Teaching Poetry with Prezi – Poetry in motion! by @MrLotter

imageThis is a guest post from Tiaan Lotter (@MrLotter), a Google Certified Teacher from South Africa. Tiaan is a very innovative Afrikaans teacher from Parklands College and he frequently presents at conferences around South Africa. Visit his website at . In previous guest posts Tiaan shared about his experience at the Google Teacher Academy in London; he also contributed Gone Google? Now go Advanced…; and the last post was Teaching with Twitter in #AfrikaansThanks for sharing so freely with us Tiaan and Parklands College.


Teaching poetry

I have used preset works of poetry, set my own, paper and coloured pens, projectors (the old-fashioned and modern kind), PowerPoints and Keynotes to teach learners poetry.

“Why do we need to do poetry, sir?” I often hear the cries. The response is simple: If we have an opportunity to learn from those that do it the best we must take it, including poetry. Poets are skilled wordsmiths and it is their job to be best at using a language, they then serve as our tutors to using new vocabulary, figurative and literal speech as well as other language devices.

The manipulation of information to learn

To enhance engagement of learners, retention of information, the acquisition of new knowledge abilities and skills. To cause change in our learners: movement in their intellectual capacities, we dance, act, discipline, play, give and take freedom for the benefit of our learners.

“As we move into the next century and more technologically sophisticated industry and service sectors, work becomes more abstract, depending on understanding and manipulating information rather than merely acquiring it.” (Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice, Jack Mizerow)

Learning has many definitions which all contain an element of change on the part of the learner. This usually includes the acquisition of a new ability or being able to prove this new ability was gained. The latter we term “assessment” and some frown on the heavy emphasis that is placed on it. However, learning remains the foundation of what we aim to achieve.

“Tell me, and I’ll listen. 

Show me, and I’ll understand. 

Involve me, and I’ll learn.”

This quote has been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, a Teton Lakota Indian and as a Chinese Proverb, I do not know which is true, but in my experience the quote holds truth. It speaks directly to the principle of learning through the manipulation of information, circumstances and one’s environment.

Using Prezi to Teach Poetry

Teaching and learning what poetry has to offer through the manipulation of a poem using Prezi has changed my entire outlook on teaching verse. Instead of being bound to a static image / page (it doesn’t matter how cool the picture is) there is only so much interest it will awaken in a learner. But what if an entire poem about making contact looked like an iPhone and the learners are able to manipulate the information around it. Here is what I came up with to teach my first Grade 12 Afrikaans First Additional Language poem, Kontak by Theo de Jager:

(Click on this link to be taken to the full prezihttp://prezi.com/g5hf8usv5sfu/kontak-theo-de-jager/# 

My learners’responses

Apart from the initial “Wow, sir! This is awesome,” I was told by learners, they universally agreed it is a clearer and more concise version of what we did before, except now they can take control of the wheel. I explained various parts of the poem – was able to jump from one part to the other effortlessly – and when a learner wanted to review what I said before or work ahead they could easily do so on their own devices. I choose to share all of my work with my learners – you can do the same.

Transforming all the Grade 12 Afrikaans FAL setworks using Prezi

I immediately went on a quest to transform all the Grade 12 Afrikaans FAL set work poems into manipulable pieces of information using Prezi. You can find them all and more here: http://prezi.com/user/ym_nywyiwcj6/ I did not stray too far from my old approach – the learners were allowed to make notes on paper, keyboard or tablet. Learners with their laptops or tablets with them were able to take in information visually, audially and through manipulation of the information – kinaesthetically. I did not end the lesson there. I used Google Docs to have each class collaboratively in groups answer questions adding peer learning into the mix. We then reviewed the questions and answers, each group being responsible to answer and justify their questions – attaining the highest form of learning: explaining it to someone else. Of course, some learners will take full advantage of this, while others need to be pushed and motivated to do so.


What I didn’t do…

Teaching poetry again I’ll definitely add in something I added in when we revised our novel: creationism. Although the learners were engaged and were assimilating knowledge, I strongly believe that modern day education should address the main curriculum of teaching learners how to learn. I also believe this is achieved through involvement. Having learners create their own Prezi’s (or other forms of presentations) and questions and answers (using a guide based on some kind of Educational Taxonomy – there seems to be quite a few going around lately).

What we shouldn’t do…

Technology is a wonderful tool that has revolutionised everything that it has touched including teaching. But, we must be aware of something that Michael Fullan, in his book Stratosphere, calls the seduction of technology. We must be careful that technology does not outstrip our ability to learn how to use it effectively. In this sense we recognise our own abilities to learn how to learn. Technology will not teach for us. Before pens and paper we taught on stone walls and stone tablets. Today we are teaching on electronic walls and electronic tablets. “The more things change the more they stay the same.” (Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr) is an old adage. What matters most is the way in which we adapt to use our tools and toys to prepare learners for a world that does not exist yet.

SchoolNet says: Thank you very much Tiaan for this explanation of how you teach Grade 12 Afrikaans poetry using Prezi. Your learners are very fortunate to have such an innovative teacher!  We really appreciate you sharing your knowledge via the SchoolNet blog.  

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