Pop Sonnets: A Cross-Curricular Adventure

7th Graders are not just learning Shakespeare, they are learning Shakespeare as a second language. Rather than encountering iambic pentameter through recitations of centuries-old plays and poems, they are writing their own dynamic verse in the form of “Pop Sonnets.” Writing these sonnets is just the beginning of a cross-curricular adventure.
Pop Sonnets are based on the work of a New York software developer named Erik Didriksen who went viral in 2015 with his Shakespearean takes on songs by Taylor Swift, 50 Cent, Adele, and others–converting them into sonnets using the rhyme scheme of five iambs with two syllables each. That age-old rhyme scheme is: a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g.
Our 7th Grade Humanities students are following suit with several caveats. Their Pop Sonnets must use archaic words such as thee, thou, and thine; they must make sense and be readable as a poem in English; they must approximate the sense, plot, or message of the original pop song; and they must end with a rhyming couplet that brings closure to the poem and “maybe a smile to the readers face,” according to their Pop Sonnets checklist. Students chose which songs to “sonnetize” from a diverse playlist provided by Mr. Collazo and Ms. Choudhry.
“While I joke with my students that I always dreamed of raising my children bilingual in Elizabethan verse and our own modern English, the thing that makes this project so gratifying is seeing our seventh graders unselfconsciously apply their growing understanding of inverted syntax, archaic diction, and iambic pentameter while doing their own creative work. Having written some Shakespeare of their own, students will go on to read Shakespeare with greater confidence,” explained Ms. Choudhry, Reading and Writing Integrator and Upper School Humanities Teacher.
Equally important is that Pop Sonnets is a project that unfolds across disciplines. While students write their pieces in Humanities, they learn to play and sing the songs they are based on in Music, illuminate them in Art, and finally, will perform them in small groups during Sonnetized!–a 7th Grade Shakespeare Zoom-reimagining of the traditional 7th Grade Elizabethan Evensong–held in past years in the cathedral. Sonnetized! will air on March 12 at 2:00 PM. Stay tuned for more news featuring Pop Sonnets as they make their way across the curriculum.
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