When students arrive, they find a list of figurative language and sound device terms listed on the Smart Board. The expectation is that they list at least one example for each of them. The list includes:
The list does not include everything I want them to know and easily recognize, but it is a good start. I include terms on there that I am certain most, if not all, students know in order to give them a place to start and build confidence from.
At the conclusion of the 5 minutes, I go through my roster really quickly and have each student respond to one of the items on the list, sharing their example. As we go, I provide supportive feedback to help them continue to develop and improve.
When we complete the warm-up activity, I pass out a copy of the Firework Analysis document. This is a really well-known song, so it is a great way to address the fact that music is poetry as well. It is not uncommon for ELA teachers to use this connection to our advantage as it helps immensely to increase the overall engagement level of students. It is quite typical that students come into the study of poetry with reluctance, so every little bit we can do to alleviate that is good.
Since students are usually pretty familiar with the song, it becomes less intimidating for them and they are more willing to try. We begin with reading the song/poem aloud together in unison. I do this because it is important to hear the language. Some structures of poetry are easier to recognize when we can hear it spoken than simply through reading it silently to ourselves. I then play the song for the students, so they are able to begin drawing comparisons to the spoken version. Some devices become more difficult to recognize when the instrumental portion is added and the phrasing changes, and it is important to me that the students understand that.
After this, we go through the song/poem stanza by stanza and look at the structures present such as the items listed on the Firework Example Document. As I always ask the students to do, we start by labeling the stanzas and the rhyme scheme. This allows me the opportunity to talk about the differences between true rhyme, internal rhyme, and slant rhyme. Slant rhyme is something the kids have very little familiarity with, so this example really helps them to wrap their minds around the concept.
We then look at each stanza and talk about the meaning, literal and figurative, that is expressed. To do so, we analyze first what the text says explicitly, in literal terms. Then, we look at the figurative language devices present and adjust our understanding appropriately. In class, we get through to the first chorus usually before having to wrap up for the day. I then assign the students to complete the process for homework so we can wrap it up neatly the following day.
To close for the day, I ask the students a rather open ended question and have them quickly write down a 2-3 sentence response. The question is: Why is it valuable and/or important to recognize that popular music is also poetry? What do I get from this understanding?
After students take a minute or 2 to write down their individual responses, I ask for volunteers to share aloud with their classmates. After a students shares his or her perspective, I ask the class to raise their hands if they wrote something very similar to the opinion we just heard. This helps me to continue building the connections within my classroom.
The response that I am hoping for, and that I make it a point to get a student to share if I am able, is something to the effect of music being something that most teenagers really enjoy and/or connect to. Poetry is something that most teenagers do not seem to enjoy or connect to, so recognizing music as a form of poetry may help some people change their mind a little about poetry.
That's all I ask: that students at least make an effort to look at poetry with a different perspective and give it a chance. Music is the gateway to making that happen.