The WasteLand discussion-10/30/18

Tuesday’s discussion on how to teach T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” made me think of how hard it is to teach a poem of that magnitude and the planning that needs to be done.  In other words, it made me think of how context is so crucial with this poem and how that comes into play.  When I first read the poem in Professor Hanley’s English 528 class about a year and a half ago, I didn’t realize how complexed this poem is with students until we really came up with ideas yesterday on how to make sure the students understood it.  For example, I remember coming up with some visual annotations for the poem and going further into the symbolism with each section.  However, this was such a good idea to come up with fresh new lessons to look towards authentic learning with the students.

One thing that I really thought was extremely resourceful was Veronica’s idea of looking at the pre-war/post-war connections to “The Wasteland.”  I would have never thought of that.  It made me think in the class of the literature that could be compared/contrasted to the poem.  For example, even though this is not an American novel, but what if the students read excerpts of All Quiet on The Western Front and contrasted it with the poem?  To me, I think of “The Wasteland” as this pre-war struggle in the world and All Quiet on The Western Front as this post-war struggle.  However, both of them discuss this sort of fear occurring in the world.  That is the connecting theme that could be looked at when teaching “The WasteLand.”

I really thought it was interesting when Professor Hanley simply explained that poems are transactions.  Poems exchange ideas throughout the whole piece and present fragmented ideas.  When we use dialogue in our daily lives, we blurt out fragmented phrases and rarely do we have precise sentences in our verbal language.  In other words, poems reflect the language in which we have learned ever since we were born.

I think this discussion taught me ways to formally come up with a lesson plan for “The Wasteland” because it teaches us grad students to look beyond just coming up with our own assignments and look deeply how we can benefit the undergraduate students in literature.  In fact, this will help me when I take the teaching creative writing course this spring because one of the main projects in that class is to formulate a syllabus.  It stood out to me when someone brought up the syllabus being your thesis for the class.  To me, that is so significant because of the texts being discussed in class reflect your teaching philosophy.  I loved going back to the “Conversations with Text” article because it helped me with how much it is crucial for students to think about the poem and how it makes them feel.  This is something I would want to implement when I get a chance to teach this poem.  I truly wish our graduate seminars included more of this because it gets us thinking about how to really authentically teach these texts and make them learn/unlearn the poem.  We need more student input on how to teach challenging texts like “The Wasteland.”

Annotation Comrades: Final (Elements of Craft)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jK-NcRmVcw

Hello comrades,  I am going to be using some of the methods implemented in Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s chapter “What is Backwards Design.” I use their methods as a launching pad for the annotation partner assignment in this class.  To believe in one’s writing as a career path, the student writer would need to be a student of this poet’s work (I will explain more on that in further detail in the planning stage). However, from a literary point of view, these annotations will ensure the critical thinking juices are in full effect for the students.   I will expand on my goals (which specific craft elements are crucial in order to be successful with this assignment), the evidence (in this case what sort of annotations will help them think about craft), and finally planning (what will be required from the students to complete this assignment).  This course section is completely coming from a creative writing point of view, but at the same time, they will analyze the poem and be able to read poetry like a writer.

But first, a little background on Billy Collins.  Billy Collins was born in New York City on March 22, 1941.  His poetry has been featured in the Pushcart Prize anthology and was picked on many occasions for the best American Poetry Series.  The poet Stephen Dunn once said this of Collins, ” We seem to always know where we are in a Billy Collins poem, but not necessarily where he is going. I love to arrive with him at his arrivals.”  This rings true with Billy Collins’ work and can be said when you read his poem for this assignment.

Goals:

My goal here for this assignment with my partner (and for the students I assign this poem to) is to identify Metaphor as a necessary craft element.  In the book How to Read Poetry like a Professor, author Thomas C. Foster says this about metaphor, Metaphors worm their way into our consciousness so that their first, overt meaning gets lost” (Foster).  Metaphors should be used as something the students question in the poem.  Of course, the students will be very confused with the metaphors in this poem.  But the purpose is to read the poem several times and make meaningful annotations relating to metaphor.  Metaphors are conscious deeply inside our soul.  The students truly need to understand how a metaphor is effective in a poem because they could get lost very easily.  Some writers (poets) have frequently placed metaphors in the poem.  In short, it is crucial to grasp the concepts with metaphors and understand how they are properly used.  This assignment is designed for entry-level composition or creative writing students in mind.   From a creative standpoint, critically pinpointing metaphors ensures they have the linchpin engrained in their minds.  Remember, the students (and my annotation comrade) needs to read this poem as a writer and study this piece diligently.

