Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Poetry Lesson: Chiasmus

We had the most interesting poetry lesson we've ever had by studying chiasmus poetry in the Old Testament. 

In the morning, I had been doing my personal scripture study in the Old Testament and read about Hebrew literary styles and poetry in this study guide.  

Many years ago we had touched on chiasmus in Seminary while studying the Book of Mormon.  (The fact that the Book of Mormon contains several chiasmus- not fully understood and discussed by Western scholars until the 1930's- is used as further evidence of the validity of the B of M as true scripture, and not simply the literary work of Joseph Smith, a man with a limited education.)  I thought that was pretty cool at the time and it excited me again to learn about this beautiful literary style in the context of the Old Testament.  

When you read a few verses and realize you're reading a chiasmus, it feels like discovering some buried treasure.  Armed with the information and examples in the two links above, I quickly planned a fun lesson for the kids.

We started by discussing general information about chiasmus.  Then I copied several small examples from the scriptures on the white-board and helped the kids identify how the lines match up with each other, even if the same exact words aren't used each time.  

At first reading, they didn't understand what I meant by saying that the opposite lines matched with each other.  It was awesome to see their eyes light up as I pointed, numbered, and reread the matching lines.  When it clicked for them, I could see them get excited.  

After several scriptural examples, we worked together to write one on the board.  Then I turned them loose to write their own.  Primus chose "Family Care" as her topic and wrote all of it completely on her own.

Secundus decided to write about her pet fish, "Rainbow."  I wrote the first half as she dictated to me her ideas.  Then I helped guide her just a little as she flipped it around and wrote the second half.

I was amused that Tertius really latched onto the idea that chiasmus was used in scripture.  I guess he figured that meant his chiasmus needed to be about God.  He dictated to me the first half, listing things that God doesn't want us to do.  Then to write the second half, I would point to a line and ask him, "what's another way to say this?"  His frowny-faced illustration was a nice touch.

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