A Poetic Finale
Day 3: PerformanceVideotape students as they read their poems to the class. On this day, the tables are put away and chairs are arranged in rows, like chairs in an auditorium or theater. Students may read from behind a lectern or, for students who really want to get into the act, I have a microphone ready.
For more rap-oriented poets, I have a stereo ready with an instrumental hip-hop song for students who want it as backup music. Students presenting more traditional poems may still choose complementary background music. Soundtracks to Holocaust movies such as The Pianist and Life Is Beautiful are appropriate.
Days 4 and 5: Evaluation
During the last two days of the lesson, we watch the performances from Day 3, critiquing them and discussing issues brought up by the students’ poems. For the most part, I allow the content of the students’ poems to fuel discussion. However, given the nature of the assignment, I like to ask the class the following questions as we wrap up the activity and our Holocaust unit:
- Why is it important to use individually meaningful forms of expression when dealing with an emotional and historically significant event like the Holocaust?
- How did the poems differ? Did any poem strongly embody the personality of its writer?
- How will this activity help you bear witness in the future?
- Did the poems allow us to understand something new about the Holocaust and our role as witnesses?
Students receive two evaluations from their peers and one from me. See Rubric: Poetic Finale. Note: Because poems legitimately invite multiple interpretations, it can be useful to include a more extended reflection on the link between the poem and the historical period and human experience. When students use the rubric to give feedback to the presenting poets, they could take into account the links defined by the author as well as some new personal links that they experience in reading the poems. Students are also asked to reflect on the activity using the handout titled Reflecting on the Poetic Finale (Student Handout 6).