To prepare for an essay on sonnets, students are directed to read a small collection of sonnets, answer some quick questions about the genre based on their observations while reading, and then, using the structure of one of the sonnets as a model, write [their] own and post it to the Learning Management System.
There is also a forum in which students discuss the activity as they are undertaking it. The activity achieves several outcomes:
1. Constructing a sonnet gives students a practical knowledge of what this form technically entails and encourages them to recognise these attributes in the sonnets they go on to analyse.
2. In being invited to write within a genre, students are prompted to think about the idea of genre itself. I.e., students will inevitably ask whether their sonnet has to rhyme, have a volta, have fourteen lines, etc. A teacher can redirect these questions into a discussion about how genre is made, the interactions between readers and writers and texts in assigning a text to a genre, the flexibility and limitations of genre, etc.
3. Students experience writing as a social act (they post their poems to the intranet) and, because they have to have read and researched prior to writing, they experience reading and researching as social acts too. As we undertake this activity within the first couple of weeks of semester, we hope that this permanently orients their attitude towards reading, writing and researching as activities with broad social ramifications.