Posted by: Brian Sztabnik
Class: AP Literature and Composition
School: Miller Place High School
My students are in the midst of a Romantic poetry unit, and I wanted them to understand the importance of re-reading when faced with a difficult poem. To convey that, the students spent the first 10 minutes of class looking at 3-D art. Some samples are below. On the first attempt 90% saw nothing and let it be known. I encouraged them to keep looking, relax the eyes, let things jump out at them. And then it happened. One student said, “Oh my gosh I see it. It is so cool” Then another. Those who got it began to help the others because they wanted them to have the same experience. Some still struggled; nothing jumped out at them. But during the 10 minutes nearly 75% were successful and saw dimension and depth. What was once blurry suddenly became focused.
When time was up I told them they had just worked with metaphor. We were using the experience of 3-D art to create a close association between two seemingly different entities to enhance understanding and insight. Viewing the image is similar to reading a poem. In poetry, understanding and meaning don’t arrive after a quick, superficial, first read. They are the product of patience, examination and insight. I told them that they have to re-read just like they had to stare. Eventually they will see the dimensions of a poem, eventually things would jump out, eventually the blurry elements of a poem would gain focus.
We then transitioned to a reading of “The World is Too Much With Us” by Wordsworth. The allusions and paradoxes can pose some difficulties for students but they had 10 minutes to constantly re-read it and annotate, allowing the blurry parts to come into focus. Dictionaries allowed unfamiliar vocab to come into focus, they wrote down questions, they researched the allusions, they annotated the images. In all, they showed patience and focus.
The period ended with each student coming up to the board and annotating one thing that “jumped out at them” in their readings of the poem. When the bell rang, we had a fairly comprehensive understanding of the poem. And I didn’t have to tell them any of it… they showed it to me.