YHS English Department Hosts its First Salon & Poetry Evening

On Thursday, March 8th, AP Literature students conducted a salon at the Senior School which gave students an opportunity to showcase their learning about “Pride and Prejudice,” and social norms and etiquette in 18th Century England. For this evening students prepared by engaging in close reading and discussions about the novel itself, as well as secondary sources about the time period. Our central question for the evening was, “What, according to Austen, makes a good romantic relationship?”

The salon was an informal Harkness discussion, a conversation method has been introduced in the Senior School this year. In Harkness, students are asked to come to class prepared by having done close reading and annotating of texts. They then engage with each other and deepen their understanding of literature or historical texts by asking questions, referring to the text, summarizing each other’s thinking, and, most importantly, synthesizing their thoughts, opinions, and ideas in order to read a deep and critical understanding of the reading at hand. This shared understanding is our goal-we may not agree on all points-but we have come to know the material through engagement and thoughtful discussion.

In English 11 this year, students wrote poetry in reaction to podcasts, poems, and spoken word artists. At the heart of our unit was the question, “What’s Your Issue?” and students were asked to either mimic a poet or create their own poem based on an issue that they felt passionate about. We learn by doing, and in this case, the hope is that students will learn about the power of figurative language, diction, and form by making their own choices about these aspects of poetry. As well, we published a book containing the students’ poems, and on the evening of March 8th, the Grade 11s came and performed their poems in front of an audience. The power of these young women, their poetry, and their passion for issues was tangible.

Sara Sjerven
Senior English Teacher and Department Head