We began the lesson as we always will: students briefly stated their individual goals for the day. While I expected some diversity, I was amazed at how students took charge by evaluating themselves and their needs, then chose their first tasks. To give you an idea of the range, here is a list of the activities the students chose:

  • Outline a personal plan for the unit, including daily goals and home activities
  • Review literary devices to identify which ones need to be learned
  • Learn and practice various annotation strategies
  • View strategies on effective oral poetry readings
  • View sample flipped videos to learn how to create their own
  • Choose and review a poem for the visual reading

While a few students were initially paralyzed, I was most impressed with how many embraced the opportunity to make the unit their own. One assessment is a “visual reading”, where students dramatically read a poem and add images and video clips to accompany, and enhance, the experience of hearing the poem. Although there were 12 poems readily available for the task, all 10 of the students who chose this activity decided to find a poem of their own (and therefore, by their own volition, decided to conduct additional reading—an English teacher’s dream). When I asked them why they did so, the response was inevitably “I wanted to find a poem that spoke to me” or “This one line of poetry has been in my head and I wanted to find that poem” or “I was just looking through poems and this one popped out”.

Instead of taking the “easy” route of using a pre-selected poem, they all embraced the personalization and made the task their own. I hope that’s how this unit will continue to unfold.