Using Padlet to Collect and Showcase Students' Creative Writing (parody poems of "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams in conjunction with This American Life)

During a grueling poetry research project, students need occasional breaks, so I give them poetry "snacks."  Early in the project I hook students on Def Poetry Jam with Gemini's "Poetic Bloodline" and Steve Coleman's "I Wanna Hear a Poem." We watch Billy Collins recite "Litany" before viewing a 3-year-old boy from Tucson do the same.  We talk about National Poem-in-your-Pocket Day.  I encourage them to savor language as Stephen Fry suggests even while we scrutinize, analyze, perform scansion, count syllables, etc.

Period 6 students publish their "This is Just to Say" parody poems on a Padlet. This is a quick and easy way to share work, especially short written work,  in a form a bit more visually interesting than Google Docs.

One of my favorite micro-lessons in poetry begins with the "Mistakes Were Made" episode of This American Life and ends with emulation/parody poems written in the style of "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams.  The episode highlights the fact that the poem has rich anecdotal weight, a clear structure, and a satisfying #sorrynotsorry finish.

The episode features a dozen or so parody or spoof emulations of the original Williams poem.  I point out to students the basic structure of the poem.

Stanza 1: The Sin -- The transgression, malfeasance, act, wronging

Stanza 2: The Deepening -- The context that makes the transgression even worse than first suspected

Stanza 3: The False Apology -- The #sorrynotsorry approach to acknowledging the sin but often through rationalization or downplaying


After the segment (Act II, "You're Willing to Sacrifice Our Love" starts at 49:43), I ask students to write one or two or three of these false apology paraody poems. Since the examples they hear are often darkly humorous, ironic, or otherwise heavy, many of the student pieces match.

WARNING: Some of the poems by NPR correspondents engage adult themes and mature humor and may not be suitable for all student audiences.

After 5-8 minutes, I ask students to post one of their poems to a Padlet from a link in the daily plan.  Now, they can see the poems of their peers, displayed like sticky notes, much in the same way William Carlos Williams purportedly left his "This is Just to Say" note for his wife in the kitchen.  In Padlet, students can paste in their poem text or insert an image. Some students screenshot their work and modify it to look like a kitchen counter note.

As poems surface on the Padlet wall, students read each other's work and nominate the poems that should be read aloud. A benefit of Padlet over Google Docs in this case use is the form factor of the adjustable entries. Students can resize the boxes, and this encourages experiments in line breaks to increase readability. Teachers can move notes and prioritize certain poems as if rearranging stickies on a bulletin board.

I can see many applications for Padlet. Since it supports image upload, students could quickly share in bulletin board style art they made, photos they took, memes they generated, etc.  The ability to rate/score comment on another student's work would improve the app.

Period 1 students publish their "This is Just to Say" parody poems on a Padlet. This is a quick and easy way to share work, especially short written work,  in a form a bit more visually interesting than Google Docs.

Google Docs for Collaborative Text Annotations

As a way into a poem with students, I often "crowd-source" the initial analysis through collaborative text annotation in Google Docs. Today I read them the poem "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Sara Teasdale. They were familiar with the poem from Ray Bradbury's short story of the same title. After reading the poem aloud (displayed onscreen), I said, "Go!" and each student was tasked with highlighitnig and commenting on a single word in the poem with a somewhat vague charge: annotate the word for its significance.

Students analyze diction choices in the Teasdale poem and then deepen the analysis by replying to each other.

In three to five minutes, you get a fully annotated poem and many inroads to conversation about rhyme, poetic devices, allusions, imagery, on and on.  Docs on the iPad is a little clumsy for students to navigate, but touch-holding a highlighted word will allow them to see the comment and then reply to it.  I encourage students to deepen the analysis of the word in question or to ask a follow-up for the original commenter. 

Today I showed them the Lit Genius page for "There Will Come Soft Rains" and said, "We can do better than this." They did.