Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Manipulating Texts: Unmagnetic Poetry

Since reading Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, my 9th grade students have been focusing on the concept of the American Dream, analyzing companion texts such as Steve Jobs' 2005 Commencement Speech at Stanford University, MLK's I Have a Dream, and Ashton Kutcher's  2013 Teen Choice Award Acceptance Speech. We close read them, answered comprehension questions, and made comparisons with how each text answers the question, "What is the American Dream, and how does one achieve it?" Wanting to provide them with a "fun" (ok English teacher's definition of fun) way to engage with the texts, I divided my students into groups and had them compose original poems from the words a la magnetic poetry. 

I'm sure we all remember the magnetic poetry kits.  I may still have a few hiding in a box somewhere from when we moved to our house four years ago.... Magnetic poetry kits are useful for sparking creativity, but there is no need to rush out to the store (or in my case, tear apart boxes in the attic).

Wordle: MLK I Have  Dream
To create the kits, I copy/pasted each speech into a Google Doc (Word works fine, too), played with the font and size of the text, and deleted common words, then cut the words out by hand and stashing them in their own envelope.  At first I tried creating word clouds of the speeches in Wordle, but the variation of font size and the way in which the words were laid out on the page made it difficult for cutting the words out. I was also running out of time and had to quickly devise a new method when I realized the word cloud wasn't working out as planned.  The Word doc worked fine and I varied the font per speech.

Students got into groups of 3 or 4, making a table top out of their desks. Each group received an unmarked envelope and got to work composing their poems and snapping pictures that were uploaded to our Edmodo class group. It was interesting to see how students initially maintained a linear structure for their unmagnetic poems, and it took prompting by me to try out other formations.

Towards the end of the period, I reconvened the class and we discussed their artistic choices and if they recognized the original text. Students easily figured out which speech was which, and we had a lively discussion about diction and theme.

Check out some of their poems below: