When a Spark Becomes an Enlightening Flame

Aimages few months ago I promised my pupils I would organize a poetry lesson. Time has passed, I was following the curriculum, getting tired of it, and during one of the moments of solitude and reflection a flash ran through my mind: Lord Byron – “When We Two Parted”. There is something powerful in those flashes of inspiration you can create something different, something that will make an impact greater than a regular lesson plan. During this flash, it took me only  a few seconds to plan my next lesson. I didn’t even need to right it down. Every detail was firmly rooted  in my head. From the beginning till the end. So, instead of writing those structured lesson plan forms, I will tell you a story of the class flow. I strongly believe that the best method to be used when teaching poetry, especially romantic one is Suggestopedia. Not only does it allow practising all the language skill but it also affects the students’ emotions, subconscious and unconscious, which is the primary goal of the method, to cut the whole story short.

Now, let me get back to the story. I was aware of the fact that I needed to presume a role of a unnoticable actor, which means I needed to tune myself to a totally different role. I entered the classroom slowly, not saying a word, asked the students to put the curtains on, turn on some light, relaxing music, sat on the desk and using a mild voice told my students that we would be doing poetry. I started by introducing Lord Byron as a poet, a controversial person, his family background and some aspects of his life. The class was silent and relaxed, looking at me straight in the eyes as the story was flowing. I had their full attention. Than I asked them to close their eyes, sit back and relax and focus on my voice. I started reading the poem the way I felt it, with empathy and sadness, stressing out some important lines and words just to inspire the variety of emotions that the poem carries within itself.Upon finishing the reading, I asked the students to tell me what feelings and emotions they recognized in the poem. On the whiteboard I wrote down a long list: sadness, grief, loneliness, anger, despair, depression, disappointment,shame, shyness. I can’t even remember them all right now. Yet, after only one reading, they made an impressive list, I decided to read the Serbian translation of the same poem. My students listened carefully and attentively. I must admit, the translation was not that good. By the way, I don’t believe that some poems cannot be translated in such a way to pass onto the reader the same kind of tone and intonation, music as the original poem can. So, after I had read the translation I asked the students what they thought. Quote: “The original version is better”. Later, when I reflected on the class I thought that maybe I should have read the translation first and than the original. Nevertheless, I still believe that the answer would be the same.

When the reading session was over, I had just explained to my students the rhyming pattern ABABCDCD. I handed out the copies of the poem printed as one stanza and asked them to recognize the patterns and rearrange the poem into 4 or 8 stanzas. Of course, there was no problem there. To finish the class, I invited 4 students to read the poem the way they felt it. And guess what, they all read it differently. One was angry, the other empathic, the third sad, the fourth rebellious. My mission was completed. I managed to have my students identify with the writer and the poem itself, to feel it in their own way and pass the feeling over to the rest of the class.

Of course,  the homework followed. They were supposed to write to ABABCDCD stanzas on whatever topic they choose. When I assigned the homework I knew that they are still young, 16 years of age, and that I should not expect much. How wrong I was. Instead, they were writing in their poems, the problems, the troubles that troubled them, in full depth. I was surprised yet proud. Therefore:

I am posting: A tiny collection of poems “What Will Thy Verse Be”, designed, waiting to be published.

WHAT WILL THY VERSE BE

When you are confronted with such creative potential, something pushes you to go further. So, we decided to make a short movie, in which the authors recite their own poems. The technical quality of the film itself is superb, yet due to the lack of finances on the part of the school, the scenery, the improvisations and the environment is not the best choice. Yet, I will kindly ask you to disregard those imperfection and focus on the students themselves.

To encourage the students/authors, I am kindly inviting you to view, post a comment and like their own work. Thank you!

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