Micropoetry

This year I volunteered to teach English.  After being given an English class last year and spending an inordinate amount of time learning how to teach it and develop resources, (and creating a class blog to celebrate the students’ learning) I decided it was better to volunteer to teach English again rather than find myself with another new subject to learn.  In New Zealand it is the lot of an option subject teacher to have to be flexible; there will never be enough Spanish classes for me to have a full timetable so I have to make up my time with other subjects.  So, here I am with another English class.  The challenge is that last year I had an A band class, and this year I have a B band class.  There is not a lot of what I prepared last year that will work with my new class!  Never mind, I always like a challenge!

We have chosen, this year, to develop a cross-curricular approach to our Junior Programme.  Our first term theme is Globalisation so across four subjects in Year 9 we are trying teach the skills our students need under the umbrella of Globalisation.   English, Science, Social Studies and Maths.  Other subjects such as languages and the arts can choose to do so.

It is Week 6 and it is time for poetry.  I saw a neat link to “Tweetspeak Poetry” on Twitter last week and discovered the idea of Twitter Poems and Micropoetry.  This seemed to me to be perfect – the globalisation of the poem, disseminated across Twitter, published globally.  It also fitted my class of students who struggle to write but who have awesome ideas.

We started off discussing in groups and I asked them, “What is poetry?” This is the mindmap they come up with. I loved the suggestion that poetry is “something that paints a picture in the reader’s mind”.

what is poetry

So that got me thinking and I came up with this activity.  The girls really engaged with the task and some of them rose to the challenge of writing poems that drew their peers towards one photo but then revealed the real one in the final line! Using only 140 characters for the TwitterPoems was a challenge and there is still some work to do on these but I think they did a really neat job.  They loved reading them out for each other and were proud of their writing.  Can you work out which poems describe which photos?

four images in a collage, top left is graffitti on a wall, top right is a butterfly feeding on a pink camellia, bottom left is a sunset over the ocean, bottom right is a view of a cathedral and old city walls.Bright colours glistening
Floating in the summer breeze
Life full with beauty

Fluorescent Colours
Exploring perfect flowers
so small and fragile

The day was old,
the clouds were flowing over the
tall elegant brick buildings
as the wind blows the trees lightly

Sun begins ascent.
Red rays dance into ocean
The waves start to stir

 
Sunset’s reflection
He with brushes and paint
the ocean he creates

Empty hallways full of gloomy darkness. Brick walls are faded brown stones. At the bottom no one hears the prisoners yelling for help to get out. The view is outstandingly beautiful. The windows are as old as a bristlecone tree. There are so many different parts you get lost. This place is so old it has become abandoned.

Shimmering Sunrise
Over the horizon and
Over Golden sand

 

Colours spiral around like the waves in the sea
Eyes stare at me like a tiger surrounding its prey.
Colours play with my mind and pull me into a mysterious world.

Enchanting ocean
Shimmering beautifully
Night’s song soon begins

Colours mix in wind
glooming bright sky shining down
flowing in a bowl

Blue sky hovering over head
white bubbles floating in the wind
Crunchy grains underneath my soles
hair flying in the Lord’s CO2

From the sublime …. to the fanciful and beyond!


This week we started “creative writing”. Can you “start “creative writing””?  Surely it has to be spontaneous, from the heart,  rising from within ….? Anyway, it is the next “Unit” in our English programme, so we will do what we can…!  I have a feeling that my girls are going to be good at this!  Judging by the language in their formal essays they are itching to get those creative juices flowing and use adjectives and your imagination to the fullest.  I think though, that they may have some work to do with regard to some sort of plausibility!  Never mind,  it is the end of term and if we can’t go a little wild now,  when can we?

A few weeks ago when we started speech writing I introduced my class to Pecha Flickr, a tool created by a guy named Alan Levine (@cogdog). They enjoyed the randomness of the images generated when we put in a theme and they rose to the challenge to speak ad lib for 20 seconds.  There were some very random comments and the first time through they were definitely tongue tied and looked like rabbits caught in the glare of the headlights.  However, we looked at some sentence starters, encouraged them to ask each other questions as prompts and they were itching to do more.  This week we tried 5card Flickr,  another of Alan’s tools. 5 Card Flickr is not so “in your face” as Pecha flickr, it does not put you on the spot in the same way as you have time to think and create.   I wanted to get my students thinking about telling stories in a different way.  I wanted to use the random images to encourage them to think more deeply about how they could transition plausibly from one scene to another, sequence ideas, make connections and develop ideas and language.

