Poetry and a Movie is an online language arts course that can be used by students in grades seven through twelve. This directed-study course consists of ten units, with each focused on a single poet. In each unit, students study one or more poems selected by this author, both for appreciation and to analyze literary devices used in those poems.
Students will need to prepare a binder to serve as their course notebooks. (Instructions are given.) The book Poetry Matters by Ralph Fletcher is used throughout the course, so you need to obtain a copy. Other books about the selected poets or books containing their works will be used with the course; you can buy them, but these should be available through your library. For example, the course uses eight brief books (48 pages each) from the series Poetry for Young People on the poets William Blake; Edgar Allen Poe; Walt Whitman; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Langston Hughes; William Wordsworth; William Butler Yeats; and Robert Frost. Two other poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Dylan Thomas, are studied using other resources. Students will read biographical, historical, and literary information from these books.
Most of the works of these poets are available in the public domain, but, since all are not, the required books are necessary for access to some of the poems. As students study poems, they should mark them up. To do so, they need printouts or photocopies of poems. Printable copies are sometimes included within the lesson plans, but not for poems still under copyright. You will need to make your own copies from the books for marking up.
Each of the ten units includes many web links to online resources that add interesting elements to the lessons. Each unit is divided into seven or eight lessons, with navigation on the left and the course material on the right. The first lesson, “Background,” might assign pages from one of the sourcebooks on the poet. Students might also learn about the poet and his work by watching videos or reading articles for which internet links are provided. Students are to create two or three trivia questions from this information. They can also add information on the poet to a timeline. (Information on timelines and how to use trivia questions is in “A Letter to Parents on How to Use this Course.”)
The second lesson of most units is on literary elements. The course links primarily to instructional information at literarydevices.net literarydevices.net/, but it also links to other instructional videos. Students will add information about each literary device to their binder.
The Poetry lesson that follows presents another poem by the author to broaden familiarity with their work. Most of the time the poem is included within the online lesson and can be printed out. In most cases, students can also listen to a recitation of the poem via a video or audio link. Links to background and poetry composition information help students understand the meaning and the stylistic devices used.
The Your Turn lesson might take the most time. Here students might read an assignment from Poetry Matters, complete a writing assignment, study for or be quizzed on trivia questions, or have “Poetry Tea Time” which is explained on the publisher's site. Some lessons add links to other helpful articles or videos.
The next lesson sets the stage for the movie that students will watch by explaining how the movie is linked to the primary poem for each author. The lesson plan also has background on the movie or its subject matter, most often through links to one or more videos or articles. A link to a review gives parents a chance to get a sense of whether or not they want their teens to watch a particular movie. Movies include titles such as Citizen Kane, Chariots of Fire, Holes, and Dead Poets Society.
The grammar component, which comes last in each unit, uses grammar lectures from Khan Academy. Students will need to create a free account with Khan Academy to access the lessons. Grammar lessons cover the parts of speech, punctuation, sentences and clauses, subject-verb agreement, usage, and style. However, they cover these topics at a fairly basic level, a level more suitable for an English language learner for at least some of the topics. You can use these lessons or not as you wish. Each Khan Academy unit (one unit is assigned for each poetry unit) includes a quiz and a unit test.
The final project is writing an essay. As with the other lessons, instructional information and links help students through the essay-writing process.
Lessons present information sort of like a smorgasbord. Students might easily skip over sections of the lesson plans. Still, there are some methods for holding students accountable. If they use the grammar lessons, there are quizzes and tests online. Assignments to mark up poems to identify particular literary elements provide another way of assessing whether or not students understood the information. (A separate answer key which is emailed to parents shows correct markups.) Also, student composition work under both the “Your Turn!” lesson and the final essay assignment are additional opportunities to evaluate student work, although parents are not given rubrics or directions for evaluation.
This is a new course, and there are some minor rough spots such as in one lesson where there is a lack of clarity about which link to use to get to an article. However, since the author is continually improving the course and is very responsive to feedback, these are not major issues and might not even exist by the time you check it out.
Linking poems with memorable movies is a brilliant method of making poetry more interesting and understandable to students, and that’s the real value of the Poetry and a Movie course. It can serve as your complete language arts course for one year. However, if you want to use other resources for composition or grammar, you can skip those components within this course. You can also use Poetry and a Movie to supplement other language arts courses.