The River

on Wednesday, 3 March 2010
So far, I'm only at the initial stages of introducing this poem to the kids.

It's important that you take your time to introduce literature to form 1 students. They are very familiar with poems and the stylistics in their native tongue. It's quite unnecessary to go on and on again about the literary terms and intrinsic literature elements in English. We English teachers call it the BIG L which means the old school-of-thought in teaching literature. This includes reiterating the concepts of things like personification, metaphors, and similes. In English, we're teaching them the little l. We're not concerned about their mastery in grasping those literary elements in poetry or in the story.

Draw from them personal experiences and opinions.

Therefore, when teaching The River by Valerie Bloom, I was interested to ask them if they also felt the same wonder and affection of the river nearby (Kinabatangan River) as how Valerie Bloom was. I told them how observant she was in detailing out the roles played by the river she is describing. Explain to them how Valerie Bloom was describing each role in the poem. I got the students to complete a ready-written poem I did to make their own The Kinabatangan River. This is something I did with a good class and they sort of felt tickled when they were describing their river.

Another way to teach the poem is to firstly split the poems into its individual stanzas.

You can essentially split the stanzas into:

Stanza 1 - The river as a wanderer
Stanza 2 - The river as a winding entity
Stanza 3 - The river as a hoarder/collector (for the weaker ones)
Stanza 4 - The river as a baby
Stanza 5 - The river as a singer
Stanza 6 - The river as a monster

If you look at the poem this way, there are just so many things that you could do to make their comprehension more concrete. According to a teacher, he told his kids to draw out one picture for each stanza that shows the river's roles. Therefore, the lesson would require each kid to write out the poem in separated blocks in their exercise books (even better if you give them art paper) and each block has the stanza and a background picture of the description. That's OK I guess. Weaker students who are more inclined to art can benefit from this exercise.

In fact, other options would also be just as good. For weak students, you could get them to all stand up and do a specific action when someone is reciting the poem. For example, in Stanza 1, the action would be putting your hand on your forehead (as though searching for something), Stanza 2 would be holding their hands together while making snake like movements with it, Stanza 3 would be doing collecting actions with their hands and so on... get a kid to recite the poem and students have to wait for his cue, when they hear the keywords in the poem, they know when to change for each action. This could be interesting if you take over and mix the stanzas to see if the students are paying attention to certain keywords i.e. hoarder, baby, etc.

Students really like these type of total physical response exercises. Form 1 kids just love it when they can stand up, do some form of dancing or moving about which is a nice break from their usual sitting down routine in class. You could even make a small contest to see who is the slowest to react to the action change and forfeit them when they get it wrong. It's really funny. I love these Simon Says-esque games anyway. I think form 1 kids can really do this well for whatever level of proficiency.

If you're worried that the students are not proficient and might not catch the keywords, allow them to refer to a book. Do tell them that referring might be a tad bit slower and they might lose out as well. It would keep them on their toes and they'll try to refer to it only at the very beginning. Kids will always be competitive and try to keep up with the rest of the class.


Sanjiyan Narayanan said...

thanx adrian...i did get a few ideas from this! \

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