What’s in a poem?
In our Reading and Writing across the C0ntent Area class I urged my students to think about writing in their content area. We played with different writing strategies in their curriculum. We spent a good deal of time looking at “found poetry” activities in the content area. I shared some examples of found poetry in math, and social studies, and science. We spoke about how text could be remixed, or mashed up from other sources to make something new. To these examples, many of my students indicated that the resultant poems were “nonsense”, or “stupid”…or weren’t real “poetry.” One other common point made was that they believed that they could write poetry. To that I asked what was “real” poetry.
To me…keep in mind that this is only my opinion…poetry is using text to crystallize, and distill emotions, thoughts, or ideas to their most simplest form. I believe that anyone can (and should) write poetry. I also find many parallels between poetry and lyrics, raps, etc.
This was a popular answer in our class. I think many of my students believed that poetry was something to be feared, and not attainable, and something that is difficult to understand or connect with. Now…as an English major…I had studied many poems that are very dense and hard to understand. They are like the Mt. Everest of intellectual endeavors. But, for the most part, poetry provides opportunities to dig in deep and peer into a thought, emotion, or segment of time. Thankfully, some of my students indicated that the answer to “what is poetry” ultimately is in the eye of the beholder. You have the ability to create, recreate, and define poetry…and you should.
“Siloing” of literacy, thought, and creativity
The other challenge that I’ve been having in classes and professional development activities involves a segmenting, or “siloing” of thought, instruction, and creative endeavors. In our reading and writing class, students are to work on an interdisciplinary unit with colleagues. Much of our challenge in finding ways to connect across our content areas is first destroying the false dichotomies that exist between the disciplines and content areas. There is a belief that “this is what happens in Math class.” And “writing, or poetry don’t belong in science class.” And “I can’t have my students writing about their feelings in U.S. History.”
I’ve encountered this siloing, and these false dichotomies all throughout my career. They usually rear their ugly head in different fashions. The reason for this is that I do a lot of work with technology and these new, digital, or web literacies. Technology, in many ways is like poetry. Some people believe that you either just “get it” or you don’t. There is a belief that technology use in our lives and classrooms is hard. There is that misguided belief that “only the young people get technology.” There is also a very strong fear factor associated with technology use in instruction. For every time that I’ve been lashed out against and told that “You just don’t get Math”, I’ve been angrily called a “technogeek” as I urge ELA teachers to openly blog with their students.
To me this all is connected by my one true passion, and that is Literacy. I believe that reading, writing, and technology or key linchpins to the future of our students. It is imperative that they have these opportunities to communicate, socialize, and connect with others. To make this happen, we need to make reading, writing, and technology use “approachable” for students and colleagues. We need to provide opportunities to play and test out learning across these spaces. And by framing all of this under Literacy, we have the responsibility and opportunity to empower our students.
Please feel free to respond, kick back, write an angry twaiku, etc. My viewpoint is only my viewpoint. Discussion and dialogue are valued.
Image CC by vocus