Thursday, May 19, 2011

Poems for Homes: Lit Bit

Lit Bit Enrichment Class
Below is the syllabus from the enrichment class for 4-6th graders at our Fine Arts co op. Class goals: a "treeline" overview of literary genres and devices, demystify some terminology, and introduce children to great works.

Start with these descriptions:
Literary Device=Writing Tool (metaphor, alliteration, rhyme, etc)
Literary Genre=Writing Type (novel, play, poem, etc)

The class was meant to be a supplement only to the children’s language arts classes at home. It was comprised mostly of 10- and 11-year-old boys, and it took place Friday before lunch.
Hence we avoided writing exercises for the most part, and instead did some acting, reading aloud, drawing (hyperbole and onomatopoeia), a few games, fun worksheets, and had good discussions.

For example, we might discuss the definition of alliteration and then read a line or two (or three or 10) from a great work illustrating it.

This “treeline model” proved to be a great way to just introduce them to a few great works of literature in a way that was non-threatening and palatable to wiggly 5th grade boys. (And it was loads of fun for their teacher.)

At the end of the year the children presented memory work – 10-30 lines they chose to memorize from several selections offered.

How delightful is it to hear the first 13 lines of Chaucer’s "General Prologue" from The Canterbury Tales on the lips of a skinny, 11-year-old, tow-headed boy in sneakers and baggy shorts? “When April with her showers sweet with fruit/The drought of March has pierced unto the root…” Or to hear a tousle-headed, tee-shirted boy who loves Bionicles recite Antony’s speech from Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. ”Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him…”

How delightful to hear a wee little slip of a girl with a brown ponytail boldly recite “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” “Half a league/ Half a league/ Half a league onward/All in the valley of Death rode the 600…”

Or to hear a freckled boy with round glasses whose mom is battling cancer recite Robert Frost. This child chose “The Road Less Traveled.” “I shall be telling this with a sigh/Somewhere ages and ages hence…”

Yes, my dear, and so shall I.

In many cases, Wordsworth’s line that “the child is father to the man” is very good news.

Syllabus: Lit Bit, 2010-2011 academic year

Each semester we covered various aspects of literary structure. We discussed each aspect, read and analyzed samples from great works of literature, and in some cases, wrote our own samples.

Fall Semester: (a sampling of) Literary Devices

Spring Semester: Literary Genres
This semester, in addition to studying the genres below, each child memorized a piece of literature from a great work. (They chose from a list comprised of pieces from Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Byron, Tennyson, and Frost.)

What is The Western Canon?
Fiction vs Nonfiction VERSUS Truth vs Falsehood
Poetry: rhyme, meter,
Fairy/Folk Tale/Fable
Newspaper/magazine article

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