Classroom Strategies

Mapping the Wheelbarrow

This may sound a bit odd, but this is the first poem I have students read. I don’t give them any prep for poetry or William Carlos Williams, I just have it written on the syllabus like any old thing. Then, when they sit down and find that their reading is a 16-word poem, they get really happy and into it. Since it is the first poem, however, they are also usually kind of lost as to how to start any kind of analysis. Usual comments include “it’s about a farm” and, my favorite, “I think it’s about like a wheelbarrow.” So, to kind of break things down a little and get them to dig deeper, I list every word in the poem on the board in separate columns. Then I just have them state different connotations for each word (i.e. “rain” = wet, water, pure, dirty, etc). After that I ask them to get creative and pick one word from each column to kind of re-write the poem using our associative words instead of Williams’. They can come up with some pretty good stuff. It’s fun and it teaches them a little bit about analyzing poetry and word choice. [Katie Gubbels]