Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Poetry and Phineas and Ferb #EngChat

"Poetry Stinks"

That's how I start my Poetry unit with my Freshmen. I know that there are many students that have a nasty view of all poetry. I feel that it is easy to just embrace it and see where it goes. I spend the first half of class asking kids why they do not like poetry and I will agree with them. There are some kids that are poetry fans and I will push back or encourage them to convince me that poetry is important.

After the first half of class, I ask the kids if we can just discuss music instead of doing the poetry unit. Kids tend to get very excited about this and shout out tons of suggestions. I say I've got some options I'd like to play for them. I like to start with "Keep Ya Head Up" or "Changes" by Tupac. I love these songs for their messages and I think they are very poetic. From there, I will play something else that is pretty popular. Taylor Swift or Katy Perry work pretty well. After a few songs, a student will always say that music is poetry.

I will then push those students to prove to me that songs are poetry because that statement is ridiculous. The students proceed to look up the definition of poetry and argue about different songs and whether they meet the criteria established by the definition the agreed. It is a fun debate where students spend time trying to convince me that music is poetry and it always ends with me asking them if they like music, how can they claim to hate poetry? It's a fun moment where the kids really need to think about what they think they know about poetry and how it is ok for them to explore the concept a but more. One student said that music is art and so poetry is art. It is awesome moments like that that make teaching amazing.

As for Phinea and Ferb, I start each class in the poetry unit with a song and we look at the lyrics and discuss the poetic elements found in them. I will let kids select songs and we can look at them as well. For one class, I thought I would post the theme to Phineas and Ferb and play the song for the kids and have them annotate it on the Smartboard.

I snapped this photo and tweeted it out to share what was going on in class that day and I decided to tag the creators in the tweet. I was blown away when they both responded. Here is a response from Dan Povenmire pointing out the rhyme scheme for the first stanza. 

It was so excited to see the response that I immediately screen-captured the response and added it to my SMART amp page so the other classes could see it while we worked on the theme song. The other fun part of using the theme song was that students knew the song and could sing along and try to identify the exact and slant rhymes. It is a fun way to start a class and dive in to more traditional poetry. 

It is so important to keep all type of writing interesting and accessible to students. Playing the Devil's Advocate at the start of the poetry unit and using modern music to spur student interest in poetry is just part of the average teacher's day lesson planning. Feel free to borrow and tweak this for your classroom. Any suggestions you might have for teaching poetry is always appreciated.  


Here I am singing the Phineas and Ferb theme song at ISTE.

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