It is always interesting, as a teacher, planning lessons:  I have an idea of what I want the outcome to be,  I decide on an activity, I devise it and then I have to be prepared for my students to surprise me and turn it completely on its head!  It is not always easy and I know that they threw me this week when they didn’t quite do what I expected.  But I have learned to go with the flow, build on the moment and take the learning opportunities as they arise.  We ran out of time and energy this week (it is the least week of term, after all) but we will come back to 5card Flickr next term.  Meanwhile,  here is 9AR’s amazing and very wacky story! (unedited!) Why not let me know what you think of the Flickr tools?  Have you used them? How else do you think they could be used to help build skills in English?

I will be running a workshop at Ulearn14 in October, so if you are going to be there.  come along and share your ideas.

Five Card Story: The Revenge of the Alpacas

a Five Card Flickr story created by 9AR


flickr photo by bionicteaching


flickr photo by Serenae


flickr photo by Serenae


flickr photo by bionicteaching


flickr photo by bionicteaching

One day, there were a bunch of six year old sailors. They kidnapped a young boy called Jimmy. Jimmy was italian with blonde hair and abs. He had a tan and got all the girls. Jimmy was in love with a young girl called Tiana, one of the six year old’s older sister, this made them mad. They saw a poisonous leaf on the edge of their boat. Jimmy touched the poisonous leaf and immediately dropped dead! His crewmates had no idea what to, do so they did what they always did when someone died out at sea. They dumped him in the harsh, stormy sea and the waves encased him in a watery coffin. His lungs filled with salty poison.

After they put him in the sea they all went for dinner in the beach town and they had spaghetti and eggs.

When they were having dinner they saw a body wash up on the shore. They all screamed in horror and spilt their eggs and spaghetti. They were all very sad because it tasted so good and cost them 3 chickens and 5 wooden spoons.The 6 year old irish sailors ran away at 15 miles an hour!

Plot twist! Jimmy woke up, he hadn’t died but he was now riding on a tsunami and then he woke up! It was all a dream! Then he realised he was drowning he tried to swim to the surface but a tiger shark thought he was pretty hungry so he ate the boy. THEN HE WOKE UP AGAIN OMG. Then a pack of alpacas came and ate him. They tore his limbs off and ate them. He died; it turns out he wasn’t dreaming after all.


Learning to Explain: English Lessons

800px-Le_voyage_dans_la_lune_drawingSo, we are well into Term 3, “I am Not Esther” is done and dusted but the themes of the novel are not. Some of them come to the fore in this term’s focus which is a film study. We have watched the film “Hugo” based on the novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick.  We are now well underway working on activities that help us to explore the characters, the story and the themes of this wonderful film.

I spent an inspiring day at the #edchatnz conference at the weekend and was reminded of the importance of student-centred learning. I also re-read a couple of chapters of “Understanding the Digital Generation” by Ian Jukes, Ted McCain & Lee Crockett. This section really resonates with me; “It is far better for students to discover the content rather than be told the content because discovery creates the interest that gets students engaged in learning.”

Over the last few years I have had the opportunity to widen my scope in terms of teaching subjects. Since arriving in NZ I have taught French (my main, specialist subject), Health, Phys Ed, Spanish, Food Technology, and this year English. I do not have the expert knowledge in any of these subjects, except French, to stand at the front of the class and be the “sage on the stage”.  Not that that has ever been my natural style of teaching, but not being an expert really makes you have to re-think how you engage students.  And you realise that what you need to teach them is not content but strategies and a curiosity for learning that provides them with the skills to progerss into the real world.

So my holidays were spent watching and re-watching Hugo and developing activities, gleaned and adapted from the amazing resources generously shared on the internet and especially via the TES site and TKI.  It will be interesting to see if the N4L “Pond” develops into a great sharing site like the TES site.  It has the potential to do so and it certainly seems like NZ educators are keen to share their resources.

However, because I do not have a background in teaching English and especially things such as cinematographic techniques (a word that, for some reason, I struggle to pronounce.)  This causes such great amusement for my students that it has become a standing joke and I don’t even try anymore!  Anyway, I have set up activities that allow them, and me, to explore the concepts of film techniques, and to find things out for themselves.  They work in groups or alone – their choice – and we share work via Google docs so that we can comment and discuss.

