When Students Count with Fingers in My Class

The infection that’s been toying with me for the last week has finally pounced. I’ve been idly surfing, looking for a lost CD, rearranging my bedcovers, and just sort of waiting to get tired so that I’ll fall alseep asleep.

But what’s going through my head is the delightful sight of my students counting off iambic pentameter syllables on their fingers during a brief blank-verse writing exercise in this morning’s “Intro to Literary Study” class. A colleague presented on kinesthetic learning in a “Teaching and Learning Forum” today, and seeing students moving their mouths to pronounce words, bobbing their heads to the rhythm of the language they are thinking to themselves, and keeping track of how many syllables they’ve stressed was such an unusal unusual and delightful sight I won’t soon forget it. I do invite my lit survey students to use their bodies when they recite poetry aloud, but I’ve never seen just how physical the act of creating poetry can be. If I weren’t so sick right now, I might try to write a sonnet about the experience.

I’m having my students analyze and spoof a sonnet, so that they can become familiar enough with the form to write their own sonnet for an upcoming “Sonnet Slam.” In class, I suggested that we work on a few quatrains on the subject of cold weather, but when one student mentioned blogs, the others thought that was better. I saved the six or seven lines we managed to get through during the 15-minute workshop, but I don’t have them with me. They took the occasion to poke fun at me, my love of blogs, and the fanny pack I always wear.

At any rate, students reported that writing the spoof sonnet was harder than they expeted expected. Most seem to have forgotten that sonnets follow a rhyme scheme, perhaps beause because I didn’t do a good enough job distinguishing the sonnet from blank verse. (Another reason we’re working on iambic pentameter is because we’re about to start reading Antony and Cleopatra.)

Since this isn’t a course in sonnet-writing, I’ll be generous when I eavaluate evaluate their spoofs, but I do plan to ask them to peer-review and revise the sonnets they create on their own, so they’ll have two more chances to get that complex rhyme sceme scheme right.

Update, 21 Feb: Yipes, that was a lot of typos. I knew I wasn’t feeling my best when I wrote that, but I had no idea. In class today I came up with a metaphor about the nested stories of Nick and Gatsby as being the same theme in different keys, and I had to interrupt myself to ask the class if that was a good metaphor, because I really had no idea. Whatever part of my brain that I use for evaluating is not functioning very well right now. I usually correct my blog typos quietly, but this time I’ve just marked them like this in order to remind myself to be very careful the next time I try to blog while sick.