5.2 Case study 3: Menon poetry
The class teacher (Menon, 1999) was keen to develop the sense of a ‘writing community’ early on in the term. In the first few weeks she invited her students to form groups of their own choice, research a poet from a selected list, then plan and carry out a presentation. Students were encouraged to use the internet as part of this research.
At such an early stage in the academic year, when getting to know a group, the ‘freedom’ of such lessons is a risk in terms of class management. I very much relinquished any leadership role, but was available to students for reference and suggestions. The time allowed me to get to know the class in terms of group dynamics, student initiative and motivation. Students led and supported each other in terms of their use of new technologies. Many automatically chose to go to the internet to find information and several found materials relevant to their work, such as Benjamin Zephaniah's own web site. Once one group had found material on the web, others were keen not to be outdone. A couple of groups floundered in terms of choices of poems, poets or presentation – content as well as method – and I needed to work alongside both individuals and groups. It was interesting to watch the development of students' research skills in the library context.
(Esther Menon, 1999)
In the run-up to these presentations, one student, who had been learning to use PowerPoint in another lesson, volunteered to put the poems chosen by each group onto an overhead screen for the final presentations. It would save the English department a considerable amount of photocopying money, he argued! The teacher agreed and set up a public document on the school network into which each group typed their chosen poem. One group placed a Caroline Duffy poem, ‘Valentine’, into the software programme for projection during their presentation. The girls involved wanted to preface their presentation with a reading of the poem, one of them taking the actual ‘voice’ of the poem, the other imagining the recipient's response. Not only did the projected text enhance the presentation considerably, the group collaboration using PowerPoint software during the preparation led to a far deeper understanding of the poem.
This work led directly, but unexpectedly, to the students exploring an innovative way of creating their own kinetic poetry. Here is their account of how it happened:
We started off with a poem by Bruce Naumann … we did quite a bit of preparatory work on the poem … We were then asked to find a quotation of our own for homework. I used the Bloomsbury Dictionary of Quotations and came up with a whole pile which I thought might be suitable. Me and Matt then chose the one we eventually used. After we had the quotation, everything was just plain sailing, we had a great time making all sorts of interesting lines for it. We just kept churning them out and, afterwards, took them away and came up with our own version. We decided on the final version together. Then we had the idea, in discussion with our teacher, because we had already been using PowerPoint, of also using PowerPoint to animate the words.
The final animated product, ‘Revolution’ seen below, demonstrates the potential of ICT to make poetry a multi-sensual experience. The poem exemplifies how multimedia can be used to highlight the kinetic qualities of a text to convey meaning, and the exciting possibilities for students' writing as they draw on music and image or movement to add meaning to text. Texts in this new electronic medium may be non-linear, many-layered, combine different media, and have an element of duration, thus there are multiple opportunities for young writers to create new forms of writing that extend and challenge traditional conceptions of text.
Below is another example of how poetry can be enhanced by animations. Notice how some of the words have been animated to emphasis the sentiments expressed in the poem ‘Search for my Tongue’ by Sujata Bhatt.
This animation was taken from the Moving Words website which gives teachers innovative ways of using ICT to explore literature.
More information on this project is available at http://www.lsp.open.ac.uk/english/teaching/cameo1/.
Take a look at the video clip below, in which students Chosen Hill Secondary School in Gloucestershire explore their presentation of the poem ‘Valentine’ together. Think about or discuss how you could create opportunities in your teaching for pupils to work collaboratively and creatively like this.
Exploring a presentation of ‘Valentine’
Case study 3 emphasises the way in which ICT can help:
develop students' understanding of the subject;
encourage the creation of a new product;
enable that product to be publicly shared.
Linked below are two other examples to explore:
Using ICT to enhance learning and its assessment: a storytelling project