In the previous lesson, we looked at one chapter in The Things They Carried, “Good Form,” to discuss what O’Brien believes about storytelling. Today, we look at a couple of poems students are familiar with, because we read them last semester, in order to have something to compare O’Brien’s perspective. I select two poems we have already looked at together because we don’t have time to try and understand a brand new poem or text from scratch. This is my thinking behind this choice.
The first poem I chose to revisit is this one Leslie Marmon Silko included in her novel, Ceremony. I tell students that we are reminding ourselves of what this poem has to say about storytelling. They have already read it and worked with it, but that was several months back. Still, students will likely want to just skim so to avoid the temptation of skimming, I read the entire thing aloud for them. Reading it aloud also adds inflections and fluency that can help students capture the meaning asked for by the task. I instruct students to focus on identifying how this poem addresses storytelling and how it compares to O’Brien’s “Good Form” as they listen to me reading.
I now give students time to write notes on what the poem is suggesting about storytelling. They do this on the same paper they used the day before, in which they wrote notes on what O’Brien’s “Good Form” is suggesting about storytelling. Like yesterday, I want to give students an opportunity to write notes individually as well as in collaboration.
I ask students to spend about 4 minutes in silence, jotting down some notes about this poem on their paper. I do let them know they are then going to collaborate with classmates so they should view this time as an opportunity to formulate things they can contribute to the discussion that follows.
I then give students time to share what they came up with in small groups. I instruct them to take advantage of this time to make sure they can all include at least 3-4 strong points. I listen in on their conversations at this point to see what type of support they may need. Students start explaining the poem instead of trying to identify what it suggested about storytelling. This is not a surprising misconception as explaining or summarizing the poem is much easier than trying to figure out what it suggests about storytelling, which can only be done if they think conceptually. For instance, one student’s bullet point explained that the witch told a story and it came true. I took this as an opportunity to clarify the task. I say, “We are not explaining the poem, we are figuring out what the poem suggests about storytelling.” I also remind them of the task last semester where they created a web showing the different functions of storytelling, which can help them with today’s task because I am basically asking them to identify the function of storytelling O’Brien speaks of the one this poem speaks of. This clarification helps them get back on track.
The second poem I selected is this one titled “Ceremony,” which also appears in Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony and students also read last semester. I read it aloud for them and follow the same process of note-taking, meaning students take a few minutes to jot down ideas individually and then discuss so that they can come up with 3-4 strong points.
These are good examples of points I hoped students would include in their notes for this assignment.
I give students a preview of the next step of this assignment. I let them know they are going to work in small groups to create a graphic organizer in which they compare and contrast the views of storytelling in the three texts we have worked on in the last couple of days. I will be explaining this in more detail tomorrow but I want students to get a preview because I want them to spend some time tonight making sure they have included enough strong points in their notes to use tomorrow.