Drafting a workshop for Rick Ayers and his Curriculum and Instruction-English teachers

Update February 2, 2015:  
Supplies needed in order of appearance:  whiteboard markers, Post-it Poster Sheets, Copies of the Simile and Metaphor table, Rhyming Dictionaries, RhymeZone on Bookmark, Saddle Stapler page on Amazon on Bookmark, Edmodo site on Bookmark, PPT on Poetry definitions (maybe), copy of A Wreath for Emmett Till, examples of contemporary sonnets by a variety of poets, copies of “Be Free”, River of Words materials for teachers, Poets Market (1 print copy and some copies of a page), poetry reading proposal to share, press kit to share (decided against this one as it’s distracting), at least 30 poetry books from my personal library.

  1. Start with the experiences of teachers.  How were they taught about poetry?
    1. Generally, students are trapped by sheafs of paper, defining everything that poetry is and is not.  Sometimes, mind-numbers add the power of the PowerPoint to their repertoire.  What may have once been excitement or curiosity about language and language play quickly shifts to what do I have to do to pass this test on poetry or the haiku?  That’s 5-7-5.  I can count syllables.  Look how I show you.  
  2. After sharing experiences of interactions with poetry, I want the students to stand in a circle and close their eyes, thinking back to when they loved poetry.  It may not be that far.  Once they have a memory, I want them to think about what it was in that moment that made them love the poem.  Come up with key words.  Then with whiteboard markers on the whiteboard, they are to write those down as stemming from the word “Poetry”, using lines to connect their ideas to those of others.  If they throw a few terms in there, wonderful, but that’s not the aim.  The aim is to get excited about the word again.  As they finish, they should look over what they see.  They can add to the thoughts of others. 
  3. After the students sit, we can review what they wrote and respond to the prompt …
    1. Adjustment on Monday Feb 2, 2015:  Watch G. Yamazawa “Elementary”:  Consider what it is that you have to say, the burning truth that will light a way.  
    2. Now that we have an understanding of the resonance of poetry, let’s get to the technical.  What technical aspects of poetry would you add to this list?
  4. Now, let’s do some exercises with poetry, staring with simile and metaphor.  What do you know about the simile and the metaphor?  After defining them aloud, I’ll ask the students to work in groups to identify one object (in the room or out of it) to describe.  Come up with as many similes as possible in two minutes together.  Then, do the same with metaphors.  What do they notice?   
  5. Seeing the world through new eyes can be difficult.  I like to think that the right simile or metaphor connects to the present human experience and reaches into the prophetic or imaginary.  It pushes the reader to a place they never would have dreamed.  The groups identify some of their similes and metaphors that surprised even them or were innovative.  This is shared with the group  
  6. We go through the simile and metaphor table then and construct similes and metaphors together.  The object will be a library.  The students will learn after we construct the poem that we are writing an ode.  We define the ode together.  We could then go on to read a few odes and identify the similarities, developing a comprehensive list of characteristics for our odes that comes from our experience with writing them.  
    1. Update Feb 3, 2015:  Shifting the Ode
  7. We will then watch Daniel Beatty’s “Knock Knock” from the Def Poetry Jam series.  What do they notice about that poem?  What similes and metaphors are used?  What about repetition?  How does the repetition serve the poem?  We will then define anaphora.  
  8. Talk about Marilyn Nelson and the book, A Wreath for Emmett Till.  Marilyn Nelson once said at a Cave Canem workshop that writing in form allows you to write what you cannot write (because of fear, trauma, depth of emotion, etc).  How might you use a text like A Wreath for Emmett Till to foster dialogue around race in this country?  
  9. Listen to the song, “Be Free” by J. Cole.    Lyrics are here  How might poetry be used as a vehicle to tell the untold stories?  How can the poet invoke the personal and connect to the communal?  
  10. Let’s go back to the sonnet, which generally has been used as a poetic vehicle to talk about love.  Update Feb 3, 2015:  When asked for contemporary sonnets, poet and photographer Thomas Sayers Ellis said, “Sonnets are lies”.  What if you looked at the sonnet as a puzzle?  Let’s use Rhyme Zone/rhyming dictionaries, and craft our end lines.  Each group is responsible for writing 4 lines of the poem.  Together we will write the last two.  If your love is revolution … is the first line.  
  11. We have already seen the work of Marilyn Nelson in relationship to the sonnet.  I also recommend the work of Camille Dungy and Dante Michaeux in the sonnet.  Update Feb 3, 2015, but let’s hear from Camille about her work and the writing of the sonnet.  
  12. But what if we break from the sonnet of the only vehicle of love and the written or spoken word being the only vehicles of the poem?  Watch Scotty Nguyen perform Shihan’s “Love like”.  How might you bring a performance into a performance assessment?   
  13. Update February 2, 2015:  If we have time, naming.  Check out this one from NPS:  “Unforgettable”  Questions to consider:  the power of naming.  How can your name come into a poem?  Also, what does this poem teach us teachers?  How might the poems of our students be instruments to teach?   
  14. Talk with the teachers about publication and promotion.  Share with the teachers some successful submission letters for journals as well as reading proposals.  Share with them Excel sheets.  There is the writing of poetry and then there is the business of being a writing.  How might you not only work with students on writing poetry?  How might you help them to publish and use social media to promote their work?  How can you make poetry a community-based experience?  Start with a saddle stapler and a good community bookstore.    
  15. Take some time to review some of the resources:  
    1. Like Thomas Sayers Ellis and James Brandon Lewis, “Suppression of Sound”
  16. Share resources on the Edmodo site.  

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