Why would or should busy overburdened with data collection and results teachers take time to literally look up from their charts of test analysis to literally smell the roses and wax everyday poetic? If they do so and their students enjoy it, perhaps the only month it can be justified is in April because that is the designated poetry month? If they take that as an academic justification for studying the poetry of everyday life, then what would be the role of the Chromebook in this emotional and visceral learning experience? Is it possible that Chromebooks can concreticize with photos, hangout conversations, Google classroom collaborative poems, audio recitations, and videos and more this poetry of everyday life April celebration? Yes! Precisely because ultimately the reading text engagement, argument formation, conversation and collaboration, research and academic/special vocabulary required foci of Common Skills Standards are made real and meaningful through students focusing on the poetry of everyday life to make literacy come live! Chromebooks can serve as the tool that provides qualitative and quantitative data to back up that indescribably wonderful experience with descriptor ready products that show why it was useful as part of a rigorous education.
After a almost ¾ of a school year developing rigorous career and college readiness skills even if teaching early childhood, wouldn’t it be nice to smell the poetry month of April metaphoric roses? But how would this alluring classroom prospect play out in classes grades 5-12?
Here is just a start of what one literacy grades 5-12 teacher gleaned from this accessible to all lovers of the written word and those who struggle to write and to revise it themselves. The CCSS literacy skills address and made “real” by these activities are indicated parenthetically.
Strategy 1: Ask the students to remember or interview their parents or family members to identify one personalized bedtime story/song invented or modified for them. As a child one ELA teacher was overjoyed to hear her mother singing a noted Yiddish bedtime melody in which she became the key subject destined to grow up to do great things. Have the students write down the stories or poems s told to them (this can be a Google doc or separate files or part of Chromebook circle magazine of family stories) and also interview (one or two parents can be recorded in class or this can be part of a family expo or a great way to have parents on teacher night be interviewed while they wait their turn to see the teacher) their family members about their emotions on creating and repeating them stories or songs.(CCSS descriptive and narrative writing, interviewing, collegial conversation and collaboration).
Strategy 2: Pick up and record with pen or audio cassette a shopkeeper or store worker or owners everyday patter. It can be a conversation that person has with the students and his peers or adults each say that makes the speaker memorable or the day better for all. These audio files can be uploaded and share with a Chrome book class small team or with the entire class. Take a picture of the site or video it with owner permission and ask the person how he or she sees the speech. One ELA teacher dresses up each day on stilettos and coordinating outfits as if for stage performance or to walk the red carpet even though she works with inner city schools. She views each day of teaching as going on stage for a performance, not as teaching a mandated CCSS lesson. The coffee shop owner who is shy in real life, conceives of himself as being on stage in the store as he wishes each commuter a shining day. These audio recorded conversations can be listened to by the whole class or those in the Chromebook community and key quotes can be extracted from them. These prose quotes can be laid out on single lines and voila a found poem in everyday conversation! (CCSS narrative and dialogue authoring, English language conventions editing, interviewing, argument/authorial/speaker purpose analysis).
Strategy 3: Listen Deeply is a dictum that is central to folklore as these dedicated professionals listen to the stories of their subjects. Part if their listening, the “deep part” is to distill or construct a deeper meaning or significance beyond the story itself. Challenge students to over a week’s time listen deeply as they go about their lives and identify one heard or overhead exchange to which they listen deeply and impart meaning. One student overheard a plan to beat up a class member while another realized that the hip hop chant of a student he barely knew was signaling a family crisis in that students life. In both these cases listen deeply helped make necessary lifesaving interventions possible. On any human relationship or friendship level, listening deeply can make collaboration, friendship and social connection that much more real and more fulfilling. Students can keep journals of listening deeply and extract from these key facts, emotions or insights they gained. Through the Chromebook network, they (CCSS Speaking and Listening include conversation and collaboration, small group and large group presentations and more).
