Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sleep...lazy...too hard

The students today are working on cinquain poems (which, I've learned, are also called Diamante poems because of the shape the words form).  Yes, it's poetry time again.

I've always thought that poetry - whose only requirement is that it convey experience or recreate emotion - is a freeing art.  It's one of those genres of literature that accepts flaws and perfection without bias.  Rules can be closely followed or tossed aside with carefree disdain.  There is no real right or wrong - and words give light to the human experience. Ahhh.

To the point with it. Wait.  Was there a point?

Oh, yeah.

Today I modeled several cinquains to my students.  I wrote off the top of my head. They're rough, and certainly not amazing, but how many drafts are?

our future
dreaming, growing, learning
bounding with great potential

third eye
capturing, freezing, preserving
remembering what minds forgot

Now the interesting thing about this form of poetry is that each line has guidelines - albeit loosely adhered to by poets, but they exist.

The first line is one word, the subject of the poem.
The second line, two words describing the subject.
The third line, three action words (verbs).
The fourth line is a phrase of four words.
The fifth, and final, line is a synonym or figurative reference to the subject in line one. 

Simple enough? Nope.

Typically five of every 30 students botch line three.  They're in high school and don't know what a verb is...

Another two or three mess up on line four, as they've no clear concept of a phrase.

And then several eliminate the fifth line (probably satisfied with figuring out the whole verb Identification process).

E., who sluggishly wanders into class in a trance, long legs barely contained under his desk and backpack still on his back when he sits down for his 60 minute first period nap, has to be told directly to take notes.  He then scribbles the first subject (line) down, as I required everyone to use "school."  He then spends the next 20 minutes sketching flowers and rockets in the margin of his paper.  When I get a chance to pull him aside for one on one, we slowly finish the poem by me feeding him words to choose from.  Poem two? I tell him to write about something he likes to do.  Topic: SLEEP.  Oh yeah, I said he was a lively one.  Third poem? He's the subject.  For line two he writes one word: lazy. 

At this point I'm thinking, "Give it up, teach. He's just not planning to try."

But I'm stubborn, so I force him through all four poems.  Then I ask about yesterday's assignment, couplets and quatrains.  "Too hard." Ohhh-kaaaay. Fifteen minutes later, we've got several lists of rhyming words. And he's not willing to help me get further.  I make him pick two that rhyme. Play. Day.  And then, he's done. "E., what do you like to play?" Now, I'm waiting for him to say "catch up on my sleep," but he says, instead, "basketball." And nothing else. I push him through two couplets before daring myself to re-explain quatrains and rhyme scheme. I see a coy smile in the corners of his mouth and realize he's getting it. He leaves, then, with my directive to work on the (now late) quatrains and share his difficulties and successes tomorrow.

We shall see...

And later, following my sheltered ESOL English class (after a student is stopped from pulverizing her male classmate as she walks out of class): "But miss! Ugghh! He gets into my nerves !

(oh, I love fractured American idioms).

1 comment:

Steph said...

Never mind that kids don't know what a verb is, what about the use of "there", "their" and "they're"!! I am not a teacher but I did manage a retail store for seven years. Retail stores are filled with high school and college students working part time and not one of my staff could ever seem to use the right form of the above words when leaving me a note!!! Now I do not profess to have perfect writing skills, in fact I probably made half a dozen grammar mistakes in this comment, but how hard is it to spell?!?! (Assuming that you grew up with English as your first language)