Poetry and a Movie is an online-directed language arts course that can be used by students in grades seven through twelve. The course consists of ten units, each of which focuses on a single poet. In each unit, students study one or more selected poems by this author, both for appreciation and to analyze literary devices used in those poems.
Students will need to prepare a binder to serve as their course notebooks. (Instructions are given.) The book Poetry Matters by Ralph Fletcher is used throughout the course, so you need to obtain a copy. Other books about the selected poets or books containing their works will be used with the course; you can buy them, but these should be available through your library. For example, the course uses eight brief books (48 pages each) from the series Poetry for Young People on the poets William Blake, Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Langston Hughes, William Wordsworth, William Butler Yeats, and Robert Frost. Two other poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Dylan Thomas, are studied using other resources. Students will read biographical, historical, and literary information from these books.
Most, but not all, of the works of these poets are available in the public domain, so the required books are necessary, in some cases, for access to the poems. As students study poems, they should mark them up, so they should also have printouts or photocopies of poems. (Printable copies are sometimes included within the lesson plan.)
Each of the ten units includes many web links to online resources that add interesting elements to the lessons. Each unit is divided into seven or eight lessons with navigation on the left and the course material on the right. The first section, “Background,” might assign pages from one of the sourcebooks on the poet. Students might also learn about the poet and his work by watching videos and/or reading articles for which Internet links are provided. Students are to create two or three trivia questions from this information. They can also add information on the poet to a timeline. (Information on timelines and how to use trivia questions is in “A Letter to Parents on How to Use this Course.”)
The second section of most units is on literary elements. The course links primarily to instructional information at literarydevices.net https://literarydevices.net/, but it also links to other instructional videos. Students will add information about each literary device to their binder. This section of the lesson often includes a printable copy of one or more poems that students will mark up to identify literary devices.
The Poetry section that follows presents another poem by the author. Most of the time the poem is included here and can be printed out. In most cases, students can also listen to a recitation of the poem via a video or audio link. Links to background and poetry composition information help students understand the meaning and the stylistic devices used.
The Your Turn section of the lesson might take the most time. Here students might read an assignment from Poetry Matters, complete a writing assignment, study or be quizzed on trivia questions, or have “Poetry Tea Time” which is explained here. Some lessons add links to other helpful articles or videos.
The next section sets the stage for the movie that students will watch by explaining how the movie is linked to the poem. The lesson plan also has background on the movie or its subject matter, most often through links to one or more videos or articles. In the following section of the lesson, a link to a review gives parents a chance to get a sense of whether or not they want their teens to watch a particular movie. Movies include titles such as Citizen Kane, Chariots of Fire, Holes, and Dead Poets Society which should be acceptable to most families.
The grammar component, which comes last in each unit, uses grammar lectures from Khan Academy. Students will need to create a free account with Khan Academy to access the lessons. Grammar lessons cover the parts of speech, punctuation, sentences and clauses, subject-verb agreement, usage, and style. However, they cover these topics at a fairly basic level, a level most suitable for an English language learner for at least some of the topics. You can use these lessons or not as you wish. Each Khan Academy unit (one unit is assigned for each poetry unit) includes a quiz and a unit test.
A final essay writing project is completed at the end of the course. As with the other lessons, instructional information and links help students through the essay-writing process.
Lessons present information sort of like a smorgasbord. Students might easily skip over sections of the lesson plan. Still, there are some methods for holding students accountable. If they use the grammar lessons, there are quizzes and tests online. Assignments to markup poems to identifying particular literary elements provide another way of assessing whether or not students understood the information. (A separate answer key which is emailed to parents shows correct markups.) Also, both student composition work under the “Your Turn!” section of each lesson and the final essay assignment provide additional opportunities to evaluate student work, although parents are not given rubrics or directions for evaluation.
This is a new course, and there are some minor rough spots such as it being unclear which link to use to get to an article. However, the author is continually improving the course and is very responsive to feedback.
Linking poems with memorable movies is a brilliant method of making poetry more interesting and understandable to students, and that’s the real value of the Poetry and a Movie course. It can serve as your complete language arts course for one year. However, if you want to use other resources for composition and/or grammar, you can skip those components within this course. You can also use Poetry and a Movie to supplement other courses.