Category Archives: Poetry


3 of 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird Gifs

I was inspired by Jason Coats’ #vizpoem students sharing poetry images on Twitter (see the whole course here) and decided to take a stab at an old favorite – Wallace Stevens Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

Source files for the crow and mountains.

her face, crow tree, crow, other crow

Source files for her face, crow tree, crow, other crow

Source for the man, woman, and bird.

Source for the man, woman, and bird.

Picture 6

“Small People” Limited Time Offer

As an English or foreign language teacher I’d be all over the “small people” quote by BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg. It’s not going to be useful much longer so act now.


  • Should this comment make people mad?
  • What did he mean?
  • What should he have said?

It’s a beautiful entry to arguing about word choice, synonyms and nuance. In this case, one word really mattered quite a bit.

It might be fun things like have students reword famous quotes/sayings using synonyms to make them offensive or otherwise rob them of power.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
“A chopped up house, will fall down.”

Minnesota’s “Land of 10,000 lakes”
“Our state has a lot of standing water”

After you get them written, you could have them post them in some way and students could try to figure out what the original quote was.

Another bonus was I found that I could search MSNBC video by certain keywords- in this case, small people. It highlights those words in a transcript and shows the points in the time line where the words occur with colored dots for the video. A really nice way to quickly get where you want.

Picture 4

Weird Books

My favorite kind of edtech use- free, quick and slightly odd1.

The Weird Book Room is, obviously, a collection of really odd book titles and covers2 This is prime fodder for all kinds of entertaining creative writing activities.

Things I would want to try-

  • Show the students three or four covers/titles. Their task is to pick one3 and write a Amazon style summary of the book totally based off the odd title and cover. The focus here would be on style, looking at how these reviews generate interest and what structural components they normally contain.
  • Instead of a summary write a review of the book as if you’ve read it. Give it 1 or 5 starts and write your review accordingly. I’d put a heavy slant on opinion and bias on this one, encouraging students to put themselves in personality roles with strong opinions and assuming that voice.
  • Use the titles in poetry. Students could just use the title as the first line, or they have to use X number of words from the provided titles. Lots of options.
  • If you had the time, students could write the book or at least a pitch for the book. Have them generate a character list, plot summary, etc.
  • As a frustrated art teacher, I’d give the titles and have students create the covers.

1 Thinking about it, it’s more about access to odd information and visuals. The tech part is relatively insignificant but could be expanding in most of the examples depending on what you had access to. For instance, with the time and inclination you might want to

2 Appropriateness varies. Probably not safe to have your kids wandering around on their own unless you live in Amherst, MA.

3 Choice is always good, but not too much choice or it’ll take forever.


Wolverine poems and other gifts from the Internet

Picture CC from DuneChaser

Four people got to this blog today searching for “wolverine poems.” I hate to leave people disappointed.
I’m not sure which wolverine they’re looking for so I’m covering my bases.

Wolverine: The Haiku
Wolverine is the
man with adamantium
bones and sharp claws.

Wolverine: The Animal
Carcajou, skunk bear,
you glutton! I call you out
as a big weasel.

This did inspire me but it also got me thinking about how many fun sources for poetry/writing prompts that are out there just begging to be used.

I’d love to do things with Google Trends. Take today’s (at around 9-10 PM Eastern) trending topics- No. 1 with a bullet is “applebees menu1.” I would also be forced to use #44 “goonies 2″ Then it’s on to #64 “agent cody banks” and finish it off with #47 “19 pound indonesian baby” and #48 “sycophants definition.”

I consulted the Applebee’s menu yet again. It had answers, but not the ones I wanted. I was hungry . . . for knowledge.

Is Goonies 2 an actual possibility? Am I getting my hopes up for an inevitable disappointment?” I wondered again. My mind tends to drift when I am stressed.

I tried to relax. I knew Agent Cody Banks was on the case. I had no way of knowing that a 19 pound Indonesian baby had already changed that plan.

A man approached and sat down. He stared right at me.

“Do you have the sycophant’s definition?” he asked in an accent I couldn’t quite place.

“What is the animal with the highest blood pressure?2” I wondered. “FOCUS!” I screamed internally.

I had no idea what I was in for.

Just good, clean3, chaotic fun.

The fun thing about stuff like this to me is it’s low cost for you time-wise and has a lot of flexibility.

  • roll dice to see which numbers you’ll use
  • pass on the story with each subsequent writer picking from the list for their sentence or have them go in order
  • mix this with your vocabulary word to create some challenge and interest

Picture 4
Another random thing I’d love to do with English. On Twitter, Peter Sokolowski4, posts popular searches from Merriam-Webster’s site. He also explains why the search is popular based on what’s going on in the news. I’d love to have the kids trying to figure out why the word has suddenly become of such interest. It will also, likely, give your kids an ego boost when they know words that the English speaking world apparently does not.

Presto, change-o, you’ve got context, current events and all sorts of other interesting possibilities with absolutely no work on your part.

1 Which tells you it’s Friday and people have poor taste in restaurants.

2 #52 – I’m forcing myself to stop now.

3 Cleanliness not guaranteed. Consult Google before blindly giving this list to a class of k12 students. Make sure you know why certain searches are in the news because while it may seem innocent it may not be. I would never want to be responsible for exposing someone to Tardy to the Party, today’s #3?!?

4 Editor, lexicographer and all around interesting guy