Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Found Poetry & Blackout Poetry

Found Poetry 
Found poetry is created by selecting words from an original source and arranging them...well, poetically. Its approach is less daunting than 'writing poetry,' and can produce some amazing (and very fun) poems. Indeed, "Pulling some words from their context and calling them Poetry is about as logical as putting a frame around a landscape and calling it Art… and just as effective." Given the words, students play with syntax and form - making poetry a game and words the pieces.

It's as easy as 1-2-3..
1. Choose a text
2. Choose words
3. Rearrange them to make a poem!

You can make found poems as a class or individually. When reading Brave New World, a novel full of challenging vocabulary, I asked my students to open up to page 6 & 7 and to start yelling out words they find. I compiled a list on the whiteboard, set the rules (in this case that we had to use word in its original form (so 'civil' couldn't become 'civility') - you can also make rules about adding 'little' words, and even about shapes of the poem). As I worked mine out on the white board, students could watch or create their own. I started playing a song, and by the time the track was finished, I had adjusted, added, erased, and re-arranged the words into a poem. To wrap up, we talked about how (and if) my final poem connected to the original text, and their homework was to make one of their own.

Blackout Poetry
A simple (and strangely satisfying) alternative to plucking out words is to cross them out. Take a black marker or pen, a newspaper or a photocopy or a printout, and get to work. This style, called 'blackout poetry,' has been made famous by Austin Kleon, a computer programmer and writer in Austin, TX.

Food for Thought
What's the point? 
- write to enjoy words (if that's not standard enough, see below)
- create a mood (creepy, thoughtful, angry)
- play with tone (joking, whimsical, satirical)
- condense to a main idea / theme
- cross subject areas (try it with a math textbook page, or a social studies primary source)

How could you approach writing a found/blackout poem? 
- scan through and note words that stick out at you
- find a specific word and then skim for words that flow from it
- read through passage/article/paragraphs well and intentionally go back for words
- cross out words at random and see what's left
- make a shape, or use white space to connect paths of words

Common Core Standards
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
- (9-10) Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole.
- (6-12) Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.

Buck, Pearl S. "On Discovering America." Portrait of America: Survey Graphic in the Thirties. American Studies @ The University of Virginia. Web. 26 July 2011. .
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper Collins, 1998. Print.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hand in hand?: The relationship between feedback and score

I have found that the most effective feedback does not always include a score with explanation of student progress. Here is a story from an undergraduate Philosophy course I took.

Writing in Philosophy, as a freshman in college, was a daunting task. Not only wrapping our heads around the ideas themselves, our class struggled with how to frame them in the format of the discipline. Our teacher, Professor Woody, was in his last of many many years of teaching and had teaching philosophical writing down to a psychological science. We would submit a paper, and start waiting.

When we received our papers back, they came with an attached form of sorts. Typed on what appeared to be an old school word processor, there were two columns of common comments, which he would check accordingly, and a paragraph of feedback. So on mine he would check ‘passive voice’ and ‘comma splices’ and then write a paragraph addressing the ideas of the paper. There was no grade. We would trade comments with each other, guessing at what the grade would be, repeatedly analyzing the comments and feedback. Then, at the same time he gave the next writing assignment, he would give our grades, ensuring that we had the score and explanation fresh in our minds.

While agonizing over the feedback was bad for my stress level, it was the first time I paid such minute attention to what a teacher said instead of how they graded me. Now, as a teacher, I cannot stand it when a student flips past all my pages of comments to see what the grade is, then immediately puts away the paper.

I’m seriously considering a Professor Woody staggered system of feedback and score... any name suggestions?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Six Degrees of Searching

Oh, the Research Paper. An essential requirement, but often I find the purpose - finding, evaluating and synthesizing of sources - to be lost in the process and even product itself. Too often, I assume students can (and will) search effectively among the universe of information available to them. Therefore, I wanted to construct a research paper that mimicked and enhanced search skills while broadening content. Ideally, students focus on what Renzulli (2009) calls "technological skills of inquiry" in order to make effective use of what they find. There are many good reasons to move beyond 'I'll just Google it'... hopefully this project will both necessitate and scaffold that shift.

Paper or Project? Depending on the topic, purpose, and student skill level, the iSearch-style narrative could take the form of a paper, PowerPoint, Voicethread, or other similar form. As long as students can tell a story of their research, the medium is up to you. In addition, consider using a collaborative medium, like Diggo, to create a crowdsourced base of knowledge (and use the annotations as evidence of student writing).

Students should start with a list of proposed search terms and phrases and keep running track of what they actually use as their research progresses. Regardless of the final project medium, the following six ‘degrees’ must be represented in any order (using the listed, or similar, vehicles for information):
1) Filtering Google: Twurdy for reading level
2) Audio: iTunesU, podcasts, NPR ‘Heard on Air’  
3) Visual: Flikr (captioned photos often lead to new sources)
4) Video: YouTube, Vimeo, TeacherTube
5) Crowd-Sourced: Wikipedia, Twitter 
6) Authorities: .gov/.edu/.org/journal (sometimes I will be more specific here)

In a three-part iSearch-style product:
1) relate their purpose of their research and the highlights of what they learned 
2) narrate the process and evaluate the sources using the CARS Checklist [Credibility, Accuracy, Reasonableness, Support]
3) write a metacognitive on the overall process 
Harris, R. (2007, June 15). Evaluating Internet research sources. VirtualSalt.  http://www.virtualsalt.com/evalu8it.htm 
Take Away Students increase their awareness of how and why they search through diverse tools, then narrate and analyze the story of their research. This process leads to more critical awareness of their process and an increased quality in their product.

For variations and more formalized versions of the iSearch paper, see Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Renzulli, J.S. (2007). The empire strikes back: Redefining the role of gifted education in the 21st century." Investing in Gifted and Talented Learners: An International Perspective, Selected Papers from the 18th Biennial World Conference, The World Council for Gifted and Talented Children. Vancouver: August 3-7, 2009.