The New Colossus: Our Beacon to Immigrants

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Objective and contrast the Statue of Liberty and the Colossus of Rhodes to determine the symbolization of Motherhood, Light and Immigrants and the overall theme of "The New Colossus" poem.

Big Idea

Our Statue of Liberty is a symbol for the welcoming attitude our forefathers established for our United States. Poetry is one way for us to express our agreement with these beliefs.

Creating the Purpose

10 minutes

My purpose for this lesson is to have students connect what they have learned in history about the colonists fights for freedom and liberty - to what they have learned in reading about immigrants and refugees - to what they learned about choosing words carefully and freedom of speech in this poetry unit to build understanding of the symbolism of our Statue of Liberty. The big idea is the evaluation of the wording and relevance of the poem "The New Colossus" and how this connects to the beliefs our government was established on.  

There are a lot of components to this lesson and I want to keep students interactively involved in the learning, so I chose to begin this unit with an inquiry based question which asks them to compare the two statues.

I start the lesson with a sheet of paper and pencils on each of the table groups (I have 6) with a picture of two statues on each - The Colossus of Rhodes and The Statue of Liberty. I share that they are going to work as a group to identify things that are similar and different about the statues and then respond to the question at the bottom of their sheet:

What mood does each of the statues create for viewers (how does looking at them make you feel)?

I ask this because I want to open the discussion for why a man and woman were chosen to represent a people and how our viewpoints of each gender differs. 

I give them 5 minutes to write their answers and then ask them to share out as teams some of their responses. As we add to the discussion students begin to make connections to more and more details.

I now share the Statue Facts and educate students on who, what and why these statues came to be built. I now share the objective that today we are going to read and evaluate the meaning of the poem, "The New Colossus" to determine the symbolism of the statue and the author's lesson. 


Guiding the Learning

15 minutes

In this section I want to review  to activate their prior knowledge about what we have learned about American history. I ask - "Why did we declare independence from the British in the Revolutionary War?". I take responses and then prompt them by sharing our forefathers believed that everyone should be welcome in the United States so they people from all countries come to live and work here. I remind them about when they created the welcoming brochures in our immigrant unit.

I introduce Emily Lazarus, a young female poet at that time. and share that she was so inspired by the statue that she wrote a poem titled, "The New Colossus" - I ask why she might have titled her poem?

I then pass out the The New Colossus student poem (I have underlined key words and phrases to help them focus on the meaning of smaller sections to build to the larger meaning). I share that I will be reading the poem to them and that as I do I want them to listen, write questions on parts that are confusing and underline any vocabulary that they find difficult to understand. (I'm looking for words like Yearn, Wretched, Teeming, Exiled, Pomp and Tempest).

As I read I do a The New Colossus Think Aloud identifying a few parts to help them build understanding so that they can respond to the next part of the lesson independently. 

After the first read I ask students to share their unfamiliar words - I write these on the board and give students context clue sentences or use the words in a familiar way to help them build understanding and then write the definitions we come up with on the board.

I post the large copy of the poem and give students Post-it Notes. I instruct students that they are going to help us determine the meaning of the stanzas of the poem using these notes. As they read with their partners they will write down information that describes the meaning of the phrases that are underlined and add it to our chart. Together we will make a goal of defining all of the sections to learn the author's lesson in the poem. They are instructed that their goal is to add two or more kid-friendly definitions to the chart.

I model the first Post-it by sharing that in the first stanza the author states "brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land" - share that I know the picture of The Colossus of Rhodes is a Greek god and he is standing with his feet on two different land masses - so I think she is talking about this statue here. I add my Post-it with The Colossus of Rhodes to the chart.  

Independent Learning

20 minutes

After modeling how to use post-it notes to document their thinking, students begin to share their thinking about the author's message in the poem by adding Post-it notes to the chart.

I have students continue to work in small groups to navigate through the poem.  I circulate through the classroom to help support students who need help figuring out the meaning of the poem.

As students finish I ask the Big Question - What was Emma Lazarus, the author's, message for readers in her poem? What was the most important thing she wanted them to know about America?

Closing the Loop

10 minutes

Student groups share their author’s messages and the sections of the poem that gave them the most evidence to support their positions.  

I ask them what might be some reasons to chose a woman to  represent our country and not a man? We share their thinking. I want students to make the connection that our doors were open in peacefulness for friends and family and mighty powers against anyone who threatened our people - just like a mother would protect her children. I end by sharing that the poem deals with the topic of immigration and how all friendly immigrants are welcomed by the Statue of Liberty which is a symbol for America.

I have students respond to the The New Colossus exit ticket question sheet defining the meaning of the imagery of motherhood, light and immigrants in the poem. I will use this to assess their independent levels of understanding which will determine which lesson I teach next in the unit.