Strategy 4: Toy/ Sport Talk- often teachers have the most trouble getting students who do not come to the classroom as already lovers of reading writing to become descriptive writers and storytellers. In traditional writing classrooms, the fault sometimes lies in the topics students are asked to describe which are distanced from their actual lives and artifacts. But folklorists and particularly Steve Zeitlin who also coauthored City Play (Rutgers University Press, 1990) love having persons focus on the balls, particularly the long forgotten spaldeen balls, racquets (tennis and ping pong- yes that is right ping pong) and other related sport or toy or play equipment or rules or calls. No veteran English teacher or sports enthusiast teacher would be surprised by how suddenly detail rich stories or reports about games or faulty plays or miscalled plays or special equipment or racquets become in the mouths and the pens/word docs of sports enthusiasts with a photo or doodle or sketch or video to back it up. Special sports domain vocabulary here come the so-called reluctant writers and readers- fine with reading and writing about the particular nuances of a particular sport or toy or playthings. This interest is even evident now in a new setoff toys available where 21st century toys are sold called RETRO TOYS which are true to what parents and grandparents remember about the looks and feel of their favorite toys of childhood being updated by Fisher price to stir folkloric nostalgia for their commercial profit. But who says ELA teachers can not engage their students in writing about game balls and equipment or beloved toys of their recent younger childhood past? (CCSS special domain academic vocabulary, memoir and descriptive writing, learning on display, use of a graphic to accompany signage and more. Of course great PARCC preparation for a career in toy and sports equipment design and research and memorabilia businesses plus there’s always museum curatorship and maybe a chance to be part of the team at the Museum of the City of New York Toy Exhibit or part of the NY Historical Society’s Luce Collection. )
Strategy 5: Family Expressions- While Tolstoy tried to class and differentiate between happy and unhappy families, all families from whatever family cultural and linguistic background have private language expressions which have meaning only among their family insiders and ironically are part of the glues that bonds them together, a verbal blood connection. Brothers Murray and Steve Zeitlin greet each other decades past from their Brazil boyhood with a hearty “Yo, sire.” While another family member is still told by her younger sibling that she is walking on her fingers and has her legs waving on top- a rough Yiddish phrase used in their childhood family language to mean someone who is totally out of place in a particular setting. With such a rich diversity among our students and our citizens, encouraging students as part of mandated short research and primary source interviewing to identify among themselves and their siblings and their parents, distinctive family expressions which often have a visual idiomatic turn, can engage and excite students into becoming apprentice ethnographers and perhaps creating an illustrative dictionary of family expressions with photos or illustrations. Using their Chromebooks, they can record these native language family expressions. Older students can do secondary research to find out linguistic and cultural backgrounds for these expressions and to determine the extent to which they are rooted in general cultural data or distinctive to the student’s families. (CCSS short research in culture with students researching their own inquiry questions with real authentic to their family results or inspirations to more research, writing the preliminary research paper and being able to work collaboratively and conversationally as well as being able to present in small groups and large groups. This also lends itself to a talk or a film with visual or acted family expressions. All learning on display with a mix of text and graphics.)
Strategy 6: Private language between friends and longtime companions- It is but one step from the family circle to the circle of friends or love that bonds unrelated friends over the years. Zeitlin as a folklorist interviews and comforts or attempts to comfort many who have lost someone close to celebrating the connection that was. Often that connection lies in what ELA teachers call “private language” which is the shared phrases and sentences which friends or couple can complete and comprehend while outsiders sense the closeness but miss the meaning. For example, when two old pals greet each other with a “you’re still gliding tall” and the responding “you’re hitting the net small” referencing their hoop playing days decades past. It is very bonding and strengthening for friends to comprise their private language dictionary even if only to authenticate their connection and of course for mourners of those lost to commemorate in spoken oral history the particular phrases and catchwords by which their friends or spouses connected them to the world. One person’s departed aunt was incapable of hearing about any other child’s achievement before launching into her “My Ronnie is so smart that . . .and My Hopie is the most beautiful girl there ever was.” At the Shiva for this beloved Gertie, her children joked that in heaven everyone was being forced to listen to how fabulous they were as she had forced all who knew her on earth to do. This type of activity bonds students as interview recorders to adults and to one another and makes them also emotionally readier to share the texture of connection private language in social and family life can foster. Of course, understanding private language among everyday persons foster and helps students grasp Hemingway’s and Fitzgerald’s private language as well. (CCSS special domain and academic vocabulary plus interviewing and speaking and listening in some groups to the maximum).
Strategy 7: Rarely do data driven and accountable language arts teachers take time to allow themselves and their students to just laugh and maybe to think about why a line or a story or a situation is funny. Students can watch a popular situation comedy (selected by the teacher) with perhaps a peer character in it such as modern family or a classic twentieth century comedy from the 1950’s or a current PG movie. They can be challenged to list 3 to 4 more jokes and explain if they are successful as humor. Once they explain they can examine whether this success is because the humor is “put down” humor or me and you or a mix of both. Of course, there is no single correct answer to this type of conversational challenge but the conversation and conceptualization of humor is the thing here. (CCSS students collegially and collaboratively converse and respectfully interact with one another. They ponder and engage with spoken and printed and digital texts for close analysis. Older grade students can research the background and intended audiences as well as cultural shifts in what was funny and acceptable in pop culture humor in the mid twentieth century network TV world versus 21st century cable and HBO. Preparation for PARCC careers in multimedia and beyond, who knows?)
These are just seven strategy stairways to use The Poetry of Everyday Life in your rigorous teaching and learning. Sometimes in taking the road to rigorous literacy less travelled with Chromebooks to document and create a path of visual, audio, spoken, and written concrete digital footprints, teachers and students can arrive at their destination ahead of the rest and willing to continue on the open road of deep listening and making life constructs.
So it’s okay to look up and smell the roses, and maybe not just during the month of April!!
Steve Zeitlin, (2016). The Poetry of Everyday Life. New York: Cornell Press.
Dr. Rose Reissman,
Academic and Grant Funding Director for Sector 5
About Sector 5,
Sector 5, Inc. (OTCQB: SFIV), is a Proud American Corporation, that sells, manufactures and develops new innovative consumer electronics under Sector 5 and other brands. The Company markets its partnership with Google approved Chromebooks to educational organizations, other B2B and B2C sales channels, with retail sales on Amazon. It is in development of several new products to serve the educational, business and retail markets. Follow the company on http://www.twitter.com/sectorfiveinc and http://www.facebook.com/sect5 and find further information at http://www.sector-five.com. For Sector 5’s Forward Looking Statements, click here.