ORWELL — Grand Valley High School junior American literature students have been getting in touch with their creativity and celebrating their hard work.
This past week, Carrie Brumit’s 11th-grade American literature classes held a “Poe Party,” in honor of the famous “father of short stories,” Edgar Allan Poe, who they have been studying for the past month. After reading and analyzing various short stories by Poe, such as “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” students were familiarized with his writing techniques and style. The classes completed various projects to accompany each of the stories or poems they read, such as creating masks to go along with “The Masque of the Red Death.” Inspired by his material, students then completed their biggest and most detailed assignment thus far. They were to create a short story or poem of their own, emulating various elements of Poe’s signature writing trademarks. Some of these elements include the use of imagery, symbolism, allusions and extended vocabulary words.
The 11th-graders participating in this class were given a week in school to concoct their masterpieces. They were allowed to work alone or with a partner on this project. After laying out a rough draft of their stories, they had other students preview their works and make any suggestions as to how it could be improved.
On Feb. 27, the 11th grade American Literature classes hosted their Poe parties. As students streamed into their English class, the ominous dim lighting set the mood, and two giant inflatable skulls lighted from the inside flanked the head of the classroom. To the left, a black table was set with coffee and any refreshments students chose to bring in. In the middle, a lone stool sat by itself, and a lamp was angled toward it.
This “coffee shop” mood excited students as they awaited the festivities to begin. Each student took turns reading aloud their story to their fellow classmates as the listeners filled out critique sheets that rated how much they enjoyed the story.
The results of the students’ writing efforts were phenomenal, Mrs. Brumit said about the overall quality. “It just goes to show that when you set an expectation, no matter how high, you can be pleasantly surprised! These students really delivered!” she said.
Juniors Callie Forrest and Samantha White partnered up for this assignment and created a 60-line narrative poem called “Tweets from Thy iPhone 4.” In this poem, they borrowed the rhyme-scheme and essence of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” to create a good-willed satire of a modern-day teenager’s issue with distractions while trying to complete homework. In the beginning of their poem, it reads, “While I pondered nearly weeping, suddenly there came a tweeting, as someone simply tweeting, tweeting at my iPhone 4. ‘Tis some follower,’ said I, ‘tweeting at my iPhone 4,’ only this, and nothing more.”
Another impressive piece of literature came from junior Lily Schooler. Her story was entitled “The Story of the Ripper,” which followed a London officer’s journey in discovering the culprit of various murders, only to reveal a surprising and unexpected twist at the end. The narrator confesses midway through the story, “Though I will shamelessly admit I believed that there was not much that I alone could do to bring an end to the madness. In fact, I didn’t even think the detectives could do much either…”
Collectively, the students quite enjoyed the Poe Party. Junior Kelsey Merritt gave positive feedback regarding the lesson. She said, “I like it when teachers mix things up and be creative. It gives a different way of learning and I really liked what Mrs. Brumit did with this.”
Fellow junior Allie Stanley, who wrote about a teen-age girl who experiences firsthand the potential dangers of meeting people from the internet in real life, shared similar thoughts on this assignment. “It gave high school students a chance to be creative and celebrate their individuality,” she said.
While at first, many of them dreaded the assignment, by the end of their work, a majority of the writers felt an unexpected pride over their hard work, and delighted in the celebration of their effort.