Tennyson and Technology

Recently in eight standard English we studied the beautifully simple poem The Eagle by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Our students were charmed by how evocative the lines were, and surprised that a poem is “allowed” to be so short!

Thinking that this would be a great poem to try to emulate, we set the girls the task of picking an animal, researching its behaviour, writing a short poem, and then assessing each other’s work. We worked on laptops for a series of three lessons so that girls could write their poems in google docs that could then be shared and commented on easily for peer assessment.

Thoughtful poets at work.
Thoughtful poets at work.

Students spent the first two lessons researching and writing their poems. At first, the assignment was greeted with skepticism, but students worked really hard, and wrote some interesting poems. The classroom atmosphere was quietly intense, apart from occasional public appeals for assistance: “What rhymes with grain?” and “Can anyone think of a rhyming word for pigeon?”

Positive feedback for Farheen's pigeon poem!
Positive feedback for Farheen’s pigeon poem!

In the third lesson, students had to share their google doc with two other students for feedback. The example above shows Farheen’s poem along with a comment from Priyanka.

Suhana receives a number of comments from keen peer-assessors.
Suhana receives a number of comments from keen peer-assessors.

As students received feedback and suggestions they could edit their poems accordingly, respond to comments, and resolve issues. Students were quite nervous about sharing their poems for feedback, but as you can see from the example above, they were most supportive of each other’s efforts.

The last task was to write a self-assessment; the chance to think about what had gone well in the writing process, and what they had learned. This was the part of the lesson when students became quite critical–of themselves.

Priyanka S models an ideal form of self-assessment.
Priyanka S models an ideal form of self-assessment.

Priyanka S reflected above on the pleasure of seeing her friends’ comments, the frustration of being pressed for time, and the beauty of trying anyway!

And Anjali decides that poems are quite fun, after all:

Anjali reflects that poetry isn't quite as bad as it first seemed.
Anjali reflects that poetry isn’t quite as bad as it first seemed.

All in all, an enjoyable three lessons pushing ourselves to our creative limits, and experiencing the collaborative aspects of technology.

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Further Reading:

A brief overview of the value of peer- and self-assessment.

An in depth reflection of using google docs for collaborative assessment in the classroom.

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