Enhancing Student Appreciation of Poetry Using iMovie
The second phase of my inquiry was to see if the use of digital media would enhance student experiences with reading poetry. Typically we would spend a few days perusing poetry books which I provided for the students. We read and discussed a few poems as a class which I selected. Then students were expected to read a certain number of poems which they selected. Based on input from the students I set up poetry partners. Students chose several of their self-selected poems to discuss with their partners. I began madly making copies of the poems, so students could make notes on the poems.
This year as a class we read “Season at the Shore” by Phyllis McGinley which gives us a great opportunity to look at imagery and sound devices. We also read “Cracked Glass” by Erin Nishimura, a 7th grade student at Iolani School at the time she wrote the poem. Cracked Glass.pdf This has examples of simile and metaphor. I used both these poems to demonstrate note taking and the discussion format I wanted them to use.
Once all the discussions had taken place I had students work with their poetry partner(s) to create an iMovie presentation of one of the poems they had discussed. The presentation was to have three components: images that reflect the message of the poem, voiceover reading of the poem, and background music that fits the message of the poem. I created a demonstration project which I shared with them. Some students were ready to jump over the various readings and discussions and get right to iMovie. Some students struggled with finding a suitable poem while others went with more literal interpretations. As I circulated the room during work time I could hear some deep discussions about which images would work best. Many students were fully engaged in the task. One student was very moved by Walt Whitman's poem “A Man's Body at Auction” but was frustrated with his image search. He considered switching poems until we spoke about the message of the poem. “Oh,” he said, “I think I can do that one now that I know I don't need the exact pictures.” When I checked in with him later in the class he was pleased with the images he had collected thus far. He was able to extend his thinking of the poem to include not only auctions, but the conditions under which slaves lived.
For this project we used iMovie '09. There was some frustration in working with the technical aspects of saving images and transferring them into iMovie. Some students had difficulty because they recorded in GarageBand and had forgotten how to save their work. As I circulated I often had to help students with the technical aspects of making transitions, text frames, and finding music using sources available on iMovie. Students also helped each other as they discovered how to use the program. Students were encouraged to search for images using Creative Commons. Some students needed reminding of all the requirements for the movie. All in all the reaction from students was positive and they were mostly excited to show their work to the class. Here are some samples of student projects.
As I viewed the final projects I saw the students could have used more direction in choosing poems as a few were too short to do the project justice. They also needed more direction in paying attention to the volume of their voices and music as one sometimes overpowered the other. Some groups would have benefited from further discussion of their poems. They tended to look at the literal message of the poem. For example, one group of boys chose to make their iMovie about "First Deer" by Paul Corrigan, a Maine poet.
They became stuck on the ideas of dressing the deer and missed the father-son connection of the poem. In the future I would have a conversation with each group about the message of their chosen poem before or during their iMovie production. Some groups were very creative in their use of images and sound effects. A few were creative in their use of multiple voices and overall presentation.
As we reflected on this project students said producing the iMovie made them think more deeply about the poem. They had to consider images as well as how they would read the poem. They thought about timing as well as expressions and volume. They enjoyed viewing the iMovie's created by their peers. Some were most anxious to hear what I thought of their projects. A number of students began to think of revisions which would improve their projects. Overall student reactions were positive, and the quality of the productions have encouraged me to repeat this project in the future.