My cohort peer Mandy Podhradsky and I will teach a class called "You're a Poet and Didn't Know It" (I think that's the title we settled on--Regan (another cohort member) actually came up with it, so we can't take the credit) for this upcoming week at Crosswinds Middle School. All of the cohort is doing team teaching during their fall intersession--some of the other classes include creating a zine, lyrics, creating a children's book, comic books, improv. comedy, film studies, being media savvy, etc. They all sound really great, and I'm sure I'll post many reflections on this project over the next few days.

I figured teaching a poetry class would be the easiest for me as I was working my way towards getting an MFA in poetry before I decided to start with the MEd. (I do still plan to get a Master's in Fine Arts focusing on poetry, but I am going to put that off until I am settled into the teaching world and have tenure--security, in other words.) I hope to balance technique with form so that the students can have a variety in the lessons. I have two sections that are each an hour and twenty minutes, so I hope we can figure out activities that will keep them plenty interested! This is our tentative weekly plan:

Monday: Intros & expectations, free verse & haiku, using verbs & adjectives effectively
Tuesday: sonnets, sensory imagery
Wednesday: villanelles & cinquains, simile & metaphor
Thursday: spoken word, personification & synesthesia
Friday: open mic and publishing

Extra, in case of time: prose poem, pantoum, sestina, ghazal, tanka

On Thursday and Friday, we will listen to CDs of poets reading their work and possibly watch videos of poets doing readings.

I hope to do at least two writing prompts for each session so that the students can have plenty of experience in freewriting and not being intimidated with a blank page. I will have them do a few worksheet practices when learning things about simile and metaphor, and I hope to have them revise some of the writings from the freewrite activities. I also want them to have

Tonight, I am feverishly putting finishing touches on handouts I hope to have for tomorrow. I'm trying to come up with good examples of haiku and free verse (what an expansive category!) as well as think of good activities for that first day. My partner Mandy is in Las Vegas until tomorrow night, so I am on my own for the first day, which is fine, but still a little frightening. I think doing haiku and free verse will be interesting for the first day--teaching them how to be precise in intention but also wide open in form, in a sense. But I think this is all a very good learning experience, and I think I'll find out what is effective and what was ridiculous.

The students will have the option at the end of the day--they can make poems in the forms that we learn or they can analyze poems that seem to epitomize some of the things we have learned (one page reflection). At the end, they'll all do a poetry reading--whether it is a poem that they have written or a poem done by someone else. (We'll also talk about how they can get published, especially if this seems to be something that interests them!)

Here are some links while I researched for Monday's lesson:

Free Verse: a lesson plan to teach free verse
Definition: a definition of free verse
Worksheet: a site with some more free verse information
American Poets: an index of poets with bios and examples from their work
Poetry 180: former Poet Laureate Billy Collins' project (a poem a day for HS students)
The Haiku Anthology: at
Poster: at
Haiku for People: What is haiku?
Haiku Homepage: some more info on haiku
Poetry Forms: some description on various forms

And here are the free verse poems I used for examples. The last two are two of my favorite poems:

Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in by e e cummings
Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda

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