Beat! Beat! Poetry Drums!
I thought I had great poetry lesson plans, poetry analysis activities, and excellent poetry teaching skills…
"Mr., your class is boring," said Walt. "Your poetry lesson plans, poetry analysis activities, and poetry teaching skills aren’t very good. It’s like watching leaves of grass grow or something. It’s about time I teach you a lesson." Walt took a wrench out of his pocket and struck me on the head. I woke up in a classroom. The teacher was reading "O’ Captain! My Captain!" The teacher was me.
Walt turned to me, "Now you’ll understand how we feel." After listening to myself for an hour, I looked at the clock. Only 14 seconds had passed. I tried to sleep but I kept swatting me in the head whenever I put my head down. I couldn’t take it anymore. I stood up, ran to the window, and jumped out, head first, onto the pavement below.
I was the teacher again. On my desk lay poetry lesson plans, poetry analysis activities, and a copy of the Portable Walt Whitman.
I share my favorite lesson with you. It’s called Poetry Speed Analysis.
Before doing this assignment, students should know how to annotate and analyze a poem.
Instruct students to adhere to the following schedule.
- 5 minutes: Annotate a poem. Each student should annotate the same poem individually. Five minutes, obviously, will not allow them to annotate the entire thing, but it will get them started.
- 1 minute: Explain the assignment. Each group will have exactly 20 minutes to prepare a presentation on the same poem. The presentation must last exactly three minutes. The group’s spokesperson will discuss the poem and instruct the entire class. It must include analysis, interpretation, and insight.
- 2 minutes: Form groups; move desks; choose captain; choose spokesperson.
- 20 minutes: Analyze the poem and prepare the presentation.
- 2 minutes: Move desks back and pack things up.
- 1 minute: All spokespersons leave the room.
- 3 minutes: Group 1 spokesperson presents. The presentation must last exactly 3 minutes, even if it means the spokesperson speaks for one minute and stands with his hands in his pockets for 2 minutes. If the spokesperson is still speaking at the 3 minute mark, give her the hook.
- 3 minutes each: Groups 2-7 present. Each group spokesperson walks in right when the previous spokesperson ends.
Break the assignment into three categories:
- Analysis – You may want to collect each group’s annotations to properly assess this or just collect the group leader’s paper with everyone’s name on it. Another option is to assign a paragraph analysis. The spokesperson must present the group’s analysis to the class.
- Presentation – Does the presentation take up 3 minutes. How well did the group prepare the spokesperson. It’s OK to give the spokesperson a higher grade than the rest of the group.
- Participation – monitor the class and give a participation grade to each student. The spokesperson will, in most cases, receive an automatic ‘A’ on participation and you may choose to excuse them from the paragraph analysis.
This post is part of the series: Teaching Poetic Devices
- Teacher Tips for Explaining Sound Devices in Poetry
- Teacher Tips for Sonnets
- Figurative Language Lesson Plan
- Poetry Lesson Plans: Speed Poetry Analysis
- Teaching Walt Whitman: Summary and Lesson Ideas