The objective learning outcome for the annotation assignment is that students can analyze a poem and feel that they can confidently and effectively write a short essay arguing for or against it’s worthiness and universality. It is developing the skills to be a critic themselves, and welcoming the thought that there are many different ideas and that friendly debate is a skill.
It is important that students are able to apply the methods of analysis that we have previous used in class to discuss a poem analytically and independently after a shared discussion of ideas. Then, it is important that they should take a stance. Is this poem a worthy piece of art or isn’t it? It’s important that students understand that they are worthy to judge the poem, to make a statement that it is good or bad, and then explain their reasoning. It is also important to present the argument in a way that acknowledges both the positive and negative aspects, before delivering the verdict.
Students will use definitions such as theme, figurative language, metaphor, paradox, and allegory, which they have already become familiar with or refreshed about in the course as we examined a few poems together, perhaps 3, dissected them, and discussed their universality and/or relativism. It would have become apparent at that time that either standpoint is an acceptable one, it is the reasoning and explanation that defends the standpoint where original thinking is applied.
The annotation portion of the assignment is that every member in the class would point out something of interest to them in the poem and describe how it is a use of language that adds greater meaning to the poem. (This way students can pick the same word or phrase, because they would still give a different reason about it’s greater meaning and importance to the poem in it’s entirety.)
After annotations, which is the collaborative brainstorming phase of the activity, the students will develop a thesis which states that this is or isn’t a relatable and useful poem in it’s universality. Does it span time and place? Is it important? Is it artistically pleasing? Why or why not? If it’s not, why is the poem relative to a certain time and place, and how does this potentially undermine it’s potential to be important and universal.
If your argument is yes, it is a universal poem, then you must devote at least one sentence to the other point of view. It could be a part of the conclusion. For instance: “While Still I Rise is a universal piece of artwork because … , however, …” If your argument is no, you must still acknowledge the other point of view somewhere in your argument.
Students should give at least 4 examples from the poem as a part of their argument and may use ideas from the annotations page but must write the essay in their own words.
At the end of the activity students would have written a short essay detailing an argument about a poem’s universality, would be able to apply the skills in the future when coming across a poem, while also being able to acknowledge the accepted opinion or another point of view about this poem that is in existence already. The annotation portion of the assignment would have opened up more ideas that people may not have thought of before, and writing the essay after witnessing the annotations would be good practice in paraphrasing and sharing ideas, as well as developing an idea into your own, because no one would want to copy another students idea verbatim. Enduring understanding of the students is that they have the confidence to apply these methods in the future themselves and are able to share their own ideas in a discussion of poetry, while also accepting the ideas of others about a particular poem.