Nevertheless, I think it is also important that there are opportunities that encourage them to produce, to be put on the spot and to think on their feet.  Ted McCain talks about the 4D approach – Define the problem, Design the solution, Do the work, and Debrief what you have done – this equips students with the tools to solve problems and learn.

Working at their own pace on activities is all fine and good, but some slip under the radar and are not always challenged to produce under pressure. So, this morning they were challenged.  They chose two quotes from the film.  I divided the class into two halves and each half took one of the quotes. They had 15 minutes to brainstorm the quote and consider four questions;

  1. What it meant?
  2. How it related to the themes in the film?
  3. Why it was important?
  4. Give examples to illustrate your ideas.

One person in the group was at the whiteboard making notes of the suggestions from the group, one person was a scribe on a shared Google Doc and organised the notes from the board into a table in the doc. (one of the groups worked quite well with two scribes to help each other keep up with the pace of the discussion).  One person was nominated as the speaker.  They were to argue the point that their quote was more important in terms of illustrating the themes of the film, in a two minute speech.  As the rest were making suggestions, making notes and scribing they pulled the ideas together into a well-constructed speech.  

It was quite clear, as I observed, that one team was much more organised but I reserved judgement.  However, it was equally clear, once we listened to the speeches that the organised group was the most effective.  As soon as their spokeserson finished speaking the other group chorused; “Oh, they win!” 

This was our opportunity to reflect and debrief, which they did very effectively.  It was heartening to see how engaged, they had all been during the process. Yes, there were a couple of girls who lots focus, and in retrospect, I might have three groups to reduce the group size and ensure that more girls were involved.  However, they all agreed that they had learned a lot and they enjoyed the lesson.  

Poetry – a lot of fun and heaps of talent

ImageI have acquired a new subject to teach this year and I am loving it!  Too add to the French, German, Spanish, Phys Ed, Health, Outdoor Ed and Food & Nutrition that I have had the pleasure to teach over my career as a teacher, I am now adding English!  We have been writing poetry this term and I have loved the poems that my students have written either on their own or in groups. I thought that this poem from John Hegley was a great way to get the students writing.

“I need you..” 

I need you like a bully needs to boast

I need you like an ocean needs a coast

I need you like a dog needs a lamppost

Their additions were fantastic!

I need you like peanut needs butter

I need you like speakers need not to stutter

I need you like I need my mother

I need you like how babies need to cry

I need you like birds need to fly

I need you like I need wi-fi.

I need you like an ant needs a nest

I need you like east needs west

I need you like a nerd needs a test

I need you like an athlete needs his toe

I need you like a clown needs a show

I need you like an old man needs his mo

I need you like a princess needs her tower

I need you like a bee needs its flower

I need you like an engine needs power

I need you like a magnet needs metal

I need you like a flower needs a petal

I need you like Hansel needs Gretel

I need you like a backpacker needs rest

I need you like Kanye needs North West

I need you like a lemon needs zest.

The next poem was a little more complex; “I want you…”

I want you like my crumpled trousers want a

press

I want you like Rumpelstiltskin

wanted the princess

to guess

I want you like a naked somnambulist

out walking on a cold winter’s night

on waking wants to dress

But we looked at the poetic elements and they commented on the offset rhymes and the lengthening lines, they also noticed how the poem was laid out and how it sounded when we read it out loud  I asked them to have a go at writing their own poems in the same sort of style and they had a really good go.  Here are some of the best ones.

i want you like the sheriff wanted the thieves
i want you like a tree wants its leaves
to cover the breeze
i want you like the dog that receives the bone
likes to tease                                                              Steph G

I want you like a heart full of love
I want you like the bully wants to shove

the kid wearing the black leather glove 
I want you like the magician wants its dove

to appear out of nowhere from above                        Katie M

I want you like a brother wants a sister
I want you like a quiet person wants to whisper
I want you like a Mrs needs her Mr

who can tell her a tongue twister.                              Alyssa B

I want you like a damsel wants her hero
I want you like a Roman 
used to dream 
of being ‘Nero’
I want you like a nerd 
dreams of no longer 
being a zero                                                               Kate W

I want you like a bee needs a flower 
i want you like a princess needs power 
to rule a tower 
I want you to show my heart how not to cower      Emily W

I want you like an athlete wants to run 
I want you like the sunset needs the sun 
I want you like a father needs a son but sometimes more than one     Jaime B

I want you like a fire needs a spark
I want you like a jandal likes to leave a tan mark

when you come out of the dark

I want you like the oven needs to start
to bake the Apple tart
when you come back from the park.                               Jess W