Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Secondary School Topic: Disliking Poetry, Part Two

10-second review: Students used PowerPoint to redesign and interpret classic poems, in this example, “A Noiseless Patient Spider” by Walt Whitman.

Title: “Using Digital media to Interpret Poetry: Spiderman Meets Walt Whitman.” MB McVee. NM Bailey. LE Shanahan. Research in the Teaching of English (November 2008), 112-143. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: With pictures, various sizes of text and other visual resources, the students used PowerPoint to interpret the poem “Noiseless, Patient Spider” by Walt Whitman. The result was that, although most of the student teachers in this class didn’t like poetry as it is traditionally taught, they enjoyed this exercise in interpreting poems. The technological resources were one part of the attraction. The freedom to interpret the poem creatively and personally was the other.

Comment: When I saw the word “Spiderman” in the title of this article, I thought, here we go again—another NCTE technique for using comic strips and superheroes as literature, like texting for writing.

Not so. Using all available technological devices, the students were free to conceptualize and interpret their poems. You would have to see the examples of what they did to the text—various sizes of print, boldface and regular print; picture of Spiderman next to relevant text; circular word “surrounded” over the image of a man and the words from the poem, “Surrounded in measureless oceans of space….” to realize how effective this technique was. In fact, I learned that PowerPoint does not have to be the dull, lifeless presentation it usually is. But it begins with the creative freedom to interpret.

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