"Brandy Wine and Poetry"
The following method I have used particularly with students who are "difficult' (whatever that means)
The Promise; At the end of this double lesson you will produce a blank verse poem (that does NOT rhyme or have rhythm) that you will be very pleased with. Some of you will be over the moon about it. This promise is made because it actually works.
You now take an immediate change of tack and start talking about wine and brandy. Most students are at the age when they are interested in "booze" and so there is usually no problem getting attention.
"How is brandy made? The wine maker collects the grapes, fairly carelessly. He
dumps the grapes stalks and a few leaves and spiders and insects and dust and mashes it all up. Then if it was bottled at this stage and left under the house for ten years it would become ten-year-old grape juice.
So the winemaker allows the YEAST to activate the sugar. The yeast eats the sugar and burps out the gas which is Carbon Dioxide (IT DOESN"T DO ANY HARM TO BE AS GRAPHIC AS YOU LIKE AT THIS STAGE GET. THEM INVOLVED) It also excretes a substance which is Alcohol We now let the yeast finish working, all the gas is bubbled off into the air and the alcohol is left in a water and flavor solution.
What we now have is wine. But what about brandy?
This is a plan of a still. (Get your science dept to give you a better one. This is as good as my Graphics skills can go. But don't let the science dept get too pedantic)
We heat the wine until it reaches a set temp.(Tell them this is critical because the wrong temp will turn their alcohol into methyl alcohol which is BAD. I tell them this and warn them against trying it for themselves.)
The alcohol goes through the coil as a gas and condenses into the jug .When it is all gone we keep heating the still until most of the water is boiled off . Now stick the alcohol into what's left and you have concentrated flavor and alcohol---Brandy."
If all has gone well you may have had to deal with that really conscientious student who has wanted to know what this has to do with writing poetry You may even have a similar comment from a colleague if you've been silly enough to tell anyone before you've tried it the first time. Fear Not! Press on.
"We are now going to write a poem. But first we must collect the grapes. Just rip 'em off the vine. Don't be too careful. The more careful you are the less grapes you'll get.
Get out paper and pen. Close your eyes. Write when I tell you without opening your eyes. There must now be silence!!!!!If not it won't work
You are sitting on top of a hill.
(With any luck there will be sounds outside
kids in the yard
cars going past
a plane overhead
and noises inside
a heavy breath.
You walking around the room)
Down below you can see . . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . ...
What is that sound. ?
(Keep going at this. feeding sounds to them.)
Now get all students to take what is on the page. Each student will need at least ten different " bunches of grapes" You can check this as you walk quietly around and make sure that they have enough. You then explain that the yeast is your imagination and it actually changes the nature of the sugar. So, for example, a plane going overhead can become a rocket ship or a swallow. Your choice. Or it can from there become an idea or thought that is flying somewhere a feeling of love for a friend or a look of anger. A next door teachers class that is a bit noisy can become a family argument or a bunch of kids at the beach.
When all grapes have been attacked by the yeast (Imagination) the wine is distilled. In other words we take out every unnecessary word. All the ifs, ands, buts, thes, we weres etc. For example,
"A plane flew overhead"
""A swallow flew overhead.
Below is the first from my last class. It is not the best.
I am listening.
I can hear workers.
The church bell rings.
Children skip through the street
There is music.
I can hear the children
At the dock a ship blows its whistle
Somewhere overhead a plane is flying.