Today’s #TeachLivingPoets post is brought to you by guest writer Dustin McConnell, an ELA teacher at Timberland High School in St. Stephen, South Carolina. This is his sixth year teaching, and he teaches English IV (11th-12th grade) and Creative Writing (9th-12th grade). He is currently working towards a masters in Library Media. Outside of school, he enjoys reading, writing, running, and spending time with his wife and dog, while awaiting the birth of his daughter in May. You can follow Dustin on Twitter at @D_W_McConnell.
In an effort to provide my Creative Writing students with a culminating project for our poetry unit that gave students choice and voice, I had them create poetry zines.
If you are unfamiliar with zines, they are essentially self-published “magazines” that you can make out of an 8.5×11 inch sheet of printer paper, whatever craft or scrapbooking supplies you have on hand, and the artwork and/or writing you want to put inside of them. Once made, all you need to publish them is a photocopier or a scanner with a printer, and voila, you have a published piece of work to share with whomever you please.
Before putting together the zines, we spent the month of February going through a daily routine which included reading and discussing a Poem of the Day (most of which I found through Poetry Foundation). Our discussion focused on what the students noticed, and what techniques they could steal for their own works. After reading a poem, students tried their hand at the forms on a Poetry Choice Board I made for this project. In addition to the poems on the choice board, we explored writing raps as explained in this video, and mashup poems which were introduced to me by Melisa Smith who shared with me the poem “Call and Response” by Kyle Dargan. After we made it through the choice board and students had tried their hand at a variety of poems, we started putting together our zines.
To introduce them to zines, I first of all modeled what I was asking them to do with a zine I had created.
Next, I posted to Google Classroom this How To Video, as well as a few other links to articles I found through a quick Google search. Students could choose to work individually, or with a group of 2-3 people. I asked that students put at least four to six poems in their zine and that they work to find a theme that connected all the poems. I planned for one full block to plan their zine, and one full block in the library to put it all together.
My students worked diligently to plan their zine on the first day, most of them making to-do lists or planning the layout as shown in the how-to video. They discussed what poems they would use and made plans for the visuals. When we went to the library to put the projects together on the second day, they continued the work. I gave them a brief reminder of their objective and showed them what craft supplies I had gathered for them to use, and they were off.
In the end, no two zines were alike. One student created a zine full of haikus and limericks about his favorite video game. Another created a zine of fan-fic poems and drawings based on the Percy Jackson franchise. On a heavier note, one of my students wrote several poems that explored her anxiety stemming from a former abusive relationship. Other students wrote about childhood memories, lost loved ones, etc. As a teacher, it was exciting to read their work as it revealed so much about their personalities and interests.
When I have students create zines next year, one thing I will consider is how to encourage students to fit more of their longer poems–sonnets and bops, for example– into the zines. Due to their small size, many students chose shorter poems to put in their zines such as haikus, joybells, and limericks. Additionally, many of the poems could have gone through another round or two of revision. In spite of this, I was still pleased with the results.
Overall, the zines accomplished what I had hoped. They were an engaging project that let students self-publish poems about topics they cared about. Due to this low-tech publishing option, students were able to walk away with a stack of photocopied work to share with friends, family members, teachers, or perfect strangers, and several students expressed an interest in creating more zines in the future.
Thank you, Dustin, for sharing this project that allows student voice to shine! I will definitely be doing zines with my Creative Writing class this year. What a great way to offer student choice and an opportunity to share their work.
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