I begin the class by reviewing the students' work analyzing Robert Frost's famous poem, "Nothing Gold Can Stay". The students were expected to complete ISN Student Analysis - "Nothing Gold Can Stay" as homework, in order to get their feet wet with analyzing the various aspects of a poem independently. I make sure to start off the class this way in order to set the students up for the greatest success in the coming portions of the day's activity.
I find that I can never model this process too much, as I see "light bulb moments" happening for students each time. My hope is that I can help to turn on enough light bulbs so the students are able to truly support one another as they collaborate in today's activity to analyze and dig into a variety of poems.
Once we have finished our review analysis of the poem, I have the groups begin the day's activity: analyzing various poems in a gallery walk format. The first step is for the groups to read the poem they have been assigned to start with and determine what they believe the theme to be. There are six total groups with as many as six members in each, each group at a station with a different poem.
The poems are all included on the Poems for Gallery Walk document in this section. These poems touch on various levels and types or poetry, ranging from classic canon, to the more contemporary, to popular music, and even has a Navajo standard in there as well. I like to stretch students' perceptions, and having them move from one type to a very different type repeatedly, has them shifting gears consistently, but also allows them to make immediate connections.
Once they reach consensus on a theme, they write it down on an index card and place it underneath the poster for later review. I believe it is very important for them to commit to and write down that first impression in order to see how a complete and thorough analysis of the poem changes their perspective throughout the process, using the Rotation Poetry Schedule Document provided for them, which clearly defines the task that must be completed at each station.
The student groups then rotate between five remaining stations, with a brief task to complete at each. These tasks are to summarize briefly each poem, analyze the figurative language and its impact on the poems, determine a potential/viable theme, and find textual evidence to support that theme. Each group will complete all steps of the process, but will complete each step at a different station with a different poem. For some students, the shifting of gears can be difficult, so it is my hope that the students will fare better overall by having one another to lean on and draw from.
In the end, each group ends where they began. At that point, they are able to draw comparisons between the theme they initially determined and that of the groups in collaboration with one another. In other words, the groups are expected to use the feedback from each of the steps, completed by the other five groups, in order to further process. The part where they compare the theme the other group determined to their own initial interpretation tends to be rather eye-opening for them, and it reinforces the idea I have been pushing that our initial interpretations of poetry are often incorrect, and that there are many ways to interpret poetry based on the textual evidence and our personal understanding. This forces the students to see poetry as malleable and as having whatever meaning we allow it to have. It is simply a matter of putting forth a little effort and having an open mind.
As a closure for the activity, the students are expected to complete a Poetry Reflection for the activity. This means that they evaluate their efforts and level of success as individuals, that of the group as a whole, and also the effectiveness of the activity itself. Taking the time to complete this process allows students to process and grow from the activity, but also to provide feedback for me as well that will be used to drive future instruction.