Using Words to Help You See: Examining an Author's Word Choices

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SWBAT to explain how an author's word choices affect the reader's experience when listening or reading poetry.

Big Idea

Investigating an author's craft is an important skill and helps one have a better understanding of the text being read.

Listen to This

15 minutes

Today when students enter the room, they find the Joyful Noise books and a writing paper on their desks and the ELMO on displaying the poem "Whirligig Beetles".  Today's lesson involves discussing poets' word choices and how they contribute to our overall experience of reading the poem.  While listening to the poem, students will record what they "see" from the words they hear.  

"Whirligig Beetles" does a good job of displaying word choice and in giving the idea of spinning and whirling to the readers.  

Before we discuss my poem choice, we revisit yesterday's question- "Did you notice any word choices that really spoke to the motion or the sound of the insect in the poem?"  A lot of students raised their hand to answer this question, but none of them were quite on the right track.  Most could say that they "saw" the picture, but couldn't pinpoint how word choice helped them do that. 

I had them close their eyes as I read "Whirligig Beetles".  I told the students to really imagine each word and what it meant- what the bugs were doing.  I only read one side of the poem because I needed all students to focus on the vocabulary used.  It was difficult for the students to get the full picture (see Reflection) but we got through it.  

What Did You See?

40 minutes

After we read the poem, we begin to discuss the vocabulary of "Whirligig Beetles".  I want to hear what the students "saw" when I read the poem.  Some students were able to tell me that they saw the beetles spinning in the water and that they liked the part where the poet used all the "spinning" words.  It wasn't a bad exercise considering that they had a hard time not hearing both voices.  

Before I dismiss the students to practice their poems, I tell them that today is the day that they need to choose the poem they will be performing.  I tell the students they could read and practice any poems they want to, but at the end of the class, all group members must agree on one poem.

I give them the rest of the time to read and practice.  

Let's See It Together

15 minutes

Again, near the end of class, I gather the students back together and ask them if they "saw" anything while they were reading their poems.  I wanted to see if the students could transfer the learning we did in the beginning to their own poems.  There was a really great answer from a pair of students who read "Water Boatmen".  They said that they could "see" the bugs moving their legs each time they called out "Stroke!"  

I called the students attention to the poem, "Water Boatmen" and pulled up a youtube video to show a video of a crew and a coxswain and then the water boatman bugs to help marry the words to the images.  

This video does a good job of showing rowing, but it's long and you may need to fast forward to about the 40 second mark to get a good shot.


After we watch a bit of the rowing video, I show them a video about water boatmen.  


Seeing both of these videos together helped my students marry the images and understand why the author used the analogy of the rowing with the way the water boatman actually looks and moves.  

I did have to explain the meaning of coxswain and how in the old days they yelled, "Stroke!". That was the last missing element.