Blues: So Easy, Even a Middle Schooler Can…Never Mind
Recently, I taught my students poetry through a variety of styles and forms. I taught limericks, haiku, cinquains, etc. One such poetic style was the twelve bar blues. It’s pretty simple to write a blues song:
Write a sad line like, “Oh my baby left me all alone.”
Then repeat that line, “Oh my baby left me all alone.”
The rhyme with it; thus, “Now I am sitting in an empty home.”
Can’t be any more straightforward than that, right? That’s what I thought.
One of my students had the assignment missing and came in to make up the work. I gave him example after example and tried to explain the simple structure of the song. I even busted out my own blues song and sang it, complete with fake guitar twang.
The Copy Cat Blues
The next day, he returned with a blues poem all written out. The only problem: he copied the example I had posted on the board—word for word.
“You didn’t write a blues song,” I said. “All you did is copy the one from the board. That’s plagiarism. I need you to write one of your own, from your head, not mine.”
“Okay,” he breathed in his falsetto voice and walked away.
(Now, let me give you a short auditory description of how this child speaks. He only speaks by taking a deep breath and letting it all out at one time as he speaks in falsetto. Go ahead, give it a try. See what I mean?)
The Laughingstock Blues
The next day he returned and breathed out, “I have my blues poem.”
He handed me a piece of paper with several paragraphs written on it. It obviously was not a blues poem, or a poem of any sort for that matter. Hmmm. I typed the first sentence of his paragraph in the Google search bar, which led me to an entry at poets.org. I looked up at him with a huge grin on my face.
“Not only did you again plagiarize this, but you didn’t even plagiarize a poem. You copied several paragraphs about the history of poetry from this website.”
Normally I refrain from laughing at students, but this was just too good. “Oh, man. You didn’t even copy a poem. Wow. Now that is the best thing I’ll hear all day!”
I proceeded to tell him to do it again. He smiled, confused, and left the room. Later that day that same student complained that it was hard to log in to the computers because he keeps forgetting how to spell his name. Maybe he should write a blues song about that.