Friday, 28 March 2014

Fifth Year Debate: 'The Best Poem by Sylvia Plath we studied...'

Coming to the end of a studied poet always brings the inevitable review of themes, techniques and essay points. In the last year or two I've really tried to help pupils appreciate how imaginative and creative a process writing poetry really is. Completing a poet and simply trying to disseminate their work into a bunch of bullet points, whilst maybe partly necessary for exams, just seems a little vacuous, when juxtaposed with the creative brilliance they have just studied.  With that in mind, I set my fifth year class a slightly more engaging way to revise the work of Sylvia Plath:

Step1 ) My pupils sit at group tables so I created an internal debate at each table. Each pupil had to pick a poem by Plath that they felt was 'The best poem I studied by Sylvia Plath'.
Step 2) Each pupil at the table was given half a class to research their poem and create points to support their argument.
Step 3) Each pupil was given part of the second half of class to speak and argue for their poem at their table.
Step 4) The table would then have to decide which poem they were going to put forward into the full class debate.
Step 5) Each table was then given a second class to create a group collection of points in support of their poem.
Step 6) A third and final class was spent recording each speech.

The recording class had so much engagement. There was a real sense of competition and some 'heated discussions' took place 'off camera'. It was great to see pupils show both a knowledge and understanding of their own poem but also by actively listening, and arguing, to other groups they demonstrated a critical appreciation of all the poems we studied by Plath. A collection of the recordings can be found below, which investigate everything from what Caesar and Plath had in common to the quality of Cathal's (a classmate) beard!