Monday, October 4, 2010

Teaching Adults: Poetry & the English Language

A short game in Adult Introductions

In my Parent's English class, I made name cards for the subject of Personal Introductions.

The name cards with the faces and names of famous people who inspired me. Some cards were of famous celebrities which would be fun or funny for parents to introduce themselves as; others took on a more serious note which I hoped might strike an interest in multi-culturalism.

One of my favorite name cards was Maya Angelou.

Poetry can be an advanced text to teach from. Poets take much creative liberty in their use of words and interpretation isn't always easy, even for English speakers. At one point, I thought my teachers would be busting out their cellphone translators for this. Still, teaching stay-at-home moms and teachers who don't like their husbands, I thought introducing a subject about female strength, sexuality and passion would be good-- whether they understood the meaning or not.

 Phenomenal Woman  
by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say-- It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
.Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say-- It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.


Photo courtesy of Rebecca Rebouche blogsite

When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say-- It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say-- It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Activity (tried out on my Teacher's English Class) :

- Students take turns reading through the text, while I check their pronunciation
("Phenomenal" is the hardest word for them to pronounce... they often say, Pen-omenal). The poem has a lyrical rhythm to it and the words aren't complex, so this makes it an easy text to read.

- Next:
I read the poem in a more dramatic sense and with my entire body, to give more expression and meaning to the language.

- I give a summary of the poem and then go through and offer translations.

-  I have them try expressing their feeling through the words that I've translated.

- There are many cultural differences between Koreans and Westerners in regards to being a woman and femininity. My adult students are all mothers. So I encourage a discussion.

I am considering using this text for one more lesson as a way to practice pronunciation, but we'll see.

1 comment:

  1. @Ready to Fly: Thanks for dropping by. The discussion was interesting though cut short before getting too in-depth (class time ended). But generally, the sexual/social mores between western women & Korean ones are very different. Angelou talks mostly about her sexuality as a woman, as well as , it can be interpreted, the different emotions and roles. Korean women understand the maternal part but the sexual part is something we weren't able to quite break through.