Please respond to the prompts below with your partner. You can upload images, videos and weblinks to enhance your responses to the prompts.
Our big idea for our collaborative poetry/drama and social studies course was that performance poetry can be demonstrated in various ways beyond the stage. For example, poetry can perform on page with various techniques used for the formatting of a poem. Poems can also appear like visual art–maybe the actual words are interweaved in that artform. We sought to facilitate a class that exposed students to performance poetry videos that demonstrated an array of performance tactics as well as a discussion of various social issues such as politics, religion, multiculturalism, stereotypes, etc. We wanted each student to walk away feeling confident in expressing him or herself through person and using their personal best medium of performance to do so.
4) Katie Makkai “Pretty”
5)Written Poems: Yusef Komunyakka’s “My Father’s Letters”, Pablo Neruda’s BOOK OF QUESTIONS, Evie Shockley’s THE NEW BLACK
4) Artistic Discipline(s):
Poetry, Drama, Visual Art
5) Standards Addressed: (Common Core, Next Generation Science, National Core Arts):
Key Ideas and Details:
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
Craft and Structure:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
6) What is the context of your school, school neighborhood, or classroom that led you to do this project? (100 words or less)
Many of the students in my 8th grade class appear disengaged with academic topics, so I wanted to engage my students’ artistic side in hopes to change the dynamic of apathy within the classroom. I learned that a few of my students had talents as poets, singers, dancers, and visual artists, so I wanted to see if Ms. Miller could bring out those talents with my class. My students are primarily Black and Latino and that’s the demographic that comprises the neighborhood where Hampton School of Fine Arts is located.
7) How many years have you worked together as partners?
We have worked together for two years.
8) What surprised you during the project?
We were most surprised by how challenging it would be to engage this group of students. We did not have as much of a difficult time doing this with the 5th graders I taught last year. Additionally, it was surprising to see the level of shyness and shame that the 8th graders initially possessed. It became clear over time that we would not reach a point where we could have a poetry slam among students because not every student was as engaged in the course or as willing to perform in front of their classmates. This definitely became a class that experimented with various art forms so that students could express themselves poetically without feeling forced to do something totally out of their comfort zone.
9) What worked in this project and why?
The performance poetry video clips worked extremely well to get students engaged and aware of the different ways to approach performance. Additionally, allowing students to draw if they didn’t feel comfortable writing a poem or working in groups also worked. This allowed more students to have something to contribute to the group project.
10) What didn’t work and why?
I’m not sure if the published poems I presented were effective because that would require students to use various skills to think about structurally presenting a poem on paper. I think we focused much of our time on the performance of poetry on stage despite trying to expand the idea of performance. Additionally, forcing students to participate in group poems may have not been the best idea. That should have been optional. I had more students who presented wonderful individual poems toward the end of the class.
11) What was your approach to assessment?
Students had a chance to showcase their poems and artwork toward the end of class each day. Ms. Durr also had a performance rubric which allowed me to critique students based on eye contact, body movement, clarity, etc. All students presented their work on our final day as well. Necessitating that I receive the work from students on our last day ensured that everyone participated and demonstrated at least some aspect of what was taught during the course.
12) Think back to what you each hoped to learn from this collaboration. What did you learn and how? Discuss how you supported each other’s goals.
We learned that sometimes students come to school with a lot of trauma and that it’s important to engage that trauma initially before placing expectations on a class. For example, one student had a brother who had just been killed during a time in which he appeared violently against participating in class. Of course, I’m concerned with the class expectation of participation but I was later informed of what he was enduring. His situation impacted the entire class. Toward the end of the class, many of the students wrote poems about his brother’s murder. Anyone who steps into Ms. Durr’s class can feel the trauma of her students. We discussed the ways in which the class had been disrespectful throughout the entire year and we supported one another by reassuring each other that the dynamics of the class do not totally rest on either of us. There are so many barriers we both had to try to break through in order to teach the students. We simply did the best job we could do and learned the ways in which students could be better serviced.
13) How did the collaboration challenge your understanding of teaching, learning, and art-making?
As a teaching artist, I was definitely challenged by the fact that Ms. Durr’s class was very shy and ashamed to perform in front of one another. I worked with her class the year before, but dealing with 8th graders who were extremely apathetic and concerned with matters outside of the school was a hurdle to break through. Although I was able to garner the students’ attention, I’m not sure if I totally convinced them of the power of poetry. However, I was impressed that even the most non-participatory young men in her class still had something to present by the end of the class. As a mentor once told me: “Students are like trees. You water them and you may not see them grow, but they are growing.”