Saturday, April 21, 2012

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet and
so cold

- William Carlos Williams

And thus begins the inspiration for Gail Carson Levine's first book of poetry: with William Carlos Williams' infamous insincere apology. This is the first book I have ever encountered where one poem is used over and over again for inspiration and parody.

This is one of those books that isn't likely to lure in kids with its cover wiles or enchanting premise, but it's certainly a goldmine for teachers. What could be more perfect than to have kids write their own false apology poems? And that's exactly what my 6th graders did. After listening to a few of Levine's examples, which included apologies from Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Snow White, and the cow from Jack and the Beanstalk (a great way to teach allusion too), I got everyone thinking about what sorts of false apologies they could write.

The poems themselves, if you read them silently and alone, are not particularly provocative, and after reading about five of them, they get sort of tiresome, but in the context of the classroom, where students are sharing ideas, it can be a fun writing exercise and a means to an end, which is to get them to write their own poetry. Starting with a model to emulate is always the best way to go before getting students to write on their own.  So not only did we have the original poem and the poems from this book as inspiration, but I also gave my students my own example:

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the bacon
that was on the counter

and which
you were probably
for ice cream

Forgive me
bacon is
meat candy

I was even impressed by the conversation that they initiated about point of view. In that, they asked, "So is this poem written from your husband's point of view?" A few of them argued that no, it was from my dog's, but regardless of whose point of view its from (either one is a logical choice, but I really wrote it with my husband in mind), it just shows that when you have faith in students to rise to the occasion, often they will go above and beyond. I only expected them to emulate a poetic form. Instead, we also had a discussion about point of view, something they have learned and applied in literature class this year (and not from a multiple choice test!) - and now English class too.

After our discussion, I left them to their own devices to have fun and come up with some creative ideas. Here are some of my own students' attempts:

This is Just to Say

I have broken 
your vase
playing baseball
in the house

it must have cost you 
a fortune
and you liked it
a lot

Forgive me
it was a good game
I earned 10 points

-Annie M.

This is Just to Say

I have given
my algebra work
to my dog

You probably
expected me to turn
it in today

Forgive me
I didn't like my
homework but my
dog did

-Micaela F.

This is Just to Say

I have stolen
your lucky rock
that was sitting
so innocently on the counter

that you probably 
needed for
a math

Forgive me
I needed the luck
when you found out
I stole it

- Annabel R.

This is Just to Say

I will not
be home
on time

I was too
busy running from 

I am sorry I didn't
want to get

- Evan W.

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Published: March 13, 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 80
Genre: Poetry
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: This was a purchased copy - gotta have it for my classroom! :)

1 comment:

  1. Your students' work is fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing it! I'm going to have to use the zombies excuse...