Mentor Text: Fairy-tale Logic by A.E. Stallings
- Using poetry as analysis
In my Grade 9 class right now, we’re working on our essays discussing scary stories. We do a little short film study, allowing us to practice analysis skills, and give us some fun ground to cover in an early essay this semester, learning the ropes of high school essay work.
We discussed the tropes, genre conventions and expectations that we have as audiences. In a conversation about her plan for her essay, one of my students expressed that when the things we expect aren’t there in a scary story, we don’t feel like our needs are being met. Sometimes, they express ideas so profoundly, don’t they.
In a couple of weeks, we’re going to dig into fairy tales, exploring that genre, and really getting into exploring stereotypes and conventions of the genre. So perhaps it’s serendipitous that on my lunch time brain break, I came across this poem I had never seen before. We’ll look at it to kickstart our consideration of fairy tales, but in future courses, if I switch up the order, or we explore another genre, it’s going to be a mentor text for sure.
How we might use this text:
Using Poetry as Analysis – I’ve really enjoyed anchoring our discussions about scary stories around the tropes, and conventions of the genre. I firmly believe that humans crave story, and as we consume it, we consider those things deeply, even if we’re not doing it in an academic sense. I love that Stallings’ poem serves as a list of fairy tale of tropes. And that this list is presented with a little bit of tone added in!
It would, I think, be wonderful to have students beginning to explore a genre to look at this poem, and then to write, perhaps collaboratively, their version of it before beginning to study a genre as a class. It’s a great way for them to activate, and for us to evaluate, their prior knowledge of the genre’s tropes and conventions, and how they feel about them. (Getting a sense of how they might be feeling about the thing they’re abut to study is so valuable when you’re starting the work, and you can plan accordingly!)
It’s also a piece that could be revisited after the study of the genre is done. Has their list changed? Have their feelings about it changed?
Coming out of Spring Break, approaching report card time, and planning the next few weeks, I was delighted to find a new thing to add to my upcoming fairy tale work. And as a planner, I found myself a little frustrated that I hadn’t had this to use as we started our scary story work, especially since our focus on the tropes and our emotional reactions to them have felt so central to our work as we write our essays.
How do you use poetry at the outset of a unit? How do you activate students’ prior knowledge?
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