As part of our continued study of poetry and a celebration of National Poetry Month 2020, my students composed poems last week using a wide range of strategies. In this post, I’ll outline how we not only composed original poems, but I’ll also explain how we used Flipgrid to share those poems and interact with each other in a virtual poetry chat. Finally, I’ll share the process of putting together our poems in a student anthology eBook.
Day/Step 1, Monday, April 20, 2020: Drafting and Revising
Our distance learning schedule asks students to work on Language Arts, Social Studies, and their first Connections (an elective from a wide range of different areas) on Mondays and Wednesdays. On Tuesdays, students work on Science, Math, and their second Connections. Friday is a makeup/catchup day plus family day for our students.
Last Monday, we began writing original poems. I provided students a wide range of poem writing strategies; these strategies came either from me or Dr. Sarah Donovan of Ethical ELA. Students could write about their feelings and experiences related to the Covid-19 pandemic OR any topic close their hearts and minds.
Students drafted their poems in Google Docs, and I provided coaching/feedback without doing the revisions for them because I think it’s important for writers to make decisions for themselves. My role was to give them some starting points for elevating the draft they had composed and making small moves to make the poem stronger. This work of drafting and revision primarily took place on Monday and Tuesday, but I’ve had stragglers who were completing this task even through this morning.
Day/Step 2: Wednesday, April 22, 2020: Polishing and Recording Ourselves Reading Our Poems in Flipgrid
Students could not move on to this step until I gave the final approval on the completed draft of the poem. Once students finalized their poems, they posted a clean copy in Canvas and then recorded themselves reading the poem in our Poetry Chat Flipgrid. Students were strongly encouraged to practice ahead of time and to read with emotion and meaning just like we did for our Poetry Tuesday work prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Please see the screenshots below for the steps and instructions. I was delighted to see how so many students really invested themselves in the reading whether they were recording in their homes or outside! The emotional aspect of these readings and the heartfelt expression they put into their words made me truly miss seeing my students in person.
Day/Step 3, Monday, April 27, 2020: Responding to Each Other and Chatting About Our Poems
This past Monday, students were asked to respond to at least two fellow students. Because I made the grid open to all sections, students were not limited to responding to someone in their class. In hindsight, I’m truly glad I did this step because it gave students more freedom and enriched the cross-pollination of responses across class sections.
In addition, I invited my students’ seventh grade teachers to visit the grid and respond to their former students from last year. I’m indebted to Cara McCollum and Heather Chandler for taking time to do just this, and I think their voices and contributions to the response piece really added an important element to the poetry chat for my students! We also used this script from Dr. Sarah Donovan to inspire positive and meaningful response/talk with our peers; we used this tool with our face to face responses for Poetry Tuesday prior to March 13.
I am SO very proud of my students for their work, especially this discussion/response/interaction piece. My heart is so full after hearing what they had to say each other, and the responses they shared with their peers were so sincere and meaningful. Learn a little more about this most important of the project here:
As of 11:30 AM this morning, you can see the numbers for engagement in this grid; I love this powerful aspect of data in Flipgrid!
Final Step: Sharing Our Voices with the World Through Our Poetry Anthology eBook
The culminating companion piece to this two week endeavor was to publish an eBook anthology of our work. Poems that were completed and polished through 6PM yesterday were included in our eBook. Students were able to suggest book titles through a Google Form that was one of our tickets out the door last week; they then voted on the titles in a subsequent Google Form/Ticket Out the Door. If we had more time, I would have asked students to design a cover for the book, but to expedite the process, I created 8 possible book covers in Canva and allowed students to vote on the cover yesterday:
The overwhelming choice was Option 3:
As students completed their poems, I copied and paste them into the Word document. Since I’ve published and/or collaborated on publishing eEbooks previously in Smashwords, I just adapted a previous Word document I had used for this collection. You can use the Smashwords Style Guide to get started with your own eBook publication. Our eBook is now live and available to anyone who wants to read it here!
Final Reflections and Thoughts
In closing, this project progressed very quickly, and I’m so proud of how well my students responded to the activities. I am even more impressed in light of the fact we were doing all of this from afar through schooling from home in the midst of this Covid-19 pandemic. Congratulations to my student writers and poets for their accomplishments and efforts!