Monday, August 4, 2014

100% Guaranteed Back to School Idea.

Okay here we go – back to another school year. Here’s an exercise Sara and I think makes a great ice breaker with a new herd of students – the percentage poem. (You can find this and 19 other lessons in our newest book High Impact Writing Clinics from Corwin.)

The percentage poem is Sara and my answer to the acrostic – you know, that piece where we take the letters of a word or a name and use them to build an acronym. Well, when we do this with kids’ names we find almost everyone has an A or E or O in their names and thus they become Awesome – Excellent or Outstanding. Not a whole lot of creativity or deeper thinking going on there is there?

So here’s how a percentage poem works. All you have to do is come up with a list of attributes that can be used to describe the subject of the percentage poem and then assign appropriate percentages to those attributes. That’s all there is to it. Remember nobody (no matter what football coaches will say) can add up to more than 100%.

So here goes – here is one for myself:

I am

12% cyclist
20% dad
18% poet
and I am 13% teacher
5% zombie fan
6% jazz
7% cook
14% husband
and 5% spicy food eater
Can’t you see?
it all adds up
100% me!

Combining a little math with some weighing data and you get a real snippet of insight into the subject. Of course you may ask your students to expand on their descriptions of their attributes or require that a certain amount of attributes be used (to avoid that 100% Mine Craft player).

These percentage poems could also be used as character analysis of historical or literary figures or even events. By gathering the attributes and then determining the amount of 100% that each deserves our students define the significance of these attributes as they pertain to their subject. Was the fact that Rosa parks was a seamstress deserve more less percentage points than her act of protest being non-violent? A little deeper thought than AWESOME – don’t you think? Plus it’ll give you insight into your new students personalities.

We suggest that you write a percentage poem for yourself and present it to your class at the beginning of the year as a form of introduction and then invite them to write their own. Better yet, list the attributes you would use for yourself on the board and then write your piece in front of them changing numbers as you work modeling the process of weighting evidence and revision.

Give it a shot – we guarantee it’ll be 100% fun and relevant.