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Preface to Sims World History Poems
Why did I compose these poems? Honestly, I enjoy playing with words these days as much as playing baseball in days of yore. I just wanted to do it. It can be galling when someone does something halfway and blames the mess on God, but I admit to belonging to those who feel behind my desires and surely the wherewithal to this modest effort came from above. In this context one still says it came naturally. For me, I mean the most simplistic of poems isn’t exactly the stuff of Pindar, so I’m surely not boasting. That explanation shouldn’t suffice, though, for my present target group- the pedagogic, differentiating, accommodating, postmodern, anti-European, separated, facilitating, facilitator-not-teacher-pouring-their-genius-into-empty-barrels kind of reader, whose goal is to allow the pupil to lead in their creativity and, indeed, curriculum, amidst their student-based, document-based, standards-based, cross-curricular… I forgot where I was going… So allow me to scratch my head and consider some excellent pedagogical rationale to sell my…I mean to convince you to incorporate these priceless treasures into the paradigm pictured above. The pitch…
Rationale for extraordinary pedagogical efficacy:
a. In our pursuit of differentiating, we former plain ol’ teachers- present facilitators- desire to inspire our sheep to creatively approach different themes and tasks. To think outside the box. It may seem elementary, but even Watson may agree about some modeling of such magic. In my own very basic corn poke manner, I’ve taken a stab at conjuring up this creativity cloudburst within my finite parameters- rhymed verses of various people, places, issues and events in this world of ours.
b. I urge my kids throughout the year to write their own poems on subjects we have had or on related topics that pique their interest, be it the old Assassin’s Creed when covering Florence and the Italian-led Renascimento. I once was told by a kid who suddenly woke up, that he was all over Florence in his video game. At that moment, I was in the yearly time I have pupils writing a five-paragraph article on anything they choose that occurred during the Middles Ages/ Renaissance. I’d never heard of Assassin’s Creed. This boy hadn’t written more than his name until this point, but when I told him to tell me about it- write it down and illustrate it- he went nuts. He lit it up and he was lit… at least for a while, i.e. I caught his thunder- his bite. And really, though not a star academic, he was never the same toward me and World History! This holds for all levels- AP, honors, college prep and even our former level one kids- they’re all in and they all possess some creative magic.
c. Kids at least love doing the 5-7-5 syllabic haikus when we hit Japan and limericks when we touch base with our inner Ireland. If nothing else, I’ll get them all clicking with these two poetic forms.
d. Forced baby-step creativity: we can require our charges to add one couplet, or two, etc. to these poems. That can get them going! Hey, if Selim the Grim can write poetry in three languages, don’t you think our masses can go for one?
e. My poems model an elementary form of creativity that can be applied to a limitless number of things- not simply other poetry. Whatever my kids are good at, music, computer softwar or games, acting, building or engineering work, architecture on computer programs, or whatever they may enjoy- you name it, I encourage them with my poetic art to be more creative than their teacher in a myriad of ways. “Write some music! Create a computer program- a little one at first, like with the poems! Draw the next model for Mercedes-Benz! Use your creative juices! Don’t be a sponge!”This can have that influence. It only takes a spark… And great trees begin as small seeds!
2. Illustrative yearning/ drawing fun-
a. It may be that my encouragement for the kids to illustrate the poems fulfills a desire stripped from our aging post middle school ‘oldies’. I mainly have sophomores who regularly pass me in the halls after moving on to their junior year, and bemoan the fact that their drawing skills are no longer wished. “I’d love to be back…” These are still kids, some of whom have fostered this natural talent since they were knee high to a grasshopper. A picture is worth… Why do we strait-jacket these kids thirsting for some vestige of a simpler and bygone world? I let/ encourage/ make my kids illustrate everything they do for me the entire year.
b. For others who have not been privileged or encouraged to draw, as soon as they observe more seasoned peers getting back their Picassos on my poem paper, they invariably try their luck. C’mon stick figure guys- DO YOUR BEST! And they come round…NO silly, not every pupil, but the majority get moving. I’ve witnessed great improvement through ther year for many. They strive to get one star- my highest subjective class work grade-and I try to milk them until they do- even if it isn’t Michelangelo worthy stuff. “I got it! I got a star!” Tears to my eyes- they really care! I lavish praise on those who have fear of being ridiculous, and as inferred, reward them with a little extra class work grade… for trying. History doesn’t have to be boring!
3. Poems as an introduction or review-
a. Review- My initial salvo was a review to the material for our first major test. I had fun and basically taught the test with the poem before the unsuspecting pupils. This review seemed to work, and- voila- I saw the light. More would follow. And still do.
b. Introduction- as the last rhyming word of each couplet is all that is left out, if reading the poem on the large screen through the data processor, or wherever they get it, the kids can and do make a college try sometimes without having the slightest clue about the material at hand. This is just a start to get their minds to wrap around the concept at hand. After they master the main ideas and concept involved, a return to the same poem as review with the blanks unfilled should be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezey.
4. Use as a warm-up-
a. Use a small section of a poem as a warm-up. Make the kids add one couplet. You be creative with your instructions and tell them to be creative- BUT NOT STUPID (purposeful stupidity is strictly verboten!)- even if they’re unsure of the topic at hand. Add a couplet!
5. Use as a ticket out the door-
a. Now, good pupil-scholars, with this fresh information we’ve been discussing and debating, let’s have one more rhyming (or non-rhyming) couplet. Use your noodle! Don’t be a nudnik!
a. One should contact art and literature teachers to see when paths are colliding and when pupils can serve both masters, i.e. double up with art and/or poetry and their World History class. It’s another way to get that fire fanned teaming with other professionals serving them.