Last Friday, I assigned each student a different poet from our literature book. Here is the RAFT I put together to help students focus on their task:
Role – You are a writer for a popular magazine that focuses on the lives of poets.
Audience – Your readers are intelligent literary-minded people, well-read and interested in learning more about writers, poets, and artists.
Format – You will present your report in an Interview format.
Topic – What makes this poet stand out among other writers and/or poets? What makes this individual unique and interesting? What common themes does he or she explore in his or her poetry, and why is this an important theme to the poet?
I directed students to generate at least 10 open-ended questions they could ask a poet during an interview and then gave more information; to wit:
Your poet is featured in the literature book somewhere, but you should also be able to find more information about him or her on the Internet.
Just as we saw with The Belle of Amherst, poets live life somewhat differently from other people. Not that they are all as eccentric as Ms. Dickinson, but they are interesting people to explore. Distinct, unique people with their own ideas, their own experiences, their own personalities.
You have been assigned a poet. Your task is to do extensive research into this person’s life and written work and to then create a character sketch of that poet showing how his or her works are representative of his or her life.
- Where did he or she grow up?
- What was his or her family like?
- What significant relationships – romantic or otherwise – did he or she have?
- What sort of work (like a job) did he or she do?
- How much did he or she publish in his or her lifetime?
- How does his or her experiences/background appear in his or her written work?
- How was he or she reviewed by critics of his or her time?
- Based on what you have learned, describe his or her personality.
To successfully complete this assignment, you will need to access at least one biographical work, at least five examples of his or her written work, and at least two critical sources that discuss his or her work. Keep track of these materials so you can create your working bibliography.
I then explained that this research would be presented as an INTERVIEW, not as an ESSAY, and I provided these directions:
You will present your research project as if it were an interview. To accomplish this task, you will act as the Interviewer, asking questions to prompt the poet into responding. (Identify yourself as INT. (for Interviewer) and the poet by his or her initials.
For example, if during your research you discovered that Emily Dickinson never left her home as an adult, you might as the Interviewer ask her that question and then, writing as if you had actually interviewed her, provide her extended response. Her responses will provide the bulk of your end product, with all the research you will have done.
INT. I heard that you never left the house as an adult. Why did you make this decision?
E. D. I found that my social interactions were never very satisfying. My sister, Lavinia, and my brother, Austin, were always the social ones. I just never developed the gift of talking to other people. My way of talking to others was through notes and through my poetry.
INT. What sort of notes did you send?
E. D. Oh, I wrote the most confusing notes to people. They used to share my notes with others, I heard, to see what “half-cracked Emily Dickinson was up to now.”
Allow the conversation (the interview) to develop naturally, as if you were actually talking to the poet.
You will present your written interview as well as a Works Cited page (listing your various sources of information) on May 20. Feel free to submit this earlier, as I know that this is much more time than you’ll need.
I also shared with students one of several sample interviews, all of which can be accessed HERE, HERE, and HERE
Following this, students were directed to find the poet’s biographical information page in our textbook and to take notes they felt were appropriate. I provided them a sample MLA bibliographic citation; all they need to do is change the name of the poet and the page number(s)
“Emily Dickinson.” Pearson Literature Florida. Pearson. 2015. pp. 404-405.
ON MONDAY I provided time in class to work on their research:
- Read the biographical information located inside the textbook (using the index beginning on page R54) and take notes.
- Use your Internet-seeking device (phone, tablet, laptop, etc.) to locate other information about the poet that you have been assigned and take notes. Remember that you must access at least five of their poems and at least two critical responses to their writing, in addition to the biographical information you located search in the textbook. (Feel free to search for biographical information elsewhere on the Internet if you feel this would be useful.) Be sure to write down information to help you find these information sites again.
- Once you have done the research, it might be a good idea to begin rough drafting your interview. Remember that this should seem like a natural conversation between you and the poet, where you ask questions and the poet responds, using information that you have discovered during your research.
I also provided a sheet laying out the guidelines for creating bibliographic citations for websites, which can be accessed by clicking HERE.
ON TUESDAY, they had more time to conduct their research. I encouraged them to come to me if they had any questi\ons, and I helped as much as I was able.
Wednesday is a testing day for most students, so they will have time to work on this if they are in class.
On Thursday, I will give final directions on how to write an interview and how to to create a Works Cited page. I asked students to finish their research by Thursday so they can gain the most benefit from that day’s teaching.
This assignment is due Monday, May 20 and I am toying with the idea of making it worth 200 points (in order to offer a nice grade boost). Typing is expected, but I cannot *require* it.
Please comment below with any questions, comments, or considerations.