Director of Teaching & Learning Miles Azzeh's Academic Spotlight: Brandi Atha
For the last year and a half, Miles has been highlighting the amazing instructional work that our teachers are doing with your students. These “Academic Spotlights” showcase the outstanding work our teachers are doing in their classrooms each day.
This week's academic spotlight shines on Brandi Atha, an English teacher at Lansing High School, and her fantastic freshman students. She introduced an engaging activity called "Black Out" poetry, and it turned out to be a tremendous journey of creativity, sharing, and even more!
"I use blackout poetry because it isn't something from nothing, which can be daunting for kids (writing poetry?!), but rather something from something else," said Ms. Atha. "It is like recycling in a way. You have a pop bottle, a piece of cardboard, and some string, and we can recycle them into something more creative and/or new."
The students were given an excerpt from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and newspapers as a starting text. Students then read the text, found words they could connect to form a unique thought, and "blacked out" the rest, thus creating a poem.
"We are using The Great Gatsby for our blackout poetry because it has great language and flow, so it is a great source for kids to start. We also use old newspapers," said Ms. Atha.
Ms. Atha used essential instructional techniques such as giving an anticipatory set, showing other examples of "blackout" poems, and modeling her own. This gave them a great launching point and measures to help guide them. It was apparent the students loved the activity.
"I really enjoyed getting to be creative and putting abstract things together to make something totally new," said freshman Evan Mashburn.
This activity allowed the students to play with words and see them in a new light by choosing which words to keep and allowing them to be creative with their artistic talents.
"I liked getting to draw pictures with our poetry. It made the process really enjoyable," said freshman Lillie Denney.
Now, onto my favorite part of the entire process: Ms. Atha's culminating activity, which was a gallery walk for students to survey other students' work, allowed kids to examine the work of their peers and give praise and feedback. Students were given a worksheet with columns titled "notice" and "wonder" to jot down their thoughts and opinions.
This was a fantastic opportunity for students to work on authentic literacy – purposeful reading, writing, and discussing – engagingly and productively. Way to go, Ms. Atha, and thank you for all you do!