Sunday, 13 March 2011

Davina - Writing & Pop Art to Literature

Part I • Literature Teaching
A comprehensive searchable database of poems categorised according to themes and also popularity. Database includes poet biographies. Good source of video and audio clips of recent poetry recitals. It also provides essays on teaching, tips on teaching, curriculum and lesson plans as well as a teacher discussion forum.

Drama Resource
This site provides a list of drama games to engage learners, as well as some possible lesson ideas for teaching certain drama texts. These lesson ideas, however, are few and focuses mainly on primary texts. Nonetheless, the generous list of drama teaching strategies includes things like role-playing, hot seating and image theatre. This I find is very useful, innovative, student-involved and applicable to our classrooms be it in English Literature or EL curriculum.

Acting it Out
This site provides downloadable voice podcasts featuring professional voice actors giving plot summaries, commentary and short interpretations of extracts of certain well-known literary texts. They also periodically suggest how these scenes can be performed by students in a classroom. Texts unfortunately are limited to certain Shakespeare works (and only scenes at that), medieval literature and 18th & 19th century literature. But the podcasts are definitely a useful resource for classroom activities. Apt for introductions to main lesson activities, students can also create their very own podcast or recorded drama recitals fashioned in a similar manner with an interpretation and personal commentary input.

Part II • 5 Interests
  • Music
  • Baking
  • Writing, both literarily and literally - using pen, parchment, ink and blotter
  • Street- and Subcultures
  • Pop Art
Topic Area - Writing & Pop Art to Literature

Rationale: I believe the youth today are very immersed in pop culture and as such, are familiar to pop art and the variations popularly circulated and released in the media today. It is seen on movie posters, advertisements, book covers and also on music CD covers. Hence, students are easily engaged to pop art and can relate to it. Furthermore, Literature is increasingly becoming more visual and this we notice in the more colourful and extravagantly designed book covers of reprints, but also in the widespread film remakes of literary classics. To engage learners then, it is most definitely best to catch and maintain their attention with visuals. The other topic area I've chosen to mesh with pop art is writing because Literature is ultimately about writing and the artful manipulation of the English language. Thus, I would like it to be very much the focus of majority of my lessons and for students to try their hand at language play and creative writing. Incorporating art and craft as well as doodling or illustration can also make the act of writing seem less daunting for them, especially the shy or inexperienced ones who find writing something literary completely alien to them.

1) Taking a 'Fanzine/Magazine' Concept to the Craft of Poetry - Lower Secondary level:

Although fanzine publications are almost next to zero in Singapore and not many youths will be familiar with it, I have chosen this medium because they are an informal and cheap type of literary publication somewhere between a small, thin 'entertainment' magazine and a personal weblog. They can be created within the classroom with as little as pens, markers and a few pieces of construction papers. It is also a good medium, naturally involving multimodal expression, to freely and creatively explore one aspect of obsession such as how a poem is crafted. Just as the students will craft their fanzines using black or coloured ink, graphics, text, textures and shapes, they can - by doing - understand that poems are also crafted through the use of literary techniques, be it the choice of words, rhyme, meter or even overall form and shape of the poem. Finally, most students would have been exposed to picture books as children and this would help them to see books or poems or rhymes as something enjoyable and interesting instead of difficult and cryptic.

Task: Illustrate and craft out an existing poem (eg. A Poison Tree by William Blake) OR as a group, illustrate and craft a collection of short poems which experiment with style, rhyme, rhythm and form.

2) Reading the text and art of Book Covers - Upper Secondary level:

Compare a series of book covers from different publications and publishers of the same text (eg. Animal Farm by George Orwell). Discuss which book cover you find summarises the author's main concern in the novel. Which one is most appropriate or most interesting? What connotations or signs are used? What perspectives are used in reading these covers? What critical theories can we apply? How do the modern re-creations (more modern and pop art-ish renditions) measure up to the book covers of older publications?

3) Exercising Literary Theory through The Aesthetic Movement called Pop Art:

Relate Pop Art images to themes of consumerism and popular culture (film, music, iconography, pop stars) beginning in the 1950s. Although these images are colourful and 'hip' with positive connotations, look at it from other perspectives. How may we see the themes of consumerism and popular culture in the text 1984 by George Orwell or Brave New World by Aldous Huxley?

*Will make a note to students that the Pop Art movement only came about AFTER both texts were written. Merely using pop art as an introduction or entry point into those two specific themes and think about the negative outcomes of mass culture, and plastic and formulaic identity etc.


  1. My comment is a bit late, but I think this is a really solid way to engage with learners, especially since, as a society, we're developing a sensitivity towards design and visual forms of art. That design does not happen in a vacuum is something great to get across as an idea as well.

    I guess as long as they don't hate both art and words, students will get a lot out of this both critically and creatively.

  2. Like the ideas - more interested in the fanzine idea than the covers idea - I think if you want an easier lesson go with the covers but if you want to push it - you shd see how far the fanzine can bring u.

  3. Thanks Ma and Dennis, I'll have a real think about this and see where I can take both ideas although I find the fanzine might have some resistance with the students depending on how 'edible' I can make it for them...x