Poetry Station Rotations

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SWBAT read and analyze poetry.

Big Idea

Can students do it on their own?

Set Up

10 minutes

Today I am going to have my students read and analyze four different poems somewhat independently.  I am going to set this is up in a sort of station rotation for a couple of reasons.  First, my students do much better if they are allowed to be active, and this lesson gets them moving every 10 minutes.  Secondly, sixth graders at this time of the year (spring), when studying poetry, need a gimmick.  Stations give me more bang for my buck.  The students will read, analyze, collaborate, speak,listen, and write while staying engaged.  This wouldn't happen in whole group instruction.  

My goal with this lesson was to have students think critically and evaluate several poems at one time.  I chose these 4 poems because they are all different from each other, but similar to other poems that we have read in class throughout this unit.  They each offer different elements of poetry, and I tried to cover most of the techniques we have studied.  In addition, I felt that the language was at the right level for the students to understand with the help of their group members.  

I will spend a few minutes at the beginning of the lesson explaining how the stations will be set up.  I'll ask my students to give me a few guidelines that they'll need to follow when working in a collaborative group, and I'll keep them posted on the Smart Board.  I also like to use the Smart Board timer to keep us all on track.  

Station Rotations

20 minutes

Since I have four poems, I'll divide my class into 2 sections.  Each section will rotate separately through the 4 stations.  This will keep everything fast paced and time efficient.  I have designed groups of mixed ability making sure that each group has a leader.  I have provided a copy of the poem and discussion questions at each station.  I'll ask my students to read the poem and discuss the questions with the group during their allotted 10 minute session.  When the timer buzzes, they will move on to the next poem.  

My first poem is "Woman Work" by Maya Angelou.  Through this poem, I will have students investigate mood and personification.  


I've got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I've got shirts to press
The tots to dress
The can to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
'Til I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You're all that I can call my own. 

Maya Angelou
 What is the mood of the first stanza ?

 How is the mood of the rest of the poem different than the first stanza?

 Why do you think the writer changes the rhyme scheme after stanza 1?

 How is personification used in stanza 3? 

 What do you think the poet is saying in this poem?


My second poem (station 2) is "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost.  In this poem, students will look for alliteration, similes, and personification, as well as, overall theme.  


Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay. 

Robert Frost

Find 2 examples of alliteration. 

Find an example of personification.  (hint…her)

What does this mean?

Find an example of a metaphor.

What does “dawn goes down to day mean?”

Why does the author say that “Nothing gold can stay?”


Station Rotations Continue

20 minutes

I anticipate that the poems I chose for stations 3 and 4 will be more difficult for the students due to the challenging themes.  I plan on spending my time while students are working bouncing between these two stations facilitating discussion.  

In the poem, "Harlem," I anticipate having to explain some of these comparisons and make them clear to the students.  For example, what happens when you get a sore?  How does that feel?  What might it mean when that happens to a dream of yours?  Or, what is your dream?  Is it to win a swimming competition?  Well, what would it be like if that dream started to stink like rotten meat?  What would be happening to you and your dream?  

With "Travel," I will have to ask a lot of why questions....Why can she hear all this when the track is miles away and no trains are going by? Why can she hear and see things at nighttime when no trains are around?  What might she be doing at night? Why does the author say that she'd take any train no matter where it's going?  Why would she mention friends that she already has and friends that she might make in a poem about trains?  And...why would she call a poem about trains, "Travel?"

The poem that I chose for station 3 is "Harlem" by Langston Hughes.  In this poem, I'll have students analyze words and specific stanzas to determine the meaning of the poem.  


What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

 Look up these words and record their definitions.



Find a simile and explain what it means. 

What does it mean that a dream sags like a heavy load?

Why did the author choose to put the last line of the poem in italics?  


The station 4 poem will be" Travel" by Edna St. Vincent.  I will ask students to analyze each stanza of the poem, line by line, in order to understand what the writer is trying to communicate.  In addition, the students will search for symbols in the poem.  


The railroad track is miles away, 
And the day is loud with voices speaking, 
Yet there isn't a train goes by all day 
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn't a train goes by, 
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming, 
But I see its cinders red on the sky, 
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with friends I make, 
And better friends I'll not be knowing; 
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take, 
No matter where it's going. 

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Paraphrase stanza 1 in your own words.

Paraphrase stanza 2 in your own words.

 Why does the author say that “the railroad track is miles away” and “all night there isn’t a train go by” yet she describes what she hears and sees on the train?

What do the last 2 lines of the poem mean?

Use your answer to #4 to figure out what might the train symbolize?


Writing Connection

15 minutes

Once students have read and analyzed all 4 poems, I will ask them to choose the one they think is best.  I will have them base their decision on the merit of the poem:  it's theme, it's poetic elements, it's significance to them.  In other words, reasons like the poem being easy or short won't cut it! 

I will have the students explain why they think the poem is good and cite specific evidence from the text to show as an example.  In addition, they will also explain why the evidence makes it a great choice. (The RACE method)

Once we finish, I'll ask students to share which poem they chose by "voting" for their favorite.  I will tally votes from all of my classes so that we have winner.  

Student Examples: