It’s clear to me that students don’t understand tone. Not one bit. They just don’t hear the inflection. It’s not as if they don’t try; they just misread. Over and over again. And while I’d love to do all the “voices” for them in every single text we read there simply isn’t the time.
In order to combat student “deafness,” QR codes offer the ability for students to listen clearly to text as performance. Consider a unit of study that depended on students listening and reviewing.
While QR codes could be used to direct students to any type of podcast, they are incredibly helpful for teaching poetry and short speeches. In such a context, students have the ability to choose their own “text” and listen, review, take notes, even evaluate.
Imagine an assignment where before being given the text or speech or poem, they’re made to choose based on title alone. To ask them to construct a choice by simply examining a title is a lesson in itself. This type of an assignment allows students choice, teaches listening skills and focuses on the significance of tone. To begin with, consider using resources like The Writer’s Almanac or The Poetry Foundation. They both offer wonderful readings that can easily be turned into QR codes. If you’d rather use speeches, try History.com’s wonderful resource of audio and video speeches including many from presidents. American Rhetoric also offers MP3 audio files for many of its top 100 speeches.
Basic Assignment Overview
- Review our QR Tutorial to use web address to create QR Codes.
- Ask that students bring Smartphones, tablets or iPods as well as headphones.
- Offer students two QR codes for two different “texts.” Provide them the title and/or speaker.
- Ask that students simply listen and construct a series of observations. If your QR codes are for speeches you might ask students to SOAPSTone based simply on what they hear.
- Provide students the actual text for their choice. Have them listen a second time and annotate looking specifically towards how tone is created.
- Ask them to construct an overall evaluation/review of the text’s tone.
While the steps are simple and the idea unoriginal, the purpose ultimately is to get them to listen. Too often they resign themselves as soon as we pass out paper. Instead, ask them to listen first and respond second. Providing them a “second” reading is crucial and listening offers them the ability to truly reflect upon style, purpose and tone. I’ve included a sample poetry based lesson featuring QR codes as an example of how something like this could work.
Friday Dialogue from
Your Two Favorite Educators
As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to discuss the merits of poetry in the English classroom.
1. What are the largest obstacles to teaching poetry?
Emily: I think students are inherently afraid of poetry because they are afraid the poet is playing tricks on them. While they might understand each individual word in a poem, there is something about the compact form and typically rigid structure that makes students doubt whether or not they know what the words mean. They begin to think that every word is a symbol and get frustrated and just quit. The largest obstacle is helping students navigate through a tough poem with confidence.
Aubrey: I feel as if students split down the middle, it’s either fear or the definitive belief that “short” texts are synonymous with ease. It’s very difficult for me to guide both groups to a middle ground. Parsing poetry should be difficult but not every word is a symbol.
2. What merit is there to teaching poetry?
Emily: I love how tight and specific it is. Poems are like taking a novel and cutting it down to the bare bones. What a novelist can posit in 200 pages a poet can do in 14 lines. I think this is the biggest benefit. Students can hone similar skills they would with the book they never pick up because it is too long.
Aubrey: What I wouldn’t give for some concision in student writing. I’d also like poetry to prove to them that a small turn of phrase can pack an incredibly large wallop. So many of my students are hung up on the idea of more, more, more. Poetry teaches patience and the value of writing in “small spaces.” Read more
All of my best “material” has an element of shamelessness to it. I’m not talking about the curriculum I’ve created or the copious notes I’ve constructed. I’m not talking about how I tap my face while I grade or helicopter over students until they annotate. No, I am talking about how I “clown” literature. I pantomime and quip. I physically reenact Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, even Robert Penn Warren.
I am an embarrassment unto myself. Read more
Billy Collins is my favorite poet. This is neither unique or of great, vast insight. To deny Billy Collins is to deny the art of poetry, poet laureates and Poetry 180. But part of what truly makes me love Billy Collins is his role in shaping popular culture when it comes to poetry. Since this week’s posts examine poetry through the lens of media, Billy Collins is a worthy focus. More than anything else he is a poet in the public eye.
Collins is well-known. See his You Tube highlights or any of his featured spots on A Prairie Home Companion if you don’t believe it. But what makes him an appropriate topic for our focus this week on poetry and media literacy has to do with how we see his poetry “interpreted.”
Consider using the lesson below to supplement a poetry unit that already focuses on Billy Collins. Or, use one of his pieces of poetry as a starting point, and after introducing his work, use this lesson to raise larger questions about poet, media and culture. Read more
I’m supposed to like teaching literature and that should include poetry. It should include poetry. I should like teaching poetry. P-0-E-T-R-Y.
But I don’t.
National Poetry Month should fill me with a certain type of English teacher glee. Like Shakespeare’s birthday or the National Book Festival. It should be sacred. Instead, I try to pretend it isn’t happening.
Poetry is difficult to teach well. If it doesn’t rhyme they don’t think it’s poetry. If it rhymes they think it’s easy to emulate. If it’s about love it’s too “gooey,” and if it’s about fruit, chickens or Emily Dickinson it’s “inconsequential.” While the joy of poetry seems like something easily captured in Disney’s multiple ads for What a Poem Is, I’ve rarely seen students enter my classroom feeling so enormously captured and captivated. It’s easy to see why sometimes it seems like a good idea to employ the gimmicks of Dangerous Minds.
The focus of this week is to examine poetry through a variety of lenses, specifically with the goal of teaching media literacy via poetry. For students who frequently question the role of literature, especially poetry, this week’s focus will serve as a supplement to pre-existing poetry units.
Yesterday I profiled a teacher treasure: ITunes U. A scholarly resource equipped with videos and podcasts that are appropriate for and accessible in classrooms through a teacher’s ITunes account. Even though ITunes U has material for every discipline (history, religion, art, music, etc.), today I’m going to profile some of my favorite outlets within the site and some ways they can be used in the classroom. These can be found through doing a search in ITunes.
UPenn’s 60 Second Lectures: During the spring and fall UPenn’s School of Arts and Sciences invites professors to give a guest lecture to the campus on their favorite topics. However, the professors are limited to sixty seconds. Imagine summing up a topic as sweeping as the Crusades in one minute while making it witty and enjoyable to the majority. Not an easy task. Yet the professors manage to accomplish it with flair and precision. Even though they are sixty seconds and prepared by ivy league professors, the material is widely accessible to students of all ages and abilities.