jabberwockyUsually, my 4U students read poems, and we analyze and discuss them. They hate it. This week, in e-learning, I tried a new activity. I’m trying to show them that sometimes we don’t need to know what every word means in a poem to understand it (or to LIKE it).A lot of times students see a word they don’t know, and then they instantly don’t like the poem any longer. I want to change that.
So this is what we did. I posted the nonsense poem, Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll. Benedict Cumberbatch reads this version, which adds to its appeal.

First, I had students consider two questions, with this instruction:

There aren’t wrong answers–I want you to just think about it critically.

1. Can you still understand what the poem (it’s more like a story) is saying, even with the odd words?

2. This poem is in a children’s book. Children have been reading this story for more than a century. They don’t seem to have trouble with it. Why do we, as adults, find it so much more difficult to understand?

The students and I did a scheduled Google Hangout. We talked about the poem together and focused on the two questions.

Then, as an activity, each student composed their own gibberish poem about something. They were to make up at least 10 nonsense words. The catch was that we, as a class, still needed to know what they were talking about. The poem should be 12 lines, and be very simple.

Students could write or record or videotape their poem, and post it to the discussion board. Then students would comment  on each others’ work.

It was a really interesting activity. It was relaxed. The pieces I work I got were even better than I had expected. We read a particularly funny one about grilled cheese.

It will be interesting to see their outlook on poetry going forward.