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Poetry Alive! Interpreting Poetry Using Digital Images

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Keywords: poetry, video, creative writing, photography, group work
Subject(s): English/Language Arts, Art, Technology, Photography
Grades 9 through 12
School: Thomas Dale High School, Chester, VA
Planned By: Sonja Mix
Original Author: Sonja Mix, Chester

Sonja Mix, Thomas Dale High School
Chester, VA

During my teaching career, I can predict my student’s responses when I tell them that we will begin a new unit reading, analyzing, and discussing poetry. After a few minutes of moaning and the occasional “Oh Ms. Mix, anything but poetry,” and the most famous question of them all, “Why do we have to study poetry? What does poetry have to do with my life?” it is easy to conclude that most students do not appreciate poetry. I designed this project with the intentions of making poetry come “alive” by using traditional teaching methods with technology.

Lesson Objectives:
•Understand how different camera images and techniques convey the tone of a poem
•Learn to film using video and still images to convey poem’s tone.
•Understand that poetry is a way of expressing one’s innermost feelings and be able to express their own feelings through this medium.
•Understand and appreciate how a poet’s message is conveyed through the use of various poetic techniques/devices.
•Appreciate how memorization and recitation of poetry can aid in self-expression and self-confidence.
•Understand effective rate, volume, pitch, and tone for the audience and setting,

The Creative Writing students will write original poems using various poetic techniques to convey a specific tone. These tone words include awe, cynical, didactic, jovial, mocking, quizzical, reflective, and indignant. The English students will use these poems for their image projects. A team of English students will take the role of a production company and create an original digital film interpreting the poem using the DIGITAL CAMERAS. Each production team will be paired with a student, from the Actor's Studio class, who will recite the poem.

Each team will recite, interpret, and create digital still images and short video clips using various camera shots and techniques. The TOOL FACTORY PAINTER will be used to enhance the images using the various special effects. The students will use these still images and video clips and create their movies in Windows Movie Maker and create MPEGs. At the end of the project, the students will use TOOL FACTORY WORD PROCESSOR and MULTIMEDIA LAB V to create their poetry and film interactive projects on the internet, so other students will be able to view the projects. Each group will give a brief presentation of their films discussing the artistic decisions made after examining the language of the poem.


Stage One: The first stage of this project is for the Creative Writing class to write poems based on specific tone words. The creative writing teacher will give specific instructions on how to work with language and use specific poetic techniques to reflect a specific tone.

Stage Two: While the Creative Writing students are creating their poems, my English students will be given a lesson on how to identify a poem’s tone. They will read and analyze several poems and the poetic techniques used to convey the tone of the poem. In the next step of the project, I will show the students examples of how still and moving images can reflect the tone of the poem. In this stage of the project, I show them several soliloquies from Shakespeare’s plays as a demonstration of the different ways in which image is used to interpret the soliloquies. I will use scenes from Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, Twelfth Night, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Richard III to show how various film techniques are used. These techniques include lighting, framing, set design, use of color, costume, and camera techniques.

Stage Three: I will divide the students into five groups which will consist of a Producer, Director/Camera Operator, Storyboard Artist, Set Designer, Film Editor. The Producers will meet with me and we will create each group. The producers are responsible for planning, organizing, and disseminating information to their group members. Also, they will help their group members with their roles. The Producers will use the TOOL FACTORY BANK MANAGER to organize the image bank that the students will create during the course of the project. Before the students begin work, they will choose a poem from the Creative Writing class and discuss the word choice in the poem and how it reflects the tone. Listing these important words will be the foundation of their project. The Director is responsible for documenting the narrator of the poem as well as the character traits that he or she possesses. Then he or she will decide on the camera shots and techniques that support the tone of the poem. The Set Designer will make the decisions of the setting and costumes to capture the mood of the poem. The Storyboard Artist will document the sequence of events of the images, the set design, and the camera techniques. The editor will use the Storyboard to edit the images and video into the Moviemaker program. The editor will also be responsible for creating the opening image, credits, and closing credits of the film.

Stage Four: Once the group has made its artistic decisions, they will need to choose an actor. The production team will choose an actor from the Actor’s Studio class. The group will work together and discuss their artistic decisions.

