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.

4 thoughts on “When Students Count with Fingers in My Class

  1. From suit/tie to fanny back? My memory of you at UWEC is shattered! :)

    Class of 2001

  2. Dennis, Cool exercise with your students! I do want to ask “Why do you wear a fanny pack?” since I don’t remember that at UW-Eau Claire. I thought I once saw an explanation on here about that, but it is always hard for me to picture it.

  3. Bobby, when I was at UWEC I almost always wore a suit or a jacket and tie. So I had more pockets in which to keep my PDA and other things (thumb drive, digital camera). I dress more casually at SHU, but I’m used to having a lot of pockets. Hence, the fanny pack. The trip from the garage door to my bedroom has for the last few years typically been full of children jumping up and down wanting to play or show a new picture or full of babies in poopy diapers or some other domestic encounter that made it extremely difficult for me to come home, say “Wait until I put my stuff away,” and then deal with it. Since my wife keeps all her most important things in her purse, she can just drop the purse on the floor, deal with the domestic situation, and then put her stuff away later.

    It was stressful when I had to deal with transferring items from my pants pockets (so I can sit on the floor and play with my kids without breaking pencils) or emptying out my shirt pocket (so while I’m holding my daughter she won’t knock my PDA out onto the floor) or , which has happened several times), all while my wife and kids are unloading the things that happened to them that day.

    Now I just hang my fanny pack on a hook, and I can deal with my PM duties without worrying I’m accidetnally going to leave the thumb drive (with a draft of an article I need to proof) in the pocket of my overcoat (which I might not wear tomorrow if it’s sunny).

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