I’m having a really great time with my current English 1101 class. I decided this semester our subject would be MONSTERS. So why not post a few thoughts and even a few lesson plans while blogging about something I love combining…Horror and Education?
The text we’re rooting our class in is an excellent book published by Fountainhead Press called MONSTERS edited by Brandy Ball Blake and L. Andrew Cooper.
Our first class assignment was reading a short story by Richard Matheson called “Born of Man and Woman.”
After reading the short story in class, they were on their own and they came up with some interesting ideas. We started with a discussion of Subject (Topic of the text) versus Theme (What the writer is trying to teach us about the subject). I listed their subjects on the board. They came up with Family, Control, Religion, Difference, and Child Abuse as some of the Subjects. Then we tried to come up with some themes. Each group spoke about how their Element of Style contributed to supporting the reading of their theme. It was great.
Having worked together in a group to apply ONE of the Six Elements of Style, now it was their turn to try and apply them all for themselves. This poem turned out to be very successful for the simple reason that it doesn’t look like a poem. It looks more like a newspaper article. One student told me before he attempted this homework assignment that he never really GOT poetry in high school and was worried he wouldn’t have anything to say about it; however, in class he had plenty to say. I asked him why he thought he wouldn’t be able to talk about the poem and he replied, “This wasn’t a poem.” That lead to an interesting class discussion about what does writing have to have to be a poem versus prose. The class came up with the following requirements: economy of words, heightened language, figurative language, rhythm, rhyme (sometimes), the look of a poem (enjambment), and (some said) it’s got to be difficult (serious). I completely disagreed with the last requirement; however, they were on to something with everything else.
So after going through their checklist of What Writing Needs to be a Poem, everything was there except the look. We then discussed why the poet would make her poem look like prose and the class came up with the fact that two of the characters in the poem were probably writers, and one was a poet and they decided her companion was a journalist. That led to a discussion of our associations with journalistic writing and that it carries associations with fact and truth and trust. So the fact the poet shapes her poem to look like a newspaper column (paragraph) adds subconscious meaning to how we receive the poem. Not bad, class!