"The Books That Made Me" projects are due today, and so I have allowed time for my students to share their projects with the whole class, should any desire to do so. I invite them to place their work on the document camera and walk us through their books and their reasons for selecting them.
It is always exciting for me to not only see the creativity my students have put into their projects (evidenced in Student Sample 1 , Student Sample 2 , and Student Sample 3), but to also hear the enthusiasm with which they talk about their book selections. I love the way this project allows them to reflect on how much they love reading, especially since, as a former high school English teacher, I know that some of them are likely to drift away from this love in a few years.
This project works very well against the backdrop of Bad Boy and Myers' own developing love affair with reading as an adolescent, but I have also assigned it when teaching Fahrenheit 451, as well as when simply promoting reading and a continued love for it with my students. Thus, it is a project that can be adapted for a variety of units, and not one that must be linked to a particular text.
When my students have finished sharing their projects, I instruct them to take out their copies of "Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley. We have not yet reviewed and discussed this poem as a whole group, as the review for Vocabulary Seven occupied our last class session.
I ask a student volunteer to read the first canto aloud and then ask my students what the dominant images and/or focus of the canto seem to be. As they share, I instruct them to add any new ideas to their interaction sides of the poem. We perform this task for all five cantos, as I steer the focus whenever necessary, so that the end result includes the following discoveries:
By helping my students discover patterns and structures in difficult poetry, I have found that their confidence in their own comprehension abilities rises. While I recognize that the Shelley's ode is one that could merit many more class sessions of discussion, my intent for sharing it with my students is more to flesh out their reading of Bad Boy than it is to delve into the ode itself. However, by highlighting the dominant imagery in each canto and by calling attention to the insertion of the speaker himself in the fourth and fifth canto, I anticipate that my students will be able to detect how he longs to be an elemental instrument as a poet, similar to the elements of earth, air, water, and fire.
As a closing topic for discussion, I ask my students if they are able to tell how and/or why a poem such as this would affect and inspire the young Walter Dean Myers.
The final minutes of class are dedicated to A Writer Observes Writing Assignment. I distribute a copy of the assignment to each of my students and explain to them that they will finally be returning to the writing samples they developed as they observed their city in front of our school.
I read the requirements for the assignment as my students follow along on their own copies, addressing questions and concerns as they arise. One concern that I anticipate is that some students will be dissatisfied with what they have already written in the observation exercise, and will not want to use it upon which to base their poems. If this is the case, I will instruct them to perform another 15-20 minute observation writing session, in a location of their choice, on their own time, in order to produce something with which they feel confident.
If time remains, I instruct my students to take out their observation writing samples and begin working on their poems in class (Sample Sonnet Draft 1, Sample Sonnet Draft 2). As they begin working, I am then able to coach them, offering feedback and suggestions.