Activity: Perspective Shift

Have everyone read a poem written about a nonhuman animal, Richard Jarrette’s “Beso the Donkey,” for example. Consider having each person in the circle read a couple of lines, or invite a student who hasn’t had the opportunity to speak in a while read the poem aloud. This is also a nice way to include students who are shyer about sharing their ideas, and help them get used to participating in the circle in a gentle way.

  1. Split into pairs or split off individually and rewrite the poem from the individual’s point of view (e.g. with “Beso the Donkey,” instead of writing from the perspective of Beso’s observer, write as Beso himself.)
  2. Come back to the circle to share your new poems and discuss why you made the choices you did. How did you choose what to include and what to leave out? What do we learn about the subject of your poem that we do not learn from reading the original poem? Is there anything that we can learn by reading about him or her in the third person that we don’t get from your first-person poem? Why is this?
  3. Read the original poem again (if just one person read the first time, have someone else read this time), and move into a Community of Inquiry around the poem with your new deeper appreciation for what the poem is doing.

*Alternative: It could be just as fruitful to begin with the Community of Inquiry and then split off to write poems. If you write and share first, the CoI will likely be more fruitful. If you discuss first, the poems may likely be more insightful/deeper. It’s up to you as a facilitator. Try out the activity with two different poems two different ways, and see which yields the most philosophically interesting results.

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