Saturday, September 5, 2009

New Poetry Class

For the past seven I have been teaching the same two courses at Heritage Christian School's twice-monthly co-op Class Days: Intermediate Writing, a college prep expository writing course, and Advanced Writing, an honors-level expository writing class. This past spring when sign-ups for classes started, no students from our Class Day (there are at least five HCS Class Days in San Diego County, and one across the border in Mexico) had signed up for Advanced Writing, so our Class Day co-ordinators closed the Advanced class, not realizing that the majority of students in that class usually come from other Class Day sites as it's the only Advanced Class available. Meanwhile, the teacher of the 4th-6th grade Poetry and Research Class had to back out of her teaching assignment, so now a full class of students now needed a teacher, and I willingly took on the class. So I now have a new class to prep this year for the first time since I wrote the Intermediate Class seven years ago.

In a way, I'm rather excited. Prepping the new class will indeed require work, time, and creativity, but I like working with this age group and I like getting kids excited about poetry, one of my own passions. So that's my prayer: that the kids will leave this class with an appreciation of, or even a love for, poetry that they did not possess when they first walked into this classroom. After all, I do get rather enthusiastic about poetry. (Okay, a little more than "rather" enthusiastic.) I only hope the kids will half the fun I'm planning to have in prepping and teaching this course.

My plan is to divide our 18 classes into two halves, one per semester. The first semester we'll read the work of a certain poet each Class Day (probably 3-4 poems), read a short biographical sketch of his/her life complete with a picture of the poet, and, for homework, respond to the poet's work in writing. (I'm thinking of a list of questions that they can answer as they structure their paragraph(s).) In class we'll work on reading the poems aloud, on analyzing the structure, sound devices, and figurative language of the poems. The students will also be preparing an oral report similar to our class meetings on an additional poet: a picture of the poet, a short biographical sketch, and 3-4 poems by that poet as their "final exam" which I'm calling a "Sharing Day."

The second semester will involve the writing of poems. We'll examine different types of poems, write some together in class, then ask the students to compose a few poems of their own in that genre. At the end of the class each student will choose his/her three or four favorite poems composed by him/herself and read them aloud to the class for our second "Sharing Day."

Each student will also be assembling his/her own portfolio, or "Folio" during the class in a three-ring binder which will contain: the picture, biography, and poems of each poet we study (plus the written responses of the student to one of the poems), plus the student's own research project on an outside poet for Sharing Day in the first half of the folio, and then the different definitions, explanations, and examples of each kind of poem the student will write, plus the student's original poems of each type. By the end of class, each student will have a nice poetry book to return to in later years, explaining much about poems by famous poets and poems of the student's own composition.

So here is the tentative syllabus I've set up:

FIRST SEMESTER (subject to change):

September 10: Introduction to Class: copybooks, poetry folios, research project, sharing days, oral readings and written responses.

September 24: Introduction to Poetry: structure, sound, figures of speech

October 8: Poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson

October 22: Poetry of e.e. cummings

October 29: Poetry of Robert Frost

November 12: Poetry of Carl Sandburg and William Carlos Williams

December 10: Poetry of William Wordsworth

January 14: Poetry of Emily Dickinson

January 28: Sharing Day: Poet Reports Read Aloud in Class

SECOND SEMESTER (subject to change):

February 25: Personification and Metaphor, plus Couplet, Tercet, and Quatrain

March 11: Haiku and Tanka

March 25: Acrostic Poetry

April 22: Cinquain and Diamante

April 29: Visual Poetry (Shape and Concrete)

May 13: Free Verse

May 27: Limerick and Sonnet

June 10: Sharing Day: Favorite Poems Written by Students and Poetry Party!

Writing all of this down is helping me as I sit down to plan and compose the remainder of handouts for the class which begins this upcoming Thursday, September 10. I have a lot of preparation to do, but I am strangely looking forward to it. I certainly have more than enough work on my plate this semester (including the possibility of another One Thing: Poetry class for Brave Writer in November), but change is nice once in a while. However, I will dreadfully miss my Advanced Writing students as they are the students who want to write, versus some of the Intermediate students whose mothers are making them write. Don't get me wrong: most of my Intermediate students are extremely motivated, but there are always a few students who really have no desire to be in the class and are taking it because their parents want them to improve their writing. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but those students often need extra TLC than the highly-motivated students require.

So Class Day will be quite the adventure this year as both the Poetry/Research class and the Intermediate Writing class contain 12-15 students, more students than I am accustomed to. Although it will be a great deal of work, I think this year will be one of great enjoyment as well for me, and I hope for the students, too.

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