Monday, February 26, 2018

How To Teach Walt Whitman To Kids Who Don't Like To Read

Have you ever sat down and tried to read Leaves of Grass? No offense to the Great Gray Poet, but it's a labor of love. A nice cold glass of wine and a verdant hillside help immensely.

Unfortunately, there is neither wine nor hillsides in an urban classroom.

But fear not! These handy tips will work even if your classroom isn't in Camden, which mine is.

ANNIE'S HANDY TIPS FOR GETTING THESE MODERN DAY TEENAGERS TO TAKE EVEN A MILD INTEREST IN WALT WHITMAN:

1. Show the bridge.


Ask them, what do you have to do to get a bridge this big named after you? Then tell them that this bridge is named for a poet. It floors them.

2. Be ready with a dollar amount for a first edition of Leaves of Grass. Actually the number is lower than I thought, but it's still a mighty, mighty sum. Tell the students to go home and look in their attic, they might have a copy under a floor board. (Well, this does work best in Camden. Might also work in Brooklyn.)

3. Show them this engraving from the first edition of Leaves of Grass.

... and explain how "proper poets" dressed in those days. Let them connect the dots to today's rappers.

4. Make good use of the trendy Volvo commercial from 2017.

5. Or this really good little confection!

6. Go for the easy poems, like "O Captain, My Captain" and "Miracles." News flash: Have you read "I Hear America Singing" lately? Most of those jobs have either gone belly up or have been outsourced.

7. Memorize some of the poems and speak them without notes while the students follow along reading. They love it when you get stuck or screw up and they have to prompt you.

Then, when you have those lil puppies hooked, fling harder poems at them for analysis. In a nice think-pair-share environment.

All the while, pray fervently that your last observation of the year will not happen during this lesson -- but be prepared for yet another lackluster mediocre score if it does.

2 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

You are a clever teacher, Anne. I really like that animation interpretation video.

MR Lakshmi said...


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