Thursday, May 19, 2011

Those Days After the AP Exam ...

I got an idea years ago from another teacher (I wish I had kept his or her name so I could give credit here) for the best thing I do after my AP Lit students have taken the exam. We read Walt Whitman's poem "There Was a Child Went Forth." As juniors, they study Whitman, so we take a minute to review his major style traits (observations, listing, non-rhyming, no meter ...), then I set my students to writing their own versions of his poem looking back over their lives. Even my students who do not enjoy writing poetry enjoy this because the style is so non-threatening and they have something say because they are looking towards graduation and naturally looking back at what this milestone means. Here is the template I give them:

There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

(Stanza 2: earliest memories)
… became part of this child.

(Stanza 3: mom and dad – plus other family members if you want)

… they became part of this child.

(Stanza 4: Lower School)
… became part of this child.

(Stanza 5: Middle School)
… became part of this child.

(Stanza 6: Upper School)
… became part of this child.

(Stanza 7: anything else – think individuals, outside school, local, global …)
… became part of this child

These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who
now goes, and will always go forth every day.

I then print their poems in colored font with some sort of picture -- whatever makes them look a little more published than their everyday writing. I attach these poems to a poem I write to the whole class of my year with them, and I give these gifts on our last day. I read them my poem aloud, which traces my memories of the whole year, and it is really a wonderful way to end and an easy way to give them all a gift to remember the class and high school by. Thank you to the teacher who suggested this so many years ago!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why Do We Read?

My 2011 APEs have given me a great year. Today, we reflected on why we read and books we value. Above (click to be able to read their stars) are the books they shared today for our final Book Celebration Day, and below are their final thoughts on the power of reading.
  • Books inspire us to do different ... life-changing ... things.
  • Books teach us who we want to be and who we do not want to be.
  • Books bring us to times when things weren't so difficult and when messages were still important but simpler.
  • Books help us understand and be able to cope with difficult situations we go through in life.
  • Books help us connect to other people.
As I said to my students today, their final bullet is a perfect one to end with. Literature connected me to my 2011 amazing APE readers, and I will miss them next year.