Poetry is overwhelming to students. They are never sure how to read it and their confidence is not very high. Today, I am going to conquer those fears by applying the same analytical process they have been working through for prose to poetry.
For their warm up, I am going to ask students to write for three minutes about poetry. They will be instructed to write as much as they can. After they have written, I will ask them to write their responses on the Smart Board in two columns: Definition and Experience. Students will create a classroom definition of poetry and will list all experience with it.
I will make sure we include song as part of our definition since that is an easy way to make poetry approachable for students. This process will open the door to accepting poetry as a complex text that students need to know how to tackle. I think the students will be more open minded about it after talking about how much they already know.
We are continuing to work on our skills tracing a theme through text (RL 9-10.2). We have worked with a couple memoirs and a slave narrative. Today, we are going to apply that same process to poetry and analyze how the structure impacts meaning and theme (RL 9-10.5). We are reading Robert Frost's poem "Out, Out." I chose this poem because it ties nicely into our theme of What It Means To Be Human. The poem illustrates the nature of death and moving on from death. I am a firm believer that to understand poetry two things have to happen. First, the poem needs to be read aloud. Second, students need a chance to talk-it-out before they write-it-out. I am going to model both of those reading skills during the mini lesson. I will create a Smart Board document with the poem in it and space between each line to write some responses. To begin, I will read the poem aloud and will ask for 2 students to do the same. After our 3 oral readings, I will model our talk-it-out before we write-it-out strategy. I will read the first line, talk about my thinking and will write some comments, questions, predictions. I will do this for the first 6 lines of the poem so that students have an example of what this process looks like. Copy of Out, Out Screenshot explains this process.
After modeling, I will turn the thinking over to the students. Rather than the traditional, "Let's talk about the poem" which often turns into "Pretend that you're listening while the teacher tells you what it's about," I will turn all thinking and learning over to them. After pairing students, they will continue to go through the poem, line by line. Students will write questions, make predictions, and respond to each line. I will walk around and confer with groups. As I listen to the thinking of the students, I will add their thoughts to the annotated text on the Smart Board. The Standards tell us in RL 9-10.2 that students should be able to trace a theme throughout a piece of text. I typically don't think of poetry when I read that standard, so I'm pushing my students and myself. This lesson will be a great way for students to record their thinking through explicit annotation of the text.
Before leaving, I will ask students to add to our What It Means To Be Human board. I have created a place for students to link the texts we are reading and their themes to other texts, movies, songs, etc., that they have read. On a post-it, they will list the other piece of rhetoric they have experienced and explain how it illustrates the theme. These will stay up throughout the unit. Besides it being a place for students to visually see connections they are making, it is also a powerful formative assessment tool for me. I will be able to see which themes students are struggling relating to.