ACTIVITIES
"Close Reading Activity," by Eric Caldwell. A useful strategy for close-reading poems in the classroom.

"Considering Poetic Refrain," by Andrea Bobotis. This in-class activity helps students to explore how poetic refrain as a formal device contributes to a poem’s meaning.  This activity may be used for any poems which contain refrains, or for other closed-form poems, such as the sestina or villanelle, which rely on the repetition of words or sentences.

"Teaching Blake," by Paul Fyfe. This is designed as interactive approach to the difficulties of teaching Blake, though it would work for many texts and authors who incorporate visionary and/or visual elements.  My discussion section for ENGL 382 divided up and made "plates" for their favorite hellish proverbs or poetic lines from "Songs of Innocence and Experience" and "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell."

"Poetic Sequence," by Rei Magasaki. This activity is designed for introductory-level students who are used to reading a poem for content, but not to the way a poem opens up imagery, narrative, setting, and voice.  This short activity introduces them to paying closer attention to the form of a given poem, as well as start thinking about a poet’s thought process.  With this particular poem by Cowdry, focusing on the “turn” of the poem offers a way to lead students to think about the sonnet, and compare the difference in balance between the Octet-Sestet formation and Three stanzas-One stanza.

"Painting and Poetry: Teaching Ekphrasis" by Aimee Geoghan. This activity invites students to examine images of Brueghel's The Kermesse and Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. Split the class into two large groups and give them about ten minutes to discuss the painting and poem and then to present their findings to the other half of the class. The exercise encourages students to consider the interrelations and tensions between poetic language and visual images.

"Thinking About Characters," by Rei Magasaki. This short in-class activity allows students to think about peripheral characters and what role they play in the novel, by asking them if any of them could be cut from the novel.  This activity leads students to think about the difference between “flat characters” and “round characters,” but more importantly, the importance of having peripheral characters.  The point of the exercise is not, of course, to come to a consensus about which  character to veto, but to discuss why a particular author spends time developing a minor character. 

Textual Variants by Richard Gibson. Though this exercise was designed for (and thus will be explained in relation to) a class on Shakespeare's Richard II, it is applicable to all periods variable texts, e.g. The Bible, The Prelude, and Portrait of a Lady.  The aims of this exercise are twofold: first, to involve students in an important aspect of the editorial process; and, second, to help students to recognize how changes in punctuation, word choice, and stage directions affect the meaning of a passage.

"Poetic Performance," by Jason Nabi. This activity was designed as an icebreaker for a beginning poetry class. Each student must read aloud a quatrain from Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (though any lengthy stanzaic poem will do). The catch is that they must perform their lines in a given persona, accent, or character (some ideas are below). If their performance isn’t passionate enough, classmates can request that they do it again.

"Everyday (Poetic) Feet," by Jason Nabi. This activity was designed for a beginning poetry class. The students are given a basic introduction to the six common metrical feet (iamb, trochee, anapest, dactyl, spondee, pyrrhic). Then, during the time between class meetings, each student listens out for everyday sounds that seem to organize themselves into metrical feet. (Acts of language don’t count.) Students send in their sounds (five or six sounds should do), the instructor collects and organizes them (example attached) and distributes the results before the next meeting.

"Lights! Camera! Action!: Staging Dramatic Action," by Cloe Smith.

"Medieval Reader Role-playing Activity," by Meg Gardiner. Goal: To introduce students of medieval literature to the idea of historically specific reading practices. To encourage both paraphrasing and creative close reading. To introduce theories of allegory.