20 April 2006

Teaching Poetry: Lesson 2

Today, I confessed to the kids that I’m a liar. That’s right. I lie often, especially when engaged in my favorite style of writing: fiction. And as a self-professed liar, I informed them that we wouldn’t be going outside on this fabulous April day. Why not? I needed the whiteboard to illustrate ways to revise poems. In particular, we discussed where, how, and why to make line breaks.

I explained that even though April is National Poetry Month, National Poetry Day is actually not until October 5, before discussing differences between the following:
prose and poetry
sentences and lines
editing and revision

I asked for volunteers tough enough to handle an open critique of their poem and got several hands in response.

Two of the volunteers had written poems ripe with rhyme but without line breaks. So, I had them Roshambo to decide whose poem we would work with. Twice, scissors beat paper.

The student read his poem about a snake sliding on the sand. Then I wrote it on the board and had the kids take turns making breaks. We discussed the way the breaks affected both the effect of the poem as well as the way it could be read. I was most pleased to see so many lights popping on all over the place. One even remembered the term “alliteration” from the previous lesson.

We also talked about how punctuation affects a poem. The most notable example was how the parentheses in e.e. cummings “l(a” created an invisible word: within.

Then time ran out. I handed back their poems complete with suggestions for revision and sent them home to improve on their initial attempts. I look forward to reading them next week, when we hopefully get fair enough weather to enjoy the outdoors.


Anonymous said...

Roshambo--interesting. Never heard that one before, not in the taiga of northern Wisconsin, nor in the swamps of Florida. I wonder, is it a West Coast word for Rock-Paper-Scissors?


Kyle Stich said...

I picked the word "Roshambo" up from an episode of Seinfeld. I believe it was between Kramer and George and Kramer lost. I never heard the word before then, but haven't stopped using it since.