Before spring term was over, I’d written two pages of notes in the back cover of my writer’s notebook. I titled it “Remember to Do Things to do Differently.” I’m a bit ambitious — and I realize, often, too hard on myself. Although I knew my students learned last year, I wasn’t confident that they couldn’t have learned more.
I imagine you’ve been there, too. Always second guessing.
One of the things I knew I needed to improve was my relationships with students — I needed them to be good and strong, faster. I also needed to help students jump in quicker to the complexities of craft analysis without scaring the poor little dears.
So last week, the second week of school, I did what Lisa just wrote about yesterday. I “Encourage[d] Students to Start Sharing Who They Are,” and I did it by sharing a favorite poem by Wislawa Szymborska: “Possibilities.”
I asked students to study the poet’s language in each line and then write their own “Possibilities” poem, imitating the poet’s sentence structure and word play. I gave them a copy of my annotations and wrote my own poem as a model.
This proved to be an excellent lead into the rhetorical analysis students must be able to do in AP Language. I was able to see which students quickly understood how to look closely at an author’s craft — and which ones did not.
The best part though was what I learned about my students. All their preferences!!
Last Friday, when their poems were due, we did our first Author’s Chair share in class.
First, to help students build confidence, they read their poems to a partner.
Then, volunteers sat in our Author’s Chair and read their poems to the class.
While the student read his poem, everyone else sat with sticky note and pen in hand ready to offer “blessings,” things they liked about the author’s use of language, or connections they could make to his ideas.
After each writer shared, the class flooded him with “blessings.” Smiles grew wide, trust blossomed, and the community that I felt was missing for too long a time last year took root.
Bonus: When students read their little notes, carefully crafted by peers who listened to
their writing, their confidence as writers grew. Too bad we ran out of class time. I might have run out of sticky notes if all students would have felt the desire to share.
I wouldn’t have minded.
I would not have minded at all.
I would love to hear your ideas on building community and/or introducing students to rhetorical analysis. Please join the conversation and share in the comments.