05 May 2007

Teaching Poetry Spring 2007: Lesson #7— Poetic Devices & Tongue Twisters

What a chaotic day! We had a little later start to the session, and I rambled on about poetic devices for too long. We started with a little word play overheard on the playground (more found poetry?).
Eaves dropping & Eaves dripping

The kid was warning another about the water dripping from the roof, or eave, and I wrote it on the board to start our discussion on poetic devices. Word play or puns are rampant through children's poems and I told them to look for it everywhere, the opportunity to do clever things with words, to stretch their meaning.

One girl brought up a poem she had remembered that consisted of three words with one letter dropping off the end until one letter remained:
Pencil and paper
Pencil and pape
Pencil and pap
Pencil and pa
Pencil and p
Pencil and
Pencil an
Pencil a

This unexpected contribution launched into a terrific discussion on form as a poetic device. Just like e.e. cummings' poem "l(a," this poem uses the shape to mimic the point of a pencil, the disappearing of space on a piece of paper, and the shortening of a pencil as each line is written.

We revisited rhyme scheme and line breaks as poetic devices, and I repeated my not-so-blatant statement of repetition as a poetic device, as a poetic device. The we launched into the most chaotic session of poetry instruction yet: alliteration as a poetic device.

One boy already knew about alliteration and defined it quite aptly to the class as a form of rhyme in which the first sounds of the words of a poem are the same. When I asked him to give me a common and fun example of something that uses alliteration, he didn't know. Most of the class had no clue until I spouted out:
How much wood would woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
The class went nuts, giving their best take on this classic tongue twister, and many had more to share. We went on a tirade of tongue twisters, and it took considerable effort to calm them down. I then wrote down two of my favorite short tongue twisters:
six sick sheep
pack of pesky pixies
The class was split on which was the easier of the two, so I inquired as to why they found them particularly difficult. When it came down to it, the "sk" and "ck" and "x" transition was actually the hard part of these poems. To demonstrate why, I had them beatbox with me using the sound pattern "p-x." After about 20 times, they slowly stopped and asked if their jaws hurt, and all but one agreed.

What was the point of the exercise? To illustrate the importance of not using alliteration if the aim is to have a smoothly read poem, or to use it if you wish to slow down the read of the poem or to just make it fun.

With all these poetic devices revealed, I ran out of time but called one kid forward to read the poem he wrote from a piece of found poetry. He cleverly rhymed words like "shield" and "yield" and even skewed syntax at one point.

To end the class, I handed them a sheet with things from their life and told them to fill it in with as short of information as possible. From these sheets, we will craft a "Who I am" poem.

1 comment:

Judi Stoker said...

What a cool lesson! I am working on my M.Ed. and will be teaching middle school Language Arts (I’m currently taking Differentiated Instruction and am working on a free verse lesson plan assignment which is how I found your site). I found your lesson inspiring and I plan to add you to my favorites and check back from time to time to “steal” some of your wonderful ideas. Hope you don’t mind! Imitation is the finest form of flattery, my mother always used to tell me.