Sunday, May 4, 2014

Waning Poetic: Engae Now! May 2014

by Dan Bruno, M.Ed., NBCT

Turning and turning in a widening gyre...
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.
-William Butler Yeats

This time of year brings on some many forms of frenzy: promposals, AP testing, Standards testing, closing out the year, awards, sports, academics. The list, like Yeats's gyre, grows with each rotation of the day. In my district, a new superintendent, the same old board of supervisors, and the same old school board have led to the same old budget crisis. Positions slashed. Apologies made in e-mails. What seems absent are the passionate arguments over raising the only source of revenue the schools have: the real estate tax. In dependent school board states like ours, the school board cannot tax; instead, they are entirely dependent on the whim of the supervisors. Democracy at its finest and most flawed. Public debate too often comes down to facts and figures, bottom lines and dollar signs. The truth is that these issues require a bit more passion.

In the world of our classrooms, passion comes in the form of verse. From Shakespeare to Schnackenberg, emotion does not come in a more crystallized form than the poetry we teach. Oftentimes, like that public discourse mentioned above, we lose ourselves in the technical and forget that poetry is, at its best, an individual expression of singular experience. People write verse to share these experiences with an audience. When we focus solely on the techniques and minutiae, we alienate students from an art form that offers them an outlet in a world full of inputs. This month's Engage Now! focuses on helping students own poetry through creation.

Katie Greene's May Engage Now! puts poetry in the students' hands so that they can write it and perform it. Utilizing the web site Shadow Poetry, students explore forms and write poetry in forms they find appealing. To top it off, they must find pictorial representations of their work and use it to decorate the page. The activity is light enough to fit the hectic schedule of the end of the year while still packing a hefty intellectual punch. If you are looking for a way to close out the year with fun, flexibility, and intelligence, head over the NCTE Connected Community and download the lesson. And best of luck at the end of this year.