18 April 2008

Teaching Poetry Spring 2008: Part 2 of Taboo Shape Poems

My Discourse on Revisions
Part 2 was probably the most boring yet important lesson for the students. I discussed the importance of revisions, as well as techniques. I touched upon the following approaches:
  • Read it out loud - In all forms of writing, especially poetry, it is crucial to read your work out loud. This is most helpful in identifying issues with flow.
  • Ask someone else to read it, just not your friends or family - Those who care for you most likely will tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear. You can't trust those close to you; they love you too much to tell you the truth. On a humorous note, Andy Burt, the teacher, declared that his wife has no problem telling him what he's doing wrong.
  • Consider word choice - Do the words work for you? Do they cause confusion or add clarity? Are your verbs descriptive or weak?
My Model of Critique
After discussing these revision techniques, I called one student to the front of the class and we swapped poems. I read his out loud, with slight troubles due to choppy penmanship, then proceeded to answer the following questions:
  1. What is the poem about?
  2. What words helped you figure out what the poem was about?
  3. What words confused you?
  4. How would you revise the poem?
Breaking Up Friendships
Since I told them not to ask friends for feedback, I began to pair the students up with other students they normally would never talk to. The process of actually getting them to pair up, instead of group up, was a touch difficult. They just kept meandering back into these buddy clumps. Eventually, they got some feedback and returned to their desks to begin revising their poems based on the feedback they received.

I had to spend a bit of time at the end providing one-on-one feedback to those who felt they didn't get anything substantial from their partners. One particular student even spent time after class to get my advice, although she needed little. The most I could advise her was to explore the deeper meanings behind her word choices and to try smoothing out the rhythm of her first few lines.

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