"I'm running out of time. Oh no!
Mrs Keetch is getting mad,
I can tell as she scowls at me from there.
I need a poem, what do I do?!
Oh, wait, here's a poem. I'm done!"
I kid you not, that was a poem I wrote in 6th grade. I can remember sitting in the computer lab trying to type this out during lunch, and know that I was going to be in big trouble when the bell rang and I didn't have a poem ready to share. This is what I came up with. It was a simple free verse poem and I basically wrote a couple sentences and broke them up onto different lines. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, the lab attendant helped me type it because I was a slow typist, and she knew I'd be in trouble if I didn't get it done. Is that education? Did I learn anything about poems? This is not poetry, and if we let our students turn in "poems" like this, then we are doing them a diservice. Poetry gives them a chance to reflect on themselves and write a piece of poetry that is more than a skipped lunch and a false typist.
Teenagers identify with music. It isn't just noise in their ears, but this rapping racket helps them find their identity and connect with others according to Psychology Today. If music is a fundamental link in their lives, then teachers need to tap into this wave. Song lyrics are no more than lines of poetry put to music, which is exactly what an Illuminated Text assignment is.
Illuminated Text is a video made via power point that takes a person's lyrics or poem, and using effects, makes the words dance with the music as their poem bounces around and swivels with the song of their choice; both using each other to strengthen and emphasis different parts of the other.
Check out this example of an illuminated text assignment using Ernest Hemingway's writing made by Whitney Young Magnet High School student Jenny Lee!
Want more? Here is another high school student's Illuminated Text of a perfect example of how technology can improve writing! You read my free verse "poem" (if you could call it that), and it is boring! Here is another student's free verse poem that shows the difference between structured poems and free poems by using his own interests and talents to do so.
Dr Gideon Burton, professor at Brigham Young University, is going to great lengths to implemnt digital writing in his classes. He takes Shakespear's Sonnet 130 to far more captivating level with his Illuminated Text version.
I tried my own hand at Illuminated Text, and was so proud of my work! It was hard, but definitely not impossible. I was able to share this creation via email, blog and facebook. And isn't that what's it all about? Acutally sharing what you produce? No more student composed poems dropping off a classroom bulletin board or going stale in a filing cabinet, but now students can share it on Facebook, email it to the relatives and post it on their blog, and because they actually made this piece from their own life as they connected through it with music, they might actually care more about the work than the grade at the end.