 

Evidence/Desired results:

Some of the evidence for this assignment will be based on completing this annotation assignment one week before we discuss the poem in class. This includes creating an account for the Hypothesis module on the blog and dissect the poem with your fellow classmates.  What am I looking for in their annotations?  Their annotations should be open to interpretations (remember poetry is very subjective in taste) but at the same time, I expect them to respond to craft.  The student needs to be centered on craft in order to be successful with this assignment and deviating from the main idea of this assignment hurts their learning outcome within the larger group during lecture. In particular, they really to be centered in metaphor in order to effectively participate in this assignment (going back to the previous stage here).  For example, a great annotation could be in response to why this line in Billy Collins “Snow Day” reflects effective uses of metaphor.    In order to have meaningful annotations on the craft elements, I expect the students to proofread their responses and implement proper use of grammar.  These annotations on Hypothesis should be formal but very subjective in their approach to craft strategies.  The annotations are designed to revolve around on how a metaphor works and how it challenges the reader throughout the process.  That is one of my keys to success in this assignment.  The second desired key to success is by researching other poems written by Billy Collins (which I will post the link on the blog).  The students should have a historical background and include a breadth of knowledge of his work.  Failure to do outside research Billy Collins will result in confusion on connections being used throughout the lecture and not following directions.  Therefore the research will have a performative evaluation as well.  All of the background information and annotations will affect student engagement because they depend on the outcome of the lecture.  These annotations are designed for metaphor as the element of craft.  Metaphors can be easily missed in a poem and I hope students look towards using these annotations effectively.

Planning: Hypothesis and an in-class writing exercise

The requirements for this assignment is very straightforward, but failure to follow the directions posted on the blog and ilearn will lead to less student engagement during lecture. You cannot learn inside the classroom if you do not go through the motions throughout this course.  The students will need their laptop and be able to create their own account in Hypothesis.  I will provide the directions to properly create annotations via links from Youtube on the blog.  If any of the students feel they are confused or lost on Hypothesis, I will suggest they email me their questions or meet with me in my office hours.  I want all of the students to be able to work on this together and not leave anyone in the dust.  Lastly, the students will be required to have their writing journals for the end of this assignment.  All of the students will be required to participate in an exercise after we annotate and discuss the poem.

As I have mentioned before, I chose Billy Collins’s poem “Snow Day” because it reflects a massive amount of metaphors.  A poet will either have several metaphors in the poem or have only a select few.  In fact, some poets might even stack metaphors together.  For instance, William Shakespeare had stacked a bunch of metaphors in Sonnet 73, “In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire/That on the ashes of his youth does lie” (Shakespeare).  Examples like this one shows how easy it is to miss metaphors.  That is why understanding the germinal ideas of a metaphor is so crucial for this assignment.  This poem injects so many useful examples of metaphor as a useful literary tool and in turn, will help students when they write their annotations.  It is the student’s responsibility to critically think about the metaphors in this poem and diligently analyze the poem with metaphor in mind.

The students will be reading the poem online a week before class.  The first time they read it will be solely on pleasure. Just enjoy each line and do not think too much on literary analysis.  The second time, Be in tune with the language and craft elements as you read the poem.  Jot down your original thoughts as a sounding board leading up to this assignment.  The third time, the students will be looking for metaphors to note in their annotation.  With that entails is how those metaphors are working craft-wise.  The fourth time, they will read it and identify metaphors that pop of the page in the poem. If they may do so, they could pick out the best metaphors (all subjective of course) and how they possess this sense of power.  I will pose these questions (if they get stuck):

  1. Which metaphors in this poem are useful?
  2. Did the poet provide powerful examples of metaphor?
  3. Which metaphors were the most challenging?

These questions are designed so that they can formulate good annotations.  A metaphor is supposed to challenge the students from a literary standpoint.  But at the same time, I do not want cram all of these ideas in a student’s head.  A student is supposed to be challenged in the most creative and productive way.

The students will then reconvene for class and we will all be discussing the poem line by line.  From there, I will call on students and get their responses from the annotations.

After we finish discussing this poem, I will begin my writing exercise.  The students will then close their eyes and imagine as many metaphors as they can.  They will control their breathing and be mindful of their thought process.  This exercise is supposed to be basic because all of these students are in an introductory course.  When they have finished, they will open their eyes and list all of the metaphors in the form of a poem.  This process will be part of the individual activity portion because the students will be working independently on their writing exercise and are required to turn in a typed version of the exercise. A real and authentic method of recording their writing in the journals is to not think too much about the writing.  The students must write and let it come from the heart.  However, I grade and evaluate this writing exercise based on following the directions and keeping those elements of craft in mind when the students write their poems.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/billy-collins