Metaphor- "Life Ain't No Crystal Stair"

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SWBAT infer poets message in a poem by underlining important words, creating synonyms, and drawing pictures help visualize meaning.

Big Idea

Staircase of strategies to realize the message.


10 minutes

 Does anyone know who the person is on the poster on our classroom door? That's right, it is Langston Hughes.  He is an important American poet.  Today and tomorrow you will be reading and learning from his poetry.  He was born in 1902!  That is a long time ago, over 100 years, but his poetry is still alive because kids and adults all over the world are still reading and enjoying the poems and stories that he wrote long ago. Let's first start by watching a short 3 minute video clip about his life.  

Watch 3 minute video.  Say, "Langston Hughes wrote for everyone.  I think you will enjoy his poems because today you will learn how to understand figurative language in poetry.  

Now you will read a poem titled, "Mother to Son".  We read this poem last year.  Raise your hand if you remember.  I know some of you were in a different classroom last year or were in a different school, so you can ask a classmate for help if something is not clear to you about this poem.

Today students you will be using multiple strategies to discover the message of this poem. You will underline words, write synonyms, draw pictures, and lastly write the poet's message.

You have used these strategies before.  I want to give you a tip:  These strategies will help you understand any text you are reading.  These strategies are called "Marking up the text".

Alright, let's do this!  If you are a materials manager raise your hand.  I should see seven hands in the air.  Students help me count, we need 7 hands in the air.  Perfect.  Managers your job is to pass out a copy of Langston Hughes' poem "Mother to Son" and a post-it to your table partners.

Dismiss each table one at a time.  Have managers pass out poem and post-its.

Independent Work

20 minutes

To foster a quick and seamless transition, give table point for the first few tables that have everyone seated and quiet.

"Students, I want you to make a checklist on the post-it to remind you to use all four strategies for understanding text.  Watch and do. Write underline, synonym, pictures, and poets message.  In front of each strategy make a box that you can check after you have used that strategy."

Use the doc camera and model how to make a checklist.  Quickly circulate through the room to check that all students have made their checklist.  Stick your checklist on the side of your poem.

Then say, "Read the title of the poem.  Be thinking what this might mean. The poem "Mother to Son" uses the metaphor of life 'aint no crystal stair'.  I want you to be thinking what the mom might want her son to understand about life."    I think this activity will support students understanding of how a poet uses figurative language to express their intended meaning.  It is important to discuss what crystal is...clear, beautiful glass, and that image contrasted with tacks and splinters.  

As students are working, confer with table groups to clarify words in the poem "Mother to Son" that might be difficult such as crystal, splinters, bare, landings.  It is important to discuss what crystal is...clear, beautiful glass, and that image contrasted with tacks and splinters.  

Mid workshop Interruption: 

Say, "In the past, I've noticed that some of you have marked up your text by underline all the words but you haven't drawn pictures. Today, I want to remind you to be selective about what you underline.  Don't underline everything. That does not show that you are determining importance!  Instead, underline important words, words that are important to you as you read the poem. These are words that paint a picture in your mind or words that you don't quite understand.  It is important to know that you have just read a word that you don't understand.  Because then you need to learn that new word and write a synonym next to it...that way you have learned a new word.  And the funny thing is once you learn a new word you will start seeing it in lots of places.  That is so cool!"

Allow the students to work independently for another 15 minutes.  Then stop the students for the share.


Share Out

10 minutes

Ask for volunteers to share their underlining, synonyms, pictures and message with the class.

Make a list of the different words that students defined with a synonym.  Remind them to be on the look out for these words in other texts.