Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Digital Poetry

It seems like awhile since I last posted but only because I haven't had the time...A 10th grade English teacher requested support for a concluding project for a recent poetry unit.  The district curriculum called for a "chap-book" (ex. Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse) format for the concluding piece in the unit, but because of a variety of circumstances, students had not written more than one or two poems which were in very rough draft form and this teacher needed to conclude the unit. It seemed to make sense to both of us to have students bring one of their drafts to a polished form and digitizing that piece seemed perfect. Although B. didn't feel he could carry that out on his own, I felt confident (over-confident?) that I could provide what was needed to help his students create some intriguing products.

Needless to say, with technology, it's one step forward, two steps back. While I smoothly went through the process using imovie and a student poem, my version of imovie was not the same as that at the school which created problems for me that I hadn't anticipated. While I had worked with both versions, I was not an expert at either. I was fortunate in having a tech friend support me through all the stages of our process and step in to help students when I was at a loss for what to do.

I will attach my powerpoint and samples but basically, students came to the lab on their first day with  rather hastily created poems. It did concern me that we were creating final projects out of very rough or nonexistent 1st drafts, and I had to remind myself that my role was to help students digitize their writing as a second draft. What surprised me was how much that step contributed to the revision process. It forced students to look at their poetry in a new way - to look for images to fit with their thoughts and in the process, change their words to fit the images. As it turned out, students created many more drafts than they would have in a traditional assignment.

Our final step was supposed to be the addition of voice - students reading their poetry into the computer. Not having done this before, I was sure that the process was easy - I tried it myself, at home. What I didn't count on was the background noise in the lab and the softness of the students' voices. They needed to record with a microphone and in a quiet room. The majority did not want to have their voices attached to their poems. The pictures and words by themselves needed some kind of background sound so we gave students the option of  downloading appropriate music without lyrics. Now the project seemed finished.

Frustrations about final editing were similar to working with traditional writing: spelling - getting students to edit their work; capitalization - following the rules or at least being consistent in not following them. I ended up telling students that if they were consciously breaking conventions that they needed to attach an author's statement explaining why they made the choices they did - otherwise, they would be graded according to traditional grammar and spelling rules. As you will see in the videos attached, it worked to a degree. If the class was my own, I would have required stricter editing. Oh, and I would have censored the "love" theme which comprised 90% of the finished work.

After working intensely with the 3 classes, I was  motivated to experiment and create a family video combining music, words and photos which I gave to my family for Christmas. I am now anxious to go in another direction with digital writing and build on what I've learned.

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