Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Connecting with Poets in Language Arts 9

Last year my grade 9 students took on a huge poetry project using Glogster which I detailed here in a post last year. In addition to this project I had the great fortune of connecting with some of Dean Shareski's pre-service Faculty of Education students. One of them created an opportunity for my students to ask questions of two Canadian poets and have them respond in a wonderfully edited series of interviews that can be found on Youtube. (Video 1, Video 2, Video 3). My hat goes off to Karen Zaplitny-Jarowicz who will be an amazing teacher upon graduation. She really went above and beyond the call for this project last year.

This year I wanted to build on the experience of interacting with the poets. We started out by learning about Dan Tysdal from his blog, online resources and his recent published work called Acts of Barbarity and Vandalism. Students emulated his style of poetry by taking old texts and highlighting words to make poems that in the end were very personal to them. After this activity students were given the task of developing thought provoking questions to ask Dan. My original intention was to show them the Youtube videos created from last year. Due to the awesome work of Neil Stephenson who regularly seeks experts to connect students with for inquiry based projects, I asked Dan if he would be willing to answer our class' questions over Skype (ichat is blocked in our district).

For a first attempt things went pretty smoothly. Students were engaged and interested in asking Dan the questions we had collected ahead of time. A few threw in some random questions about his coffee and his favourite NHL team. Those questions early on were great to break the ice.

Here's a link to the questions that our class asked Dan. I fully realize that these questions are not very challenging in terms of Bloom's Taxonomy and their depth and breadth. The greatest accomplishment from the connection we made via Skype was the engagement and interest that students showed in the life of a real, LIVING poet. Here are their blog responses about the experience.

My favourite question was from a new student who joined our class only day before the Skype call. He asked Dan what he is most proud of. Dan was pleasantly surprised at this question and his response can be viewed at 28:35 of the video posted on our class wiki.

What I am looking forward to is engaging students more often during my poetry unit which is the terror of many of my students (mostly boys of which make up 75% of my current class). While this encounter was a good intro I want students to be able to have more engaging and deeper pre and post skype discussions about the influence of poetry in society. But all that will come with baby steps... Any suggestions to how to take them to that next level will be appreciated.

Thanks for your support! Looking forward to getting back into blogging again!


  1. Saw the blog comments about the Poet visit. When you get your students to post their blog responses. Are you coaching them or providing them with structure to create their posts?

    I was wondering what criteria you expect from your students when doing blog posts.

  2. Scratch last comment. Just saw the wiki. Question answered.