Student poems are due today, the poems that were assigned in the previous lesson that required them to work with lines from both the vignette "Those Who Don't" from The House on Mango Street and the essay "Black Men and Public Space" by Brent Staples.
Before turning in their poems, I have each student take out a highlighter and highlight the three key requirements of this assignment: the two lines from the two outside texts, as well as their strongest/favorite use of figurative language. Additionally, I have them put the initials of each respective component next to the highlighted lines (EX: "TWD" next to the line from "Those Who Don't, "S" next to the use of simile, etc). This will help me zero in on key elements of the assignment, allowing me to more clearly assess their understanding of the assignment's central requirements. For example, if they highlight and label an example of figurative language that is in fact identified incorrectly, I will be able to determine whether or not they understand the concept. Similarly, having them highlight the lines they have used from the texts helps me determine how well they have tapped into the larger messages around stereotyping from both texts (Sample Student Poem).
When the highlighting is complete, I ask for volunteers to read their poems aloud (Poetry by Alexis). After each poem is read, I invite students to respond to the poet, with comments of praise or questions left unanswered by the poem.
By this time, after a week of exploring the theme of stereotyping, at least one student in each of my classes has mentioned the Trayvon Martin case. From the start of this unit, I have had the essay from Salon.com--"What great writing can teach us about Trayvon Martin"--prepared and waiting in the wings. Because of the sensitivity and controversy surrounding this case, I was not entirely sure whether or not I would end up using it.
Before we begin reading the essay, I first ask students what they know or what they think they know about the Trayvon Martin case. As they share, I do my best to clear up any confusion, as well as do my best to present the events of that night in an objective manner. If it appears that many students are unaware of the case, then I show the following short-film re-enactment.
We then begin reading the essay from Salon.com (I have shortened the essay from its original, for the sake of making it more manageable for my students). I instruct students that they will be performing the same paragraph-by-paragraph mini summaries with this essay that they have done twice now with previously read essays. There is generally not much time left in the period to get through much of the reading together, but I like to at least start what I can with students so that they have begun their homework with confidence. Additionally, I ask them to highlight any unfamiliar vocabulary words as they read.
Logistic advice: I have students treat the scenario/dialogue between the writer and her student that follows the first paragraph as the complete second paragraph (Beginning with "Once I had a student . . ." and ending with "He looked confused") for the sake of their mini-summaries.