When setting up my curriculum (yes, I had to set up my own curriculum), I’d penciled in a poetry unit early in the semester. What with the plethora of canceled and shortened classes, we were warned that we needed to make some elements of our curricula dispensable, and originally it looked like poetry would be the thing to go.
However, David mentioned he was doing poetry, in many cases with students much younger than the kids with whom I’d be doing it, and it seemed to be going well. I was inspired, and decided my space/constellation/zodiac unit would get the axe instead. (Don’t you raise your eyebrows at me. I did it ever-so-briefly with a class in China and it went really well.)
I ended up having not nearly enough time. The end of the year just crept up on me, I guess. I had all kinds of ideas… a class on haikus for practice with syllables, tons of rhyme brainstorming warmer sessions, simple rhyme gap-fill exercises. I was going to wrangle these kids into proper poetry-writing shape if it was the last thing I did. Instead, I only ended up having 3-4 classes total in which to teach it. I braced myself for the worst, but I really can’t believe some of the things I’ve been handed. The collection I’m presenting today is some of my favorite 4-line poems they had to submit for homework after only two periods. Well impressed I was, and I think you will be too! The grammar isn’t always spot-on, and you’ll notice these little adolescents seem to be quite lovestruck (though there are some sweet ones about their family, some about pets, and even a nice one about a sandwich there at the end that I mentioned to Emilie could easily have been written by Liz Lemon). But there’s some solid work here, often with some cute artwork to accompany. So without further ado:
In light of my “giant copy machine” post I thought I should answer the question I know you’re all asking: Did the kids all wise up and use the best of their own abilities to compose this literary masterpieces? Well, as far as the ones above, I believe so. But of course there were the few poems rocking words such as “doth” “thee” and “Minerva” which served as dead give-aways of Internet usage. On most of these I stoically write, “I asked you to write a poem, not find one on the Internet. 0/5,” but I had the pleasure of pointing out one boy’s folly face-to-face.
I’d given the students time to work on the eight-line poem they’ll have to make a poster of for their final in class, and encouraged them to come to me for assistance or just to check their work. The boy in question strode right up and proudly tossed his notebook on my desk. There were no antiquated pronouns, but it did seem just a little too good to be a first-attempt by a non-native English speaker, and the giggles from the girls behind him didn’t come to his aid. I quickly typed in the first line to Google and watched the panic swell in his face. When the search kicked back his poem in an anonymous Facebook note he covered his head and issued a mini-scream of defeat. The girls’ giggles increased to full blown laughter and I said, “Let this be an example to you all!!!!” In graded language, of course.