Poetry

We’re moving into poetry in the senior academic English class I’m teaching.  Poetry is one of those things that can seem a bit pretentious, especially to high school students.  We looked at contemporary lyric poems to begin with.  After some Practical Magic and other free verse I thought it might be time to take a swing at it ourselves.  I’m curious to see what students bring to class today.  Hopefully writing about something that interests them will remove that pretension and let them get some ideas on paper in the relatively unencumbered contemporary lyric format.

 
In My Pocket
 
あ and ん
alpha and omega
binary beginnings and silent ends.
 
ones and zeroes?
no,
math is an abstraction
but
certainty is in the machine.
 
waves relentlessly pound our shores,
pass through us
quantify us
connect us
ensnare us
constant attention demanded
by
this raging sea of yes and no,
profound and banal
personal collective
private crowd.
 
information constellations
in magnetic grips
lighter than a glance,
more certain than a second thought.
 
frozen moments of certainty
tumble to an event horizon
making sense of the senseless
at a ferocious rate.
 
I have a text!

Big Digital Magic

I’m really enjoying teaching English again, especially the university bound group I’ve got.  I don’t have to worry about explaining why they are there as I do in many computer-tech classes.  The students come complete with their own resilience and competitive nature.  When you’re not reduced to hand holding all the time you can get into concepts deeply and quickly.

An opening unit from the text is “Fire of the Human Spirit”.  In it we look over Mandela’s inauguration Speech, a Susan Aglukark song and a June Callwood essay amongst other media, all of it pointing at the concept of FotHS.


After a few examples and some discussion we set up a wikispace where students each found a song that they believe described FotHS.  They each made a wikipage on which they provided a link to the song, the lyrics, and a personal analysis of why this song exemplifies FotHS.

Because this class comes ready to play I tend to approach it as though I’m a participant in a hot group; I like to bring gifts to the group.  In this case I knew that I could export the content out of the wikispace relatively easily.  Since that text consisted only of the lyrics and student written analysis I thought it might be interesting to look at what we’d created from a group vocabulary usage point of view.  What words found in the lyrics of 28 songs and accompanying student analysis point to our concept of Fire of the Human Spirit?

Exporting the wiki is a one click process.  Once I had the text I had to do some magic to combine all the HTML pages into a single document.  Wikispaces also exports to text but it takes the html coding with it, which made a mess.  Google-docs didn’t seem to have the mojo I needed to combine multiple documents into a single one, but the Phantom Foxit PDF creator I had did.  Once I had a pdf with all the text from twenty eight wikipages imported together I dumped it into the text window in Wordle and voila:



Katy Perry single-handedly got ‘oh’ in there!  Looking at verb usage is interesting.  Fire of the Human Spirit seems to demand action!  The nouns are also enlightening when creating constellations of meaning around this concept.  We’re going to use this class produced conglomeration of ideas to develop thesis around the concept next week.

As an aside, several English teachers turned their noses up at what we were doing.  Apparently it’s widely believed that you can’t learn English in a digital context.  I beg to differ.  If we’re going to turn to media to teach English, I’d much rather it be personalized, self created media like this.  The students themselves were surprised at how much depth something this simple offered.  That they created it as a class seemed to produce a sense of satisfaction.

Here is a FotHS 2.0 with some common words removed to emphasize specific vocabulary: