I will say that up until yesterday, I was heading into the holiday break at full steam. I was not dragging much or sick of school or letting myself get overwhelmed with how much I need to accomplish before we let out on Tuesday the 23rd. And then, boom! Stress hit. I scrapped a lot of things I had planned in order to give proper time and attention to priorities, but it still feels like a mad rush.
We are still working with poetry in 8th grade. I know I've spent a lot of time on poetry in this blog, first with 7th grade, now with 8th graders. I swear that I teach other things, too! Today's post will focus more on the technology aspect of interacting with poetry.
I'm big on class participation because I'm an English teacher. We are a breed of people who love to talk, but I know that angsty middle school students aren't nearly as enamored with participation in class discussions as I am. So this week I've worked with a few ways for my kids to have discussions about poems without necessarily speaking out loud.
First, we held traditional class discussion with a Today's Meet backchannel displayed over the projector. While reading random poems from our literature anthology (I give them the page numbers and set them loose to find something they like), I encouraged students to participate at least once in the backchannel and verbally. It was nice to see some of my shy students active on Today's Meet, and how it progressed our traditional discussion, too.
I've used Today's Meet in a lot of professional development situations, but I hadn't used it with the kids, and now I'm kind of kicking myself for that. It's just too easy; why wouldn't you use it if you have a 1-to-1 situation? I need to remind myself that this should be a regular part of class discussions.
We are also using KidBlog to post about a poem we love this week. I set students free on the Poetry Foundation and Poetry 180 websites, and their goal was to find a poem that they loved. Their blog about it needed to include reflection on the content of the poem (this could cover any word choice or poetic elements), their interpretation of meaning, and a personal connection to the poem.
After posting, students need to comment on 3-5 other posts from peers. Commenters need to read the poem and then engage in thoughtful discussion with the poster and the poem via the comments section. This is always tricky and it's a sharp divide between students who really sink their teeth into the commenter role and have something to say, and those who are simply showing up. It's frustrating, but when I take a step back and think about it from a non-teacher perspective, how many times have I seen garbage posts on the internet from perfectly capable adults? It's the nature of the beast, I guess. If you want to check out the KidBlog, you can find it here: Hauptsteen LA KidBlog.
I'm content with the ways my students have been using technology to engage with poetry (and each other) this week. I'm looking forward to using my winter break time as more at-home personal professional development, especially after reading the latest Voices from the Middle with its focus on Blended Learning. I'm sure I'll be using that free time to post about my experiments here!
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.