Sinking of the Titanic - Comparing Poetry and Prose

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SWBAT...summarize "The Wreck of the Titanic" poem and write about how poetry changes the reader's perspective on the story of the Titanic

Big Idea

Poetry is written to entertain readers.

Creating the Purpose

5 minutes

I tell students I am going to read them something and I want them to think of it as a riddle they need to solve.

I then read students this first stanza of the poem "The Wreck of the Titanic" without showing them the title. 

I then ask, "What is being described?"  I take students guesses and give a second clue of "It is topic we have been discussing a lot this week" if they do not get it the first time. I usually see a lot of "ah hah" moments when I share this clue.

I tell students the title of the poem and hand out the student copies and project it on the board.

I share the objective - yesterday we read articles or prose of two view points on the sinking of the Titanic. Today we are going to read and evaluate a poem to determine how the author's use of poetry effects our understanding of the story and the reader's feelings about the Titanic sinking. You are then going to write about the differences between poetry and prose, and decide which would be a better way to share this story. 

Guiding the Learning

15 minutes

I tell students that poetry authors write in short sentences or phrases.  Because of this, we need to read closely and think about what is being said because many times not all the words will be there or they will be said in a way that doesn't give all the descriptions. 

I start by reading the first line of the The Wreck of the Titanic poem and asking students why the word "Southhampton" is capitalized - take answers. I tell them that this word was unfamiliar to me, too, and that's why I circled it. I also tell them that I looked it up and found out that is the place the Titanic voyage began from. I share that good readers circle words they do not understand so that they can look them up to determine their meanings. I then add the response to the poem projected on the board.

I read to the second line "A poem of iron and steel, A sea dream"and wonder aloud what is being spoken about here? (I underline this phrase and add a question mark to the poem on the board)

I notice the words "iron and steel" and voice that I know the ship was made of iron and steel  - I add to this "a sea dream" and think that this might be referring to the Titanic. I add "Titanic" in the margin notes.  I do this one as a think aloud because it is difficult for students to figure out the meaning without a lot of modeling.

I then say that good readers build visual pictures and summarize poems as they read them to help understand each stanza. I add a short summary to the section on the right.

I read the next stanza and after reading it ask students how this passage makes them feel? Students should identify the words "nevermore" and "death" to signal that they are comprehending the mood and character of the verse. I take their responses and then write "sounds like something bad is going to happen" in the margin notes.

I then call for students to give me a short summary of this stanza and add it to the section on the right. Here's an example of a well marked up student worksheet. You can see their thinking and level of understanding by the questioning and comments made in each section. I encouraged them to do this so that they would think about the wording of each stanza, would give me more than one or two comments and could identify their understanding or areas where help was needed in a systematic way. 

Independent Practice

20 minutes

I tell students they are going to get the opportunity as good readers to question the poem as they read it to better understand what is happening in the story and then summarize to help build visual pictures of the events. This lesson is a great way for students to learn and demonstrate many of CCSS shifts from determining the theme of the poem, to comparing poetry and figurative language usage and prose to determine how speakers point of view influences readers, to explaining how stanzas and chapters fit together to explain a story. In that the lessons are broken down in smaller teachable moments, students are now able to perform at higher evaluative levels AND demonstrate this understanding in writing - Yeah! just where we want to get them with Common Core lessons.  

I instruct students that they will read the poem stanza by stanza and write questions, comments or identify unfamiliar vocabulary words just like we did on the class example. I have them work independently on this when writing but also give them the opportunity to share and question peers orally to help with understanding.

I share that their purpose is to determine what the poem is about and how the author feels about the Titanic sinking.

Here's a good example of a student who effectively questioned and marked up her text

Students are now grouped into partners or small groups to complete the rest of the poem.(I partner higher learners and small group struggling readers to help with comprehension because the poem is difficult for them to read) I circulate consistently because this is a higher level activity that may confuse lower readers. 

I set a timer for 15 minutes, but adjust it to 20 if needed for all to be completed.

Early finishers can create a series of drawings of the events in each stanza on the backs of their papers   

Closing the Loop

20 minutes

I now question students as a whole group to build understanding of the objective of the writing component and to reiterate what prose is (may have to write prose = stories, text, commentaries, etc./ poetry = poems, haiku, sonnet, etc. on the board to help struggling readers and ELL students).

I ask and discuss these questions with the group - How does this poem differ from the other two articles you read? How did it make you feel during and after reading it? How did the word choice differ? Which was easier to read? Did you have the same connection to the poem as you had to the two stories?

After our discussion I release students back to their desks to write their responses to the focus questions, "How do poetry and pose differ and which was the better way to describe the sinking of the Titanic? Why?"   

This question was asked to not only move them towards finding deeper meaning in the two texts, but also as a way for them to demonstrate their understanding of the similarities and differences between the two styles of writing. I wanted them to see the purpose for using each in a new light (emotional effect on readers).

Here's an example of a completed student response. I review the misunderstandings they had and how I addressed them in my reflection.