Stage Five: The groups will start to film using a mixture of still and video images with the DIGITAL CAMERAS. FRESCO will be used to add special effects to the images. Once the images and video clips have been created, the film editor will retrieve the images from the TOOL FACTORY BANK MANAGER to import the images into Microsoft Windows movie maker and create a MPEG movie. After the films have been created, they will use the MULTIMEDIA LAB V to create their own Webpages. On the webpage they will include the text of the poem as well as the film.

Stage Six: Each group will present to all classes, Creative Writing, and Actor’s Studio. At this stage, the production teams will present to all the classes involved. They will give a brief presentation of their artistic decisions, as well as answer questions that the other students might have about their films. Every student will have an evaluation sheet and give constructive feedback for each project.

Stage Seven: All the films will be burned onto a DVD and given to each student. The films will be posted on the Internet so other teachers will be able to use these projects in their own poetry units. For example, the students from other classes could read the poems and watch the films and write an essay explaining how the film does or does not capture the tone of the poem.

This type of project gives the students a personal and hands on experience dealing with the language of poetry. Using the digital image to aid in their interpretations will help them analyze, discuss, and interpret other poems that they will read.

Supplemental Material:
Each student will receive a packet for this project. I will include handouts on Copyright laws, story board design, background music, introduction to editing, framing, and video titles. These worksheets will help focus and organize students so they can work independently. After each group meeting, the students must complete a Self-Reflecting survey. This survey helps them stay organized, keeps me up to date of the group’s progress, and gives me an evaluation tool for each student.

•The student will plan, present, and critique dramatic readings of literary selections (9.1)
•The student will read and analyze a variety of poetry. (10.5)
•The student will use writing to interpret, analyze, and evaluate ideas. (10.10)
•The student will make a 5 to 10 minute formal oral presentation. (12.1)
•The student will evaluate formal presentations. (12.2)
•The student will explain how the choice of words in a poem creates tone and voice. (12.5)

•The student will demonstrate proficiency in the use of technology. (C/T 9-12.2)
•The student will demonstrate knowledge of technologies that support collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity. (C/T 9-12.5)
•Use available technological tools to expand and enhance understanding of ideas and concepts. (C/T 9-12.6)
•Use technology-based options, including distance and distributed education, to collaborate, research, publish, and communicate. (C/T 9-12.9)

Visual Arts
•The student will produce works of art that demonstrate the experimental application of the elements of art and the principles of design. (AI.3)
•The student will recognize and identify technological developments in the visual arts. (AI.4)
•The student will demonstrate the use of technology and electronic media as artistic tools. (AI.5)
•The student will identify and examine symbols in works of art and discuss possible reasons for their use. (AI.18)
•The student will demonstrate in writing the ability to support personal criteria for making visual aesthetic judgments. (AI.28)

Theatre Arts
•The student will understand and apply principles of technical theatre by demonstrating knowledge of the technical components of theatre ¾ set, properties, lighting, sound, costuming, and makeup (TI.4)
•The student will demonstrate acting skills and techniques, including vocal control, stage movement, script analysis, and rehearsal techniques representing selected styles, by making vocal and physical choices that represent characterization, conflict, and production style; performing a fully rehearsed and memorized role; and, incorporating suggestions from the director.

Judges' Comments:

"Well thought out, objectives clearly defined, entertaining/creative, students will be engaged- TOOL FACTORY software well utilized."

"Extremely well devised proposal! I appreciated the different roles the students could take in the project. I also was impressed with the different software chosen to assist in the project."

Because of our limited server space and because the students are not allowed to save their projects on the computer’s hard drive, it is important that we have an external hard rive to store the projects’ images and videos.
Materials: Point and Shoot, Digital SLR, Mobile Labs, Word Processor, Paint, Web Page, Clipart, Worksheets, Podcasting, Video Editing, English and Language Arts, Camera Bags, xD Memory Cards, Digital Voice Recorders, Flash/USB Drives, Batteries
Other Items: 1 800 Bus-Powered Hard Drive - 5400rpm - Titanium, $ 248.95 each, total of $248.95
1 DVD+/-RW with LightScribe 16x External FireWire-400 DVD Burner with Toast Titanium 7, $ 169.95 each, total of $169.95
1 100 DVDRs, $ 40.00 each, total of $40.00
1 DVD Labels, $ 80.00 each, total of $80.00