TeachLivingPoets Distance Learning Project

bhToday’s distance learning project post is by Brian Hannon, who teaches AP Language and Composition, AP Literature and Composition, and English 11 at Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, Virginia. Outside of school, Brian currently serves as the Youth and Education Development Fellow at the Washington D.C. non-profit poetry organization, Split This Rock.  He also works part-time for the Ultimate Fighting Championship and as a Muay Thai instructor. In 2018, Brian was a finalist for Fairfax County Public Schools Teacher of the Year and was his conference’s Coach of the Year for Hayfield’s Varsity Tennis Team.

Since we’re stuck at home and have been directed to create lessons that students can complete remotely, I’m sure that many of you feel a bit of pressure to come up with engaging, meaningful lessons that don’t require TOO much oversight from yourselves.  I, too, am in that boat, so I just wanted to share an assignment that worked well for me and my students, one that they were able to complete independently.  In retrospect, I wish I had assigned this lesson AFTER the closure of school, but I don’t think anybody was prescient enough to predict the pandemic that we now find ourselves in!

In short, the students have to find a living poet, conduct a bit of research on said poet, pick one of their poems, analyze it, record a “Genius” style video of that analysis, then post it on a shared website.

  1. HERE is a student sample of their “Genius Style” Analysis.
  2. HERE is a quick video of what the final product should look like when all of your students are done with their videos and have posted their work to the site.

First, you’ll need to do a bit of work on your part before you start this project with your students. Here’s what you need to do to BEFORE you share anything with your students.

  • Create a Google Site.

Create a Google Site in which to house all of the students’ work. It’s a relatively simple process, but HEREs a quick tutorial on how to go about doing so.

* If you want to have a ready-made sample on this site for the students can look at, you can use all of the information that I used for Clint Smith in the Instructional HyperDoc provided below.  Simply follow the steps that’s provided for the students!

  • Add Your Students as Collaborators.

Your students will need editing access to your newly created site to post their own finished products. What I did to make my life a bit easier is go into Google Classroom and copy all of their email addresses and paste them in the space where it asked me to add collaborators.  Make sure that your students have permission to edit, but NOT TO PUBLISH.

HERE’S quick tutorial on how to add collaborators if you’re not familiar how to do it.

  • Create an Editable Sign Up Sheet.

I didn’t want my students to be creating their projects on the same poets/poems, so I had them sign up for their poets in Google Sheets to prevent that from happening. You’ll need to make sure that the sharing settings in this Google Sheets are set to “ANYBODY WITH THE LINK CAN EDIT.”  If you’d like to simply make a copy of this document, you can click HERE to access the Sheet that I used.

Once you’ve created this document, you need to link it to STEP ONE in the Instructional HyperDoc (provided below).

  • Create a Google Form to Collect Student Work.

This part is optional, but I created a Google Form that the students filled out upon completion so I’d have a copy of all of their written work in one place. You can click HERE to access the form and make a copy for yourself.

Once you’ve completed those steps, you’re ready to go!  I’ve already created all the materials and instructions you’ll need, so they’ll all be hyperlinked to all the instructions below.

  1. STEP ONE: Introduce the assignment.

I put together a quick overview of the assignment so the students knew what would be expected of them before sending them on their way. HERE is a copy of that presentation/overview.

  1. STEP TWO: Share the Instructional HyperDoc with the students.

All of the information and materials the students will need are housed in this HYPERDOC. The instructional HyperDoc has the rubric, step by step instructions, the outline, tutorials, examples, and more.

You’ll have to add a few things of your own, like the deadline(s), your sign-up sheet, and the Google Form if you chose to create one.  Simply make a copy of the HyperDoc so you can edit it where you see fit.  And when you share it with your students, make sure they do not have editing access. 

  1. STEP THREE: Make sure your students are aware of the deadlines and specifications!

The only real issue I had with my students was that students weren’t formatting the pages as specified in the Instructional HyperDoc. It’s not a HUGE issue, but it was a bit annoying having to constantly remind them to go back and hyperlink everything to the correct places.  I actually gave them a separate grade to make sure everything was formatted and submitted the way it was specified in the instructions.

And that’s basically it!  It may seem like there are many moving parts to the assignment, and there kind of are, but as long as the students follow the directions, they’ll be fine.

I’m really proud of the final products that my students came up with, and now I have a beautiful, bountiful website of living poets that I can continue to build upon with my AP Literature students in years to come!  Unfortunately, I can’t share that site with all of you now because it was created using my county credentials and there are settings in place that restrict anybody else from outside the county from accessing it.

Like I said, I wish I knew that we’d be stuck at home BEFORE I assigned this project because my students enjoyed having the opportunity to have the freedom of choosing their own poets/poems.  Ultimately, that’s what our students need right now in this unsettling time: something – even a school related project – that can potentially provide them with a sense freedom and joy.

WOW! Thank you, Bryan, for this incredible project. Did y’all check out his HYPERDOC – that alone is a work of art! Pure GOLD. I am so appreciative of Bryan’s hard work here, and the ways in which it allows students to have choice, think deeply and critically about poems, and collaborate to make a beautiful curation of living poets who move them. 

Thank you for reading! Do you have a story, lesson, activity, or something else to share with TeachLivingPoets.com? Be a guest author! Email me at msmith@lncharter.org. 

If you want to order a #TeachLivingPoets shirt, check out my awesome sister-in-law’s Facebook store Megan’s Makes and support a small business owner! Shirt options are: gray/blue/black/white/red/green/purple unisex crew-neck S-XXXL and white/black women’s v-neck S-XL. All shirts are $20, PayPal accepted.

You can follow me on Twitter at @MelAlterSmith and please tweet all the awesome things you are doing in your class with the #TeachLivingPoets hashtag! 

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