Poetry can be beautiful, mysterious, insightful, and fun to discuss with others. Because the meanings of poems are not always obvious, poetry lends itself to close reading and discussion. Students and teachers often enjoy the challenge of picking apart the possible meanings of a poem and exploring their thoughts about them. This “how-to” will show you how you can facilitate poetry discussions with your class online in a 3D virtual world. I include suggestions for teachers and instructions for students for each “step” of the lesson plan, and I encourage you to modify any aspect of this lesson so that it can suit the need of your particular students, schedule, and learning goals.
In advance of the lesson, head to www.edorble.com and claim a virtual world for your class. Let your students know your world code so that they join the right world.
When discussing poetry, it’s helpful to have the text in front of all participants. This way, when people are trying to make an argument about the poem, it’s easy to point to and quote specific lines. In Edorble, the class can use the in-world screen to display a poem and look at it together. Also, it can add another dimension if students are in a space where they can read aloud and and hear poetry, as the way a poem is read often adds layers of meaning, or draws particular meanings out of the poem. In Edorble, students can use their voices to recite poems before discussing them.
Throughout this lesson, your students will:
Suggestions for Teachers: In the prep phase, you want to assign some poems to your students that are readily accessible online, or have them explore the web on their own for poetry (give as much or as little guidance as you’d like here). This way, your students will be able to display the poems in Edorble during the discussion itself. If you want your students to explore poems on your own, we recommend having them check out poetryfoundation.org. They can do this within Edorble itself if they want, since the webpage works nicely on our browser. You can have them do this as individuals or as group work, depending on your goals and particular class size/structure. I recommend having each student or group look at different poems, so that each student or group can lead a different discussion and show their peers something they haven’t read before. In preparation, you could have the students develop some questions about the poem that they can bring to jump-start the discussion (suggestions below).
Instructions for Students: Read and re-read the poem assigned by the teacher. You will be facilitating a discussion about the poem, so you should come in with some questions and possible answers to them. Possible questions: what is the poem trying to say or suggest about the world? what are some of the words that popped out as particularly meaningful or significant to you, and why? how does the poet use language in creative or effective ways? if you were reading the poem aloud, what tone would you use and why? During this discussion, you will be the teacher trying to lead a conversation about the poem. This doesn’t mean you have to go in with great answers about what the poem means – it means you have to go in with some great questions that will get everyone thinking about the poem and discussing it. Think about questions you have about the poem that you DON’T think you know the answer to.
Suggestions for Teachers: Once your students have prepared their poems and are ready to lead a discussion on them, it’s time to to actually…..discuss. You could structure this a number of ways. If you’re able, you could have the whole class try to meet in Edorble and have each student or group go and lead a discussion with the whole group and then rotate out when each discussion is over. You should be prepared to come in and help the student out to keep the discussion lively for the class. Maybe instead you want to have the students meet in smaller groups in Edorble and lead mini-conversations with each other, with or without your presence. It can be difficult to have a rich discussion with just one presenter and one person in the audience, so I encourage you to keep the minimum at three. The timing and grouping is up to you. I think a good strategy is to have your presenters read the poem aloud to the participants as a way to kick off the conversation. Because online conversations can be a little chaotic, I encourage you to have your students really make use of the “raise hand” gesture as a way to bring order to the chaos, and to make use of the nametags so that people know who is who.
Instructions for Student Discussion Leaders: When you know what time you will be leading the discussion on your poem, we recommend going to Edorble 10 minutes in advance to make sure you can get your poem displayed on the web browser. If your poem is on poetryfoundation.org or another public website, you can just go to that website from the in-world web browser. If it’s in a public folder in Dropbox, just use the Dropbox “app” on the homepage of the browser. When your peers have arrived and it’s time to lead the discussion, first read the poem aloud, perhaps once or twice, just to really get everyone familiar with the poem as they look at it on the screen. Then, launch into your questions about the poem and see what your peers think about it.
Instructions for Student Participants: Be respectful and give your full attention to the presenters and the poem being discussed. Think carefully about the questions the presenters ask, and ask your own questions that you feel are important. Use the “raise hand” gestures (press r) when you have something to say. Be a good listener – be the kind of participant that you’d like to have when you lead a discussion.
Suggestions for Teachers: To add a writing component to this lesson, you could have your students reflect on the activity from the perspective of the discussion presenter and participant. Have them email this writing to you. You could make this assignment as short or as long as you’d like. To lengthen it, have them include their own analysis of the poem they presented.
Instructions for Students: Write a brief reflection about this activity. Was leading a discussion about your poem easy or difficult, and why? Do you feel like the discussion you led was productive? Did your interpretation of the poem change before and after the discussion? How?
Let us know if you have your students try this activity…we’d love to hear how it went!
If you have ideas for lesson plans that can take advantage of virtual worlds, we’d be happy to post it on our website and blog. We’ll be keeping a library of these lessons so that teachers interested in 3D worlds have a place to find some great ideas about how to take advantage of them.
Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting us @edorble