HOW IT WORKS
PowerPoint Poems is a way for students to play with poetry and learn multi-media design at the same time. The students select a poem of their own or a favorite published poem, and they make it into a dancing, singing work of art as a PowerPoint slide show. They use images, colors, sounds, and creatively positioned and choreographed text to create their displays. In doing this, they study a poem in depth, determine its meaning, and work towards conveying and enhancing that meaning with their design choices. This program has two instructional purposes. First, as a computer technology project, it teaches the use of multimedia design to convey meaning. Secondly, as a language arts project, it engages students in creative response to poetry. In choosing how a poem is displayed, the student demonstrates his/her understanding of its meaning, and contributes to the expression of this meaning with his or her own ideas. The students are also engaged in reflection and critique. They are asked during sharing sessions to explain certain design decisions. They then discuss and defend their choices. They gain a greater appreciation of poetry, a greater understanding of design principles, and more comfort and skills with computers. This also teaches them a program that they can later use for another class project (i.e., presenting a research project or report).
I work with 8-10 students at a time. The students are taken from art or advisory classes to work with me for a marking period. I have done this as both a paired and independent activity. Both were successful, but my preference was for individual work. The participants are seventh and eighth grade students of all academic levels. They have a range of technical experience, but usually none of them have previously used PowerPoint. They pick it up in a flash. Classes meet once per week for an hour in the computer lab.
Andrea Menotti is entering her second year of full-time teaching in the New York City Public Schools. She began as a student teacher while completing her master’s in English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.
WHAT YOU NEED
This project requires a computer with Microsoft PowerPoint, which comes in the Microsoft Office software bundle. Teachers also need an extensive collection of short poems. I choose short, rhyming poems for my collection, since these are most popular with the kids. However, a teacher may decide to choose certain poets based on his/her particular language arts curriculum. Or, if the teacher has a “Writing Workshop” curriculum, the use of the students’ own poems in the project makes an exciting form of publication.
The work the students do on these PowerPoint poems is brilliant. They really shine at this. The students who enjoy writing get to publish their poetry in a new and exciting way. Those who enjoy art get to develop their skills. And the technically inclined get to integrate computers with their language arts experience. Most of all, students who participate in this project have the unique opportunity to take a poem and enhance it, joining in creative collaboration with the original poet. If teachers want to see kids wide-eyed and amazed at what they can do with poetry, then this is the project for them!