Sunday, April 25, 2010

"The Jabberwocky" Successes and Failures

I really created this blog to chronicles my "adventures," successes, and challenges as a teacher-librarian who suddenly found herself in the classroom this school year. It seems, though, that I am always so overwhelmed with prepping and grading, that I don't get to chronicling. So today, before I get going on grading, I'm determined to write a little about my class's recent activities.

With the dreaded STAR tests looming in just over a week, I have felt obliged to do some review and to try to fill in at least a few of the items on the standards that I haven't had time to address directly in class. One big item I wanted to review was parts of speech, since it's been clear that my students need more practice in that area. At the same time, I am behind on getting to work on poetry. So, somehow I got the idea that we could review parts of speech while studying poetry. To try this idea out, I picked Lewis Carroll's "The Jabberwocky."

While the poem is a tour de force of nonsense words, the part of speech of each word is clear from its context. Here's what I did over several days to study the poem:
  • I introduced the poem with one of the recorded readings I found on youtube. 
  • I walked through the first stanza with the class as a whole, identifying the parts of speech of the various nonsense words and the meanings we could extrapolate for each word based on it part of speech, root syllables, and sounds. We also talked about how Carroll uses a lot of onomatopoeia and portmanteau to give meaning to the words.
  • Then, I had students work with partners to decipher parts of speech and meanings for words in the following stanzas and report back to the class as a whole. We also discussed the meaning of each stanza and the poem as a whole, themes, literary devices, and rhyme scheme and meter.
Successes: I had a lot of fun, and my students made it clear that they did, too. I think they were pretty surprised to realize that they really could understand this nutty-sounding poem once they took the time to explore and work on deciphering it.

Failures: On Thursday, I wrote and gave what I thought was a very easy online Quia quiz on the poem. I was sure that I had covered every question in class. While some of the students did very well on it, there were a lot of low grades and complaints that the quiz was too hard. So, I'm left pondering what I could have done to reinforce the lesson points better.

In the meantime, enjoy the fun Muppets video of "The Jabberwocky" I played for the students when we finished the poem:

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