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I’ve Got Rhythm SXSWedu 2018

Slides for the SXSWedu 2018 Playground Talk "I've Got Rhythm: Poetry in Autism Education" by Donnie Welch

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I’ve Got Rhythm SXSWedu 2018

  1. 1. I’ve Got Rhythm: Poetry in Autism Education Donnie Welch Creative Writing Teacher at Rebecca School DonnieWelchPoetry@gmail.com
  2. 2. Where I Started • In 2015 I turned down a fellowship from the New York City Teaching Fellows to run poetry workshops for students with autism. • I started running workshops that involved tabletop, hands-on sensory play.
  3. 3. The Lessons grew in Complexity
  4. 4. • Students were reading and writing with greater accuracy and clarity, they were sharing the space together, and contributing poems to the school community. • I presented at SXSWedu 2017, the ICDL East Regional Conference, and gave a webinar through Western Governors University. Workshops were Successful
  5. 5. But I Started to Wonder… • Was I really teaching poetry? • Was I establishing a space that was encouraging creative writing? • How was this different from a reading or literacy group?
  6. 6. Wordplay & Rhythm • I asked myself, “What sets poetry apart from other forms of writing?” My answer: wordplay and rhythm • The wordplay piece I was already doing with the sensory games and activities. • But how could I teach rhythm in writing?
  7. 7. Teaching Rhythm • In high school and college I learned about poetic feet, meter, and rhythm through scansion. • I hate scansion. • But I wanted to know: can I teach this close reading of poetry through movement? Scansion img: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/570/02/
  8. 8. Thinking Goes to School • I turned to Thinking Goes to School. • I wanted to find activities that combine fine and gross motor skills with traditional academics. • I focused on three activities from this text:  Clap Patterns  Rhythm Walks  Story Claps
  9. 9. Clap Patterns • “In the simplest form, the teacher claps her hands in two successive patterns and the child responds by stating whether the patterns were the same or not same.” • “The child should be encouraged to respond to the rhythmic pattern rather than to the number of claps per unit. Hearing, understanding, and interpreting clap patterns is a response to rhythm-pause- duration. . . the game integrates auditory thinking with movement thinking.” Furth, H. G., & Wachs, H. (1974). Thinking goes to school: Piaget's theory in practice. New York: Oxford University Press.
  10. 10. Rhythm Walk • “Man walks in a contralateral pattern: He swings his left arm toward his right foot and vice versa. We emphasized this contralateral movement by having children walk to a fast or slow beat of a metronome and point exaggeratedly: right hand to left foot, left hand to right foot, and so on.” Furth, H. G., & Wachs, H. (1974). Thinking goes to school: Piaget's theory in practice. New York: Oxford University Press.
  11. 11. Story Clap • “One at a time, children add sentences or phrases together to make a story. Between each sentence everyone does a rhythmic clap-clap- clap.” Furth, H. G., & Wachs, H. (1974). Thinking goes to school: Piaget's theory in practice. New York: Oxford University Press.
  12. 12. Sensorimotor Poetry Workshops • I combined this research with my experience to create Sensorimotor Poetry Workshops. • This is a curriculum based on the idea that movement learning and literacy learning go hand-in-hand. • Movement helps us understand rhythm, rhythm helps us understand poetry, and poetry helps us understand each other.
  13. 13. Five Steps in Sensorimotor Poetry Workshops 1. Understand Rhythm 2. Add to Rhythm 3. Write Poetry that Follows Rhythm 4. Students Write a Poem 5. Repeat
  14. 14. 1. Understand Rhythm • Start Clapping. • Begin with a four count beat 1-2-3-4. • It’s a simple idea, but one that can take a lot of time. Keep working until the group can clap all together. • Don’t use a metronome! Staying on tempo isn’t important. Instead, focus on keeping everyone involved.
  15. 15. 2. Add to Rhythm • Once 1-2-3-4 is mastered, add variations on speed like 1234-1234. • Add inflection. Start with a louder clap 1234-1234 then try speaking, “1234-1234.” • This is getting into meter and the foundations of poetic rhythm.
  16. 16. 3. Write Poetry that Follows Rhythm • Once everyone can clap complex patterns together, you’re ready to begin a poem. You’ll have to be a bit of a poet and start things off. • Write two lines of poetry with four syllables in each line. For example, I wrote the couplet: Optimus Prime came right on time • Now, when you clap your rhythm have everyone take a turn reading the couplet.
  17. 17. 3. Write Poetry that Follows Rhythm: Use Student Interest • I wrote about the Transformers because I knew my students were interested in the movie series. • This made them motivated to practice the lines and continue the poem once it came time for them to write. • The goal is for students to write and express themselves; if it starts on a non-academic topic that’s okay. See where it goes.
  18. 18. 3. Write Poetry that Follows Rhythm • Once the couplet is mastered, add two more four-syllable lines making a quatrain. • In my case, the Transformers quatrain read: Optimus Prime came right on time when Bumblebee busted his knee • Continue the rhythmic clapping with each student given a turn to read the four lines.
  19. 19. 4. Students Write a Poem • After the warm-up, hand students index cards and writing utensils. Give them time and (as needed) staff support to come up with two lines of their own. • Remind them to reference the poem and the rhythm they’ve practiced. • Bring the group back together and give every student a chance to read their lines.
  20. 20. 4. Students Write a Poem • Set the note cards up on your board or a clear wall. • Let students discuss amongst themselves and figure out the order of their poem. • Note cards can be moved around, taken on or off the board, and even crumpled up as necessary.
  21. 21. 5. Repeat • Once everyone has added their lines and agreed on the order, the poem is done. • Write it somewhere permanent. I like to use large poster paper. • Use this completed poem as your rhythm warm-up. • Start on the next one.
  22. 22. Remember • Movement helps us understand rhythm, rhythm helps us understand poetry, and poetry helps us understand each other.
  23. 23. Suggested Reading Photos Sourced from Amazon.com
  24. 24. Thank you! Any questions, ideas, or silly puns, please email me: DonnieWelchPoetry@gmail.com

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