Some of my wise colleagues have asked, “What is the purpose of exams?” This question arises from discussion of how many exams students should take, if any. I believe exams can teach us something, and I want to offer three lessons from my reading of the Poetry section of the May 2015 exam. First, I am happy to report that a significant number of people expressed the pleasure, even joy, they have felt in reading and writing poems. For example, one student remarks, “Now I enjoy writing poems much more than I did in August.” Not everyone feels this way, but more than a few have expressed such feelings. Secondly, a handful of people observed that their response to Poetry Fridays changed over time. One student, for instance, described her evolving attitude this way: “At first I felt that poetry Fridays had been a waste of time. Over the semester, however, I began to see how the lessons taught through the poems were impacting my writing, and made me a more culturally aware reader.” Such people started the year unexcited, skeptical or critical of the plan. As the weeks progressed, they found themselves not only looking forward to this work, but also experiencing greater confidence in their abilities to interpret and compose poems. I believe that confidence and enjoyment often go hand in hand. Lastly, the exams are teaching me more about the term “relevance.” I am discovering that some students, not everyone but a significant number, define the term differently than I and other adults do. For example, more than one student answered the third question (How do you feel about our poetry studies this year?) by describing the emotional and intellectual impact these studies have had on them. These same students begin the last question (What personal relevance do our studies have for you?) by saying that the poetry work has had little or no relevance. A paradoxical juxtaposition of answers. As best as I can tell at the moment, these students judge relevance according to how much the visible aspects of their own lives resemble those of the poems’ authors and subjects. Next year, I want to explore this term further, in order to close the gap between my understanding and the students’. In the meantime, on to the Doll’s House section of the exam.
To the exam, bring your LAPTOP and your POETRY FRIDAY FOLDER.
I will bring your Samurai’s Garden journals.
Bring no course books, but bring personal reading, in the event that you finish the exam early.
For the comparative essay about the two novels, you can use only quotes from your SG journals and the KR quote bank in the exam packet.
Remember our review session is scheduled for Tuesday May 19 @ 1:00.
learning goal: how many different metaphors can you find in Szymborska’s poem, “The Joy of Writing”?
in your groups, read poem aloud and prepare to write examples on board, according to this format:
“He galloped into the room”
(L) his running = a horse’s galloping (F)
L=literal term; F=figurative term
The literal term is what you are trying to describe, and the figurative term is what you use to describe it.
At this link you will find entries from three different model journals. I have removed the names because I did not ask the authors’ permissions (in the interest of time).
If you like, use these model entries to assess the quality of your own work. In short, these writings demonstrate–among other qualities–clear sentences, strong analysis and significant reflection. In addition, the journals represented by these entries develop their focal element over the course of the journal.
learning goal: what overlapping themes* exist in the two novels we read this term? How do the novels treat, or arrive at, these themes differently? What role do the basic fictional elements play in these treatments?
practice anticipating comparative essay questions
in theme-teams, prepare a slide show of images that communicate overlapping themes; each slide contains a single image and a corresponding statement of the overlapping theme
*theme is a piece of fiction’s “view about life and how people behave” (for development of this definition see the full entry at Annenberg Learner)
learning goal: what concrete imagery and metaphors appear in my group’s renga
submit “novel tanka” homework assignment
briefly review Mr. Brown’s novel tanka*
review these relay rules:
RUNNERS (R) STAND IN SEPARATE LOCATIONS
1. R1 carries scroll to R2 and recites hokku (5-7-5)
2. R2 writes hokku on scroll, then carries scroll to R3, while composing next verse (7-7). R2 stays put in new location.
3. R3 writes 7-7 on scroll, then carries this baton to R4, while composing next verse (5-7-5). R3 stays put in new location.
4. R4 writes new 5-7-5 on scroll, then carries it to next runner, while composing . . .
*oceans swell, winds howl
proud pines against the sky fall
like scattered pencils
trying to rewrite their lives
setting aside dead branches
(c) B. Brown May 2015
Exam Format and Content
The May exam has three parts: poetry (25%), A Doll’s House (25%) and The Kite Runner / The Samurai’s Garden (50%). To the exam, bring your laptop and Poetry Friday folder–no other materials. I will bring your Samurai’s Garden journal to the exam. Bring a book to read, in case you finish the test early.
The first section asks questions about our study of poetry since August. Be sure to bring your Poetry Friday folder to the exam, since you need it for reference. (reflective, short-answer questions)
The next section addresses the relationship between a piece of writing you have not seen and one or more of the main characters in Ibsen’s play. (paragraph response)
In the final part, you compose a comparative essay about the two novels. You will have several questions from which to choose one. (multi-paragraph essay)
1. Anticipate questions.
2. Write copious notes and sample outlines for the question(s) you imagine.
learning goal: what is a tanka? How is related to a renga?
explain exam format and recommend review strategies
brainstorm concrete imagery from each chapter of Tsukiyama’s novel–for example, sand dune (63), dark blue kimono (63), Matsu’s garden (16)
introduce “novel tanka” assignment (see below)
begin assignment, if time allows
Novel Tanka Using concrete imagery from the novel, The Samurai’s Garden, create an original tanka about Gail Tsukiyama’s story. Submit your poem on the other side of this sheet. (Those missing class for their AP BIO exam, submit your poem in a suitably small piece of paper.) Paint a specific portrait with essential words that also convey significant meaning. As an added challenge, “turn” your tanka by moving the “upper poem” to the “lower poem” in a third line that is integrally linked to both halves.
In the sample below, Jeffrey Angles has translated the Japanese original into English. As a result, the translation does not use the traditional syllable count of 5-7-5-7-7. In your original poem, use this traditional count.
A sample tanka from Tada Chimako
I follow the dark corridor
seen in dreams
dimly lit doorways
Notice that the poem produces a mysterious effect through the addition of each new line. Line 3, the “turn” line, moves the poem in and out of a dreamscape.
learning goal: what does a polished journal look like?
complete cover and submit finished journal
OPTION A: hand in your bound journal by the end of today’s class
OPTION B: finish cover art in class, and bring bound journal to Monday’s class
learning goal: what design most effectively captures the focus of my journal text?
whole class devoted to making cover art for the journal
if time allows, also bind the book