We have been having quite some snow for Virginia, and for a state that closes schools for a dusting, that means snow days. While I enjoy a surprise day off, it does wreak havoc on my lessons. So, last Friday, I had my poetry party with one section of freshmen, but alas, snow hit Monday and school was closed ... do I scrap the party for the other class to move on with the "real" work?
I was on the horns of a dilemma. We are reading Understanding by Design as a school, and I worried that my favorite poetry party was really not important -- that it was fun but that's it. Turns out this was a good worry for me to have because it made me think about why I love this day so much and why I was going to still have the party.
As the final day of our study of the poetry genre (I do not only study poetry in isolation by the way -- that is a topic for another post!), I bring in food and drink, and we spend the first part of class clicking through everyone's favorite original poems on our class wiki anthology. I project each student's poem, and they read it aloud. Then, as they are printing out their favorite poems for our bulletin board plus submitting poems to our school literary magazine, I play each of their recorded recitations.
The silence and attention that a group of freshmen give when their peers are reciting poetry, even when pumped with sugar from the donut holes I provided, is amazing and wonderful and every reason in the world to have this party. The reciters get practice, without me needing to call it this or grade it, on public speaking, and the class as a whole gets poetry rained down on them: poems their peers wrote, poems they themselves wrote, poems their peers love, poems they love, live readings, recorded skilled recitations. One of my students said it simply in her final reflective email: "I liked the poetry party and listening to what other people wrote."
Is my party UbD worthy? Turns out, it is. My students and I get to be with poetry in an informal and embracing way, and we end up celebrating our love of this oft-maligned genre. Another student wrote, "I learned that I really like writing poetry and will enjoy writing it in the future." My party will go on.