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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ten Technology and Poetry Ideas

As a sixth grade teacher I pushed the boundaries of technology integration. You know the type of teacher. They come in early and sign out the computer labs months in advance, they spend hours on building teachers websites, and they integrate digital texts into the literacy curriculum. The first two units I taught that focused on digital literacies centered around mythology and poetry. I just found it so rewarding to juxtapose the worlds' oldest genres on emerging texts. This week I share ten ideas to integrate poetry and technology.

Too often teachers view poetry as unit of study. Its a two week assignment that has to be done. Often students are even worse. They view poetry with disdain, loathing, and fear. As an educational community we must share the idea that poetry is a text for life, not a unit of study. Technology provides an avenue for such an understanding.

Online Communities
The first place to start is to include a discussion board or classroom blog in your poetry units. In my classroom the poetry discussion page received the most monthly when compared to my other webpages.

In a class forum you can create different threads for specific genres of poetry. For example have a page for antithesis, haikus, etc. You can also create a spot for collaborative poems where students add a line at a time. Teachers will quickly discover the threads developing a life of their own.

On a classroom blog emphasize the growing voice of poets. Have each student create a poetry blog, or a page on their blog specifically for poetry. The young poets can add poems and others can offer feedback and advice using the comment features.

Poetry Mash Ups
Students will find mash-Ups, or the idea of taking content from many places as the ingredients in a new recipe, as a perfect tool for developing an appreciation of poetry. Using PowerPoint, Imovie, or Moviemaker kids can easily take an entire poem, a specific stanza, or even a word and create a new work. For example students could select a poem by a canonical author and then rearrange the words with images and movies found online. Then using one of the tools online create a digital mash up.

Twitter Poems
I never tried this as a teacher, but follow some wonderful Twitter poets. Having students try to write a poem in 140 characters or less is a great way to teach students that the power of words often resides in both their scarcity and in the silence between stanzas. First (bacause Twitter is blocked in most schools) print out some great examples. Simply search for #twitpoems or #twitterpoems. Then model with the class writing a poem. Finally give students a chance. For an extra challenge try writing Twiakus!

Lyric Hunt

teachers have used song lyrics for poetry instruction for years. The Internet, however, has given access to unlimited titles and allows students to find texts that interest them. Song lyrics are a great way to teach poetic devices and reinforce Internet searching skills. Simply challenge students to find examples of poetic devices in the lyrics of their favortie songs.

Found Poems with Google News
So many teachers bemoan our cut and paste culture. I say when it comes to poetry why fight it. Use Google News and the idea of found poems to teach students both poetry and the use of specialized search engines. Students can search out specific topics, take words from the headlines, and create found poems.

Respond to Poetry with Images
This lesson is always a hit with teachers (for materials visit our NCTE presentation. Basically you have students circle words in a poem that affect the meaning. Then they search the Internet looking for images that capture that meaning. Finally they arrange images on a tableau to represent the meaning. This is a great lesson that not only focuses on poetry, but also introduces the idea of design affecting meaning.

Xtranormal Slam
The folks at xtranormal proudly say if you can type you can make a movie. I always thought it would be fun to do an animated poetry slam. Students could write poems, then have their characters challenge each other in a virtual poetry slam. Xtranormal really makes it that easy. If you can type you can create a wonderful movie.

Multimedia Metaphor Poems
This is another lesson that students love (for materials visit our NCTE presentation). Basically students create an extended metaphor poem and use both words and images to share their poems. I found, when teaching this lesson, that often it is the images that drive the words, and not words driving images. It was a great way to introduce the idea of design literacy.

Internet Inquiry
Internet can also serve as a tool that establishes a community of poets that links to the bards of the past. Another learning activity that highlights the efficacy of the Internet as a text for traditional content while building offline and online reading comprehension is a comparison of poets and their work. Students can build online reading comprehension strategies while developing an understanding that poets and their writing are products of their time and environment. For example, a teacher could assign two somewhat contemporary poets such as Langston Hughes and Robert Frost and contrast the role urbanization had in their work. Hughes captures the jazz beats and tribulations of urban migration, and Frost writes in a style that resembles the windy roads he traveled to escape the city and recapture rural America. Students could search for works by these two authors, and synthesize their critique with information found on biography pages and history pages of the early twentieth century.

Doink Poems
The final technolgy and poetry activity I share today involves a great tool I was introduced to at NCTE. Doink is a wonderful collaborative tool for sharing, uploading, and using animations. Like xtranomral it is easy to use, but has many applicatio0ns. One of my favorites is creating illustrated poetry projects that involve animations created by others. Your students will love thins.

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