Sunday, April 5, 2020

2020 Post #22 -- Poetry in a Time of Coronavirus

by Tricia Evans

For forty years, my spring break pilgrimage has been the same. But just like many other timeworn traditions, my spring break isn’t following the normal trajectory this year. Instead of hikes up craggy Baldy mountain, the soothing music of the Frio River, flame wrapped marshmallows, and family communion, we have chosen social distancing. This is a spring break none of us envisioned. With schools closing, sporting and entertainment venues shuttered, and a constantly shifting newsfeed, life has been disrupted and we find ourselves the subjects of a historic moment.

Recently, in his Twitter feed, Kelly Gallagher provided a reminder that each of us is a historian, and encouraged the chronicling of this unusual time.

Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s When the World as We Knew It Ended is a powerful mentor text for this purpose.

Read the poem aloud,. Ask students to identify the moment in history Harjo is describing. Why is it important for writers to preserve history for future generations?

Consider why Harjo chose a poem as the vehicle for this historic accounting.

After reading the poem a second time, ask students to annotate the poem for structure and then do this collectively under the document camera.

Allow students to take a line, an idea, or borrow Harjo’s structure and craft a poem with the intent of capturing this historic moment for future generations. Some students might benefit from the scaffolded structure below.

Stanza 1
We were (Recount a moment before you heard of the coronavirus.) 

Stanza 2
Big picture showing this moment as it is witnessed on a large scale. Wow your audience with FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE & IMAGERY! 

Stanza 3
We had been watching (a noticing before this moment)

Stanzas 4 and 5
We saw it from (Zoom in. What do you notice? How is life around you different? The same? What are people around you doing?)

Stanza 6
We heard it. (What are you hearing from your family? Your friends? The news? Social media?)

Stanza 7
But then (Conclude with a shift that serves as a reminder of the good that continues to exist in the world today and in the future.)

Allow opportunity for student historians to publish on platforms like Padlet, Flipgrid, or in your personal classroom collection. Celebrate student voice!

Further reading:

Coronavirus Lesson Plan  compiled by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle

Tricia Evans works with curriculum and instruction at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, TX. She believes in the power of words, classrooms, and positivity to change the world.

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