Saturday, February 15, 2014

Religion poetry anthologies - and my room turned in to a coffee shop

Yesterday my students brought to school their religion poetry anthologies. We have been working on this project for about a month as we learned about four major world religions in history. Before officially assigning this massive project, I started the kids off by writing a different type of poetry for each chapter we studied. When planning the unit I relied heavily on my notes in my masters journal from my poetry class, meticulously finding which format would work best with the content.

Here's what we did:
4 acrostic poems on the four influential founders of Judaism
1 memory map poem on Judaism
2 eraser poems, one on the origins if Hinduism and the other on the caste system
1 Hinduism Haiku
1 I Am poem on Prince Siddhartha (Buddha)
1 list poem on the Eightfold Path (Buddhism)
1 two perspective poem on Christianity (from the voice of a Christian and the voice of a Roman)

I collected each draft of their poems, assigned a small point value, and then kept all of their poems until two weeks before the project due date. At this time we went over the official project and assigned due dates for each of the finals to help my students plan and not procrastinate.

This week students were also given class time to create a mandala that represents the idea of religion as a whole. We reviewed our classroom art expectations and used many "real life" mandalas for inspiration. It seemed fitting that an art form founded in Hinduism be used as the visual art piece of the project, and after seeing their work, I think I choose wisely. These are some of the most impressive projects I've ever collected from my kids! 
See my classroom art expectations here.

My students were already familiar with the concept of mandalas because it was the very first project we did this year. However, being a first project meant it was very structured and I was "bossy" with how I wanted them done. (I use this project not only to have the kids define what history is, but really set up classroom expectations for art within our room).  The freedom I allowed with their religion anthology served me well as it allowed their individuality and creativity really shine. 

Now to celebrate their typed, revised, edited version of their eleven poems and a ridiculously striking cover I turned our classroom into a "coffee shop" and we had a poetry read celebration. Now, a few simple tricks will really set the mood for the best day ever.  And no coffee is actually served. 

#1 let the kids bring food, but keep it to the coffee shop theme - doughnuts, muffins, croissants, etc.  We also had one student bring in hot cocoa from Starbucks in their giant travel containers which was an extra special treat for them. 
#2 turn off the fluorescent lights, and bring in a lamp. The change in lighting really sets the mood, and the lamp in my guest room loves being used for once. Yesterday was even overcast, making for a perfect backdrop to our Seattle inspired celebration. 
#3 use technology to create a coffee shop scene. I found an image of the outside of a Starbucks and used airplay with my iPad to display it on the flat screen, and I found another interior Starbucks image to project from my laptop onto the pull down screen. These two little images taken from the internet made it very clear where we were. 
#4 have a special area for the students to read their poetry. I always use my two teaching stools, but you could use anything that is special or different for the kids.
#5 we snap instead of clap. This actually came from one of my students the very first time I attempted this classroom transformation, and it works. It keeps the mood calm, and feels more appropriate for the scene we are setting.

Here are the images I used this year:

Once the room has been transformed, have the kids pass out their treats, place their anthologies safety under their desk until it is their time to read, and sit back to enjoy a day they will remember from their time in middle school. I do require each student to read a poem of their choosing, and they can read it with another person if so desired. In one class we heard many two perspective poems because those we co-authored, and were understandably easier to present. However, as the readings continued, the comfort level began to rise,  and many who were hesitant to initially read ended up sharing multiple pieces of the poetry they had written. 

We did take a couple mini breaks to clear the trash and get rid of the empty cups, because thanks to Anna Kendrick, empty cups are no longer safe in the classroom. 
See what I'm referring to here. And yes, I love this song, but just not in the classroom, unless we have a reason for it. 

Some kids will get very into this whole experience, and others will read their Haiku poem and quickly return to their seats, but no matter what, we celebrated their hard work, dedication, and pretty amazing poetry with a day. And because my planning was either insane or ingenious, this poetry read just so happened to fall on Valentine's day, which is also the last day of school before our week long break, and apparently was one crazy day on campus. But in our little corner of the school, it was calm, peaceful, and a pretty magical day. 

See my first attempt at this type of celebration here and here.

Poetry anthologies can be great for any concept, especially in history. When I taught 8th grade, we did one for Andrew Jackson, and instead of having a project span 5 chapters, we did it for just one. 

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