WWI Poetry/Visualization Wiki Project

WWI Poetry AssignmentThis year I decided to take my WWI Poetry Activity a step further. In years past, towards the end of the WWI unit we completed the linked handout together in class. By this time the students were well versed in the horrors of this war (from the poison gas to the machine guns to trench foot). Based upon all of this information students were to write a poem from the perspective of a WWI soldier. It has always been a great assignment. I already shared the most memorable poem written by a student.

In 2000, I decided that I wanted to publish some of their poems on my classroom web site. I did not have time to actually teach them how to make a web page, so I asked students to e-mail me their poems or type them in on one of my classroom computers. I then copy and pasted them and put them on html page in Dreamweaver. I repeated that time consuming process several times. Students shared their poems with their parents and family members outside of the area and it was generally well received. I once showed this project off to some teachers at a “general” technology presentation I did and was asked how I did it. I knew as soon as I started that I had lost most of them. They weren’t web designers and they did have the time to become one.

Due to time constraints I dropped the publishing aspect of the poetry assignment in the last couple years. This time around however, I had a new plan. It was time to put that publishing power into the hands of the students (a la Web 2.0). The basic assignment remained the same, but now the students type their poems directly into a wiki I set up at Wikispaces for the project. Then to take it a step further, I had them find five images from World War I and integrate them into the poem.

Here is the basic lesson plan.

  1. Conduct my WWI Poetry lesson plan (the same one I’ve done for years). Assign the poem to be finished by the end of the week. The rest of the week I did other lessons.
  2. After I checked off the poem, we went to the computer lab for two days. A good chunk of the first day was spent getting the students signed up with Wikispaces and into my WWI Poetry Wiki (I’ll discuss the logistics of this another time).
  3. Next students typed their poems into a page I set up for each student (I just typed their names and made them links). Many of the students had e-mailed their poems to themselves so this was a quick process for most students.
  4. Most of the second day was spent sifting through hundreds of photographs, propaganda posters, and paintings from WWI.
  5. Finally they posted the pictures in their poems. Some did not finish in class and had to finish it up at home.
  6. The final aspect had them read each others poems. We finished with a short class discussion.

I know this lesson is not ground breaking, but it is cool none-the-less. I think lessons like this is a good first step for many teachers who might be overwhelmed and not quite ready for a larger scale project. I also intend to do a couple other wiki-based projects with this group that will be a bit more complex. This project essentially gave them a wiki primer and got them Wikispaces accounts that they can use in the future projects. The biggest hassle ended up having to use old technology. Our lab still runs OS9 (won’t run OSX) and none of the available browsers support the visual editor in Wikispaces, something I didn’t realize until I had 35 kids trying to get it work. Fortunately, brand new computers have been ordered and will be ready for use in the next month!
Wikis (and blogs) allow students to publish for a world wide audience without actually spending a lot of time on technology. I spent only moments instructing them how to use the wiki.

Want to see the World War I Poetry/Visualization Project? Here it is.


8 thoughts on “WWI Poetry/Visualization Wiki Project”

  1. What a cool project ! Thanks for sharing this neat idea. I will be thinking of how to do something similar with my grade 7 world history students, but not to be published online, as too many of our students do not have access to the technology necessary, nor does my school have such technology…..Hope all is well with the McDowell family.


  2. Your site came to me via a Google alert, and it proved to be very innovative and a good read. Congratulations to all who participated.

    At the Frost Foundation, since the discovery of Frost’s previously undiscovered war poem by the Virginia Quarterly, we’ve conducted several public conversations about Frost’s war poetry.

    For future groups studying this subject, here are two topics that came up:

    1) Frost’s published poem to Edward Thomas “To E.T” and compare it to the newly discovered poem.

    2) Read through the DoverThrift edition of Frost’s North of Boston and then quickly read through the collection edition of Edward Thomas. Compare the different musics, the tone, and the point of view of each.

    Again congratulations on a job well done.

    Mark Schorr
    Executive Director
    Robert Frost Foundation


  3. I’m rather computer illiterate; it hasn’t mattered much as everything I do is on-site!

    Thanks for sharing your lesson; I thought I might share mine:

    Whenever I conduct groups of eighth graders through Arlington National Cemetery, I like to include, ‘In Flanders Field’, amongst the three poems to be read or recited. The other two are, ‘High Flight’, and, ‘Bivouac of the Dead’.

    ‘High Flight’, is chiseled into the back of the Challenger Memorial monument and lines of, ‘Bivouac of the Dead’ can be found on the McClellan Arch (the original entrance to the cemetery) as well as on a number of plaques throughout the cemetery. ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ is chiseled in the Memorial Ampitheater; I always think of Wilfred Owen when I am there. (That’s a great place to discuss Pericles’ Funeral Oration.)

    At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial I read, ‘Hello, David’, by Nurse Dusty as well as exerpts from letters written by soldiers during the conflict.

    I have asked my students, posing as soldiers or sailors, to write a letter home or a prayer before a big battle; after I read a few, I relate them to current events.

    The Tour Marm


  4. That sounds like a really interesting and engaging lesson plan. As a future social studies teacher myself, I’m on the look out for ways to integrate technology into my (future) classroom. Your blog is really a great resource!


  5. This sounds like a really cool project! I’m in the eighth grade at a school in Florida, and we are just now finishing up the WWI unit in my class. I think I may print this page out and give it to my teacher as a suggestion!! Thank you for showing up on google!! =]


  6. Fantastic idea! I’m a secondary ed-social sciences major and it looks like a wonderful idea for team teaching. I love the way that it combines history with English (two of my favorite subjects).


  7. Wow, I really like the idea of having your students write poetry from the perspective of a soldier. It really seems like that would get them to relate more to the realities of war and the sacrifices of the soldiers. Also great idea with mixing technology into the assignment. This is no longer a world of just libraries and books. There is so much out there on the web that can better educate our children if they know where to look.


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