April 12, 2016

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

National Poetry Month 2013: Poetry? There's an App for That

Last summer, I finally gave in and bought a smart phone. At first, I was dismissive about my Android. "It's just a toy," I sniffed.

But exploring London and Edinburgh with the help of TripAdvisor's app made me realize that good apps make great tools.

Linda Baie of the blog Teacher Dance says this is true of apps for poetry. Are apps like Skitch, Poetry Creator and IF just toys? Not if they encourage students to play with language.

Thanks for guest blogging in the TechnoVerse today, Linda! (Find the full NPM in the TechnoVerse schedule.

I enjoy exploring new technology, apps that can be found online for laptops and desktops, and those just for the iPad or iPhone.  Because I love poetry, and have shared it with students for years, I told Laura I would explore how apps might be used in the classroom, and encouraged for use whenever there’s a chance.  Instead of banning smart phones, I’ve noticed that educators are embracing them more and more for use in the classroom. 

In my earlier days of teaching, exploring how poetry works−no, how POETS work−I developed different ways of helping students play with words.  I have a box full of words and with that we played “poetry poker.”   Students drew seven words, selected five, returned two—the old seven-card draw.  Students loved the idea of playing poker! With those five words, they crafted a poem.  Sometimes I had them select one word, but give it to someone else.  Also, I had large metal storage cabinets in my classroom, and they were covered with hundreds of magnetic poetry words.  When there was free time, students posted little poems. (One surface was designated for the poems!) 

I've used another version of Poetry Poker in the classroom. Take a deck of cards,
glue or tape phrases onto the cards, then follow Linda's instructions, above.
This photo shows Poetry Poker cards from Drew Myron's blog.

However, as the Internet became a driving force in the classroom, more possibilities of messing about with words also became available.  Both writing and presentation became important considerations.  Students used all kinds of fonts, colors, and background colors.  Lately, they are likely to present their poems in a Podcast, or in a presentation app, like Prezi, one line appearing at time.  Today, with smart phones and tablet apps, students can play with and move words around easily; experimentation is key.  My students were often in a hurry, and although many loved poetry, they were good enough writers that they could create a good first draft poem and “be done” in a short time.  Getting them to slow down is key in any setting, and finding ways to encourage thoughtful word play was important to push the students further in their writing. 

I’ve included one example of something I might do with a group writing poetry, to ask them to e-mail a picture that shows spring is on its way, and the promising possibilities that means.  I went for a walk and found these hyacinths just peaking out.  Students might work in some nature-related poetry, or list poems, writing what spring will mean to their outside-of-school lives. 

With the photos, I would introduce the program, Skitch, recently acquired by Evernote.  You can upload your own photos, or if you’re writing research reports, you can take photo shots of any digital file.  For instance, if you want to label parts of something, you can take a screen shot, and then use the text tool to write the labels.

This time, I’m going to add a poem I wrote to my photo of the hyacinths in my garden area.

Spring Welcome
Hyacinth's heaven,
holding "hello" in their petals,
offering the garden's first perfume.

by Linda Baie, posted with permission of the author.

There is a second app I’ve had fun with titled Poetry Creator that gives you words (like poetry magnet words), and for a little bit more money, one can buy additional dictionaries.  A limiting factor is that one is given a set number of words, and you play with those words.  You can “order” a particular word or two, but not more.  However, there is a command called a mixologist that gives an entirely new group of words if you refresh.  Here are a couple of poems I wrote just playing around, which is what I think the point is.

I like that this app allows the play, but limits the word choices, forcing poets to think carefully, to arrange the words into some kind of meaningful message.  You can use several kinds of word processing documents to present the poems in a more pleasing way.

by Linda Baie
by Linda Baie

A final app I want to share is titled IF, and it is not a creation app, but one that shares classic poems.  The poems are presented in twelve categories: Growing Up; Nature, Seasons & Animals; Humour & Nonsense; Lessons for Life, and so on.  They also present the poems in age categories, 0-6, 7-12, and 13+.  Here is an example of what you carry with you on a tablet or smart phone:  A poem in the category of Tell Me A Tale titled “Nod” by Walter dela Mare.  You can play the audio, put it in your favorites file, read a brief poet bio, and record the poem yourself.  You can make the font larger or smaller.  It’s a terrific addition of text to carry along and read anywhere. 

