Visual Poetry - McRoberts Secondary

This week I'm working with Krista Ediger at McRoberts with her English classes. The goal is to get the students to create short iMovie clips that help show each student's "vision" of the poem the class is studying. Because every poem is a negotiation between the reader and the text, this will give the students a chance to see how the same work can be interpreted in many different ways.

Using visualization can be a powerful way to understand poetry. Here's an example from a site called (see below)

Here's how we introduced this to the students:

  • Step 1: Read through your poem and look for images
  • Step 2: Practice your reading aloud of the poem a few times to get the rhythm and emphasis in the right places.
  • Step 3: Open iMovie, create a new project (with your name in the file name.) Save this to the desktop so you can find it later. Record your poem on the audio track. Listen to it to see if it is clear and easy to understand. You might want to break the poem into stanzas and record each one separately. (That way, you won't have to re-record the entire poem if you are unhappy with one section.) Hint: If the volume is not high enough, you can change the microphone input level via the system preferences, using the sound panel.
  • Step 4: Create a folder on your desktop called "Poem Pics". You can use Flickr or Google images to find jpegs that work for you. (Hint: Use names that are meaningful rather than the name from the original site. You should either use a name that corresponds to the image from the poem, or you could number the "ideas" in your poem and then save the images as "1a", "1b" etc, then it will be easier to put them in the right order.) While you are saving images, don't forget to paste the URLs into a Word or Text document for your credits page.
  • Step 5: Begin adding the pictures you have collected. (Hint: Don't forget to disable the Ken Burns effect. Go to the Media browser, choose "Photo", select any picture, click on "show Photo settings" and de-select the Ken Burns option.) You can drag the entire "Poem Pics" folder into the right-hand "clips pane". (This means all the pictures will be available to you in the "Media/Photo" browser.)
  • Step 6: Add pictures one by one to your sound track. You can double click on the image to lengthen or shorten the time it plays in your movie.
  • Step 7: You can also add music or ambient noise from the "Media" browser by adding it to the second audio track.
  • Step 8: Add transitions. (These will shorten the total time of each image.) Note: depending on the transition, and the total file size, this may be time-consuming.
  • Step 9: Add titles and credits. Paste your URLs into the "Scrolling Block" Title and place at the end of your project.
  • Step 10: How to show your work: You can play it "as is" in iMovie, or you can export it using "Share" for iPod, Web or email.
To help illustrate the power of iMovie, I created a short exemplar using an audio clip of a poem, along with some images I found.

Two 74 minute periods were barely enough for a couple of the groups to finish. Plan on three classes. The time for this could also be shortened if students bring pics and audio clips from home on a flash drive. (They could even pre-record their poem at home if they have the software/hardware.
Audio clips of poetry readings can be found here:
20 Poems for National Poetry Month
(Free Audio Downloads)