Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Edgar Allan Poe for first graders

We're big fans of Halloween in this house. I suppose we simply love holidays in general, and Halloween always feels like the kick off of the holiday season. Dress up is a daily activity here, and Halloween takes it to a new level of awesomeness. In any case, I wanted to do some fun, Halloween-ish things this week in our school. I already had a couple of art project ideas (we made egg carton spiders last week and did glue and glitter spider webs today), but I wanted something more to tie in the upcoming holiday with what we're studying in school.

I came across lots of worksheets and printables online that I could use - lifecycle of a pumpkin, anatomy of a bat, etc. Not bad ideas at all, but they don't really fit in with anything else we're doing. So I thought maybe we'd just read some Halloween inspired poetry. After a few minutes of searching, and not finding anything spectacular, it hit me - I didn't have to fall back on child-like silly poems (which are fun, don't get me wrong, but we have a Wee Sing Halloween CD that is getting lots of playtime this month and it's full of the silly stuff). My mom has been scouring her bookshelves of late, passing on a number of books that she thought we might use in our schooling. One of them was "Edgar Allen Poe for Young People." Oh my goodness. I love Edgar Allan Poe. I didn't know who he was until I was in high school. I have a first grader. But what the heck - "The Raven" it is.

I got out the book first thing and told him we were going to read a poem by a very famous poet who wrote some things that were rather creepy. His eyes lit up immediately. Then I told him that it was long and had old fashioned language that might be hard to understand. His reply? "Cool!"

I read the whole thing, slowly and enunciating each word carefully. I didn't stop to explain things the first go around - there was too much to explain and it would have ruined the rhythm of the piece. He sat and listened quietly and although he didn't understand much of it (I asked when I was done), he immediately said he loved it upon finishing. He told me that the "old fashioned" language sounds cool, even if he doesn't know most of the words :). I can appreciate that.

We went through the poem, verse by verse, and I gave it to him as more of a narrative. "Here, the man is sad because the woman he loves is gone - her name is Lenore. And he's reading books trying not to think about his sorrow." That kind of thing. We talked about some of the language used and what the words mean, and he told me his impressions. He didn't have a lot to say, but he enjoyed the poem and I have to admit, I was tickled.

Afterwards, he wanted to make a raven, so we found a template for a raven art project and he got to coloring and cutting. We happened to have some black craft feathers, so he glued those on for dramatic effect. It needed time to dry, so it is sitting on the bookshelf overnight; but I'm thinking about suggesting that we put it up over a doorway, as if perched above the chamber door :).

Today we read it again, once through, and I asked him to "narrate" it with a picture. We often do "narrations" of things I read aloud, where he tells it back to me in his own words. But this time I thought he could just draw his impression or a scene from the poem. He drew a big raven perched on a statue above a door. He wrote the word "Nevermore" coming from the Raven's mouth. It was a cute touch. Then he wanted to write some of the poem along the side of his picture to tell part of the story. He chose a line and I helped him spell the words he didn't know.

We're tackling another selection tomorrow - a passage from one of Poe's stories (the name is escaping me right now). I'm enjoying sharing this stuff with him so much!

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