There are several other apps for poetry that are available.  I’m happy to see choices for writing and reading poetry among the thousands of Apps in all categories.  It’s an electronic way to inspire students who are so “into” their devices, something that I think we need to consider for creating the next generation of poets.

Great recommendations, Linda. Thanks again!

Linda Baie is a literacy coach for a progressive school for gifted students.  She works with teachers who teach K-8 students.  For years, she taught students in 6th through 8th grades.  She writes at the blog Teacher Dance, loves writing and all things poetry, and is embracing new tech tools as fast as she can learn them.  Linda has kept journals for years, still does, yet lately says: “If you want to write, to mess about with words, Laptops, IPads, tablets, and Smart Phones will help do it.” 

I couldn't find Poetry Creator for Android, but I did test out a free app called Banana Poetry Generator. Beware of spelling errors! "Bannana Poetry" is a random poem generator that may make you "feal as if it is a/deep regret." Sigh. The app makes it easy to email your creations. 

It also gives you the option of generating Silly, Nice:

'Believe me when I say,
your beauty is as epic
as the tallest waterfall.'
~Created with Bannana Poetry

or Mean poems:

'Your dog's gene pool
is just plain hopeless,
like an idiot
in Dumbville.'
~Created with Bannana Poetry

Who ever said the TechnoVerse couldn't be fun? 


Irene Latham said...

Laura, you make me more interested in replacing my "stupid" phone. :) And I LOVE the poetry poker idea. Great way to engage students. Thank you. xo

Author Amok said...

Hi, Irene. I was intrigued by Linda's comment that -- rather than resist the smart phones -- educators might consider using them as a classroom teaching tool. I know some schools are piloting iPad programs with this kind of teaching/learning in mind.

jama said...

Loved learning about these apps (and poetry poker is just too cool). I finally broke down and got an iPhone last year too and am always looking for app recommendations. Thanks to Linda for a great post and thanks to you for this interesting PM series. :)

Linda B said...

Laura, thanks for allowing me to come visit! It was fun to share some ideas about poetry technoverse! Thanks Irene & Jama for stopping by!

Author Amok said...

Thanks, Linda and Jama! Linda -- great post. Thank you for sharing your favorite apps for poetry.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Oh gosh. Who knew? In kindergarten we are sticking with the concrete--next week we'll start with index cards, one word on each, which we'll tape onto chart paper as we compose a class poem--BUT some of these apps sound so very fun (almost as fun as trying to get a rise out of SIRI on my daughter's iPod. She doesn't live in my Blackberry.) Thanks for this awesome series which scares and intrigues me!

drew said...

How wonderful to find my poetry "hand" on your blog. What fun! And thank you for presenting so many great poetry prompts -- both old and new school.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Drew. Thanks for stopping by! I hope you had fun testing out some of the apps Linda recommends.

Amy LV said...

Oh, this is fun! Now I may stretch beyond only using my phone as a phone, and e-mail/facebook station. Thank you, Linda, for the inspiration and ideas. And thank you, Laura, for this great series.

Ed DeCaria said...

Nice post, Linda. You mention some of my favorite apps here. Evernote is amazing. Prezi also just added a long-awaited sound embedding capability.

I love how teachers are embracing technology in the classroom, and I think that poetry in particular will benefit from it.

laurasalas said...

Fun! Thank you, Linda and Laura. I'm especially interested to try out Prezi and the Poetry Creator app. Added them to my endless Workflowy file of techy things to get to someday!

Author Siggi said...

This is really a nice post. Thank you - You should also try out My Random Poet on the App Store or Google Play. This app / generator allows you to create more than 1 billion unique one-liners, quotes, poems, sayings or short statements in real time that you or nobody else has ever seen! - and that’s really fun and fascinating. This random sentence generator produces grammatically correct unique content

Check it out!