Students spent the last several days analyzing Tim O’Brien’s view of storytelling. Students compared and contrasted his view with that stated in two Native American poems and created a graphic representation of this analysis. As a culmination activity to this study, students are representing O’Brien’s view in a poem. They are not writing the poem from scratch. Rather, they are taking one of the two poems we used to compare and contrast views, and they are modifying it to make it communicate what O’Brien believes about storytelling. Students will be successful if they are thoughtful when selecting the language that will precisely convey O’Brien’s view. I introduced the assignment to students the day before and they had an opportunity to get started, though they did not get far. Today, they will complete it.
I begin class by asking students to turn in their copies of The Things They Carried. It is not necessary for them to have access to the text for today’s activity as they already took notes on his views and compared and contrasted it in a graphic organizer. They really should have enough information in their mind to complete today’s assignment.
I let students know they are finishing the poem they started the day before. They don’t need me to explain directions again. Instead, I tell them to be mindful as they select the right words to replace those in the original poem that do not work. I let them know I will be assisting them as they work.
As students work, I look over their shoulder to see how they are doing. One thing I observe is that students are adding too many words in certain places, which will change the structure of the original poem so much that it will no longer be a mimicking exercise. A student who is not able to mimic the structure of the original poem is one who struggles to understand how language functions, which is an important Common Core language standard my students need to develop. Sticking close to the original structure forces students to think about the author's intent in structuring phrases and stanzas they way she did. I interrupt their work to make this observation and instruct them to maintain the structure as much as possible. Adding a couple of words here and there is not a big deal, but they should not turn a 3-word line into a lengthy line. I also explain that maintaining the structure also requires that they use the same part of speech in the same grammatical form as much as possible. Again, this is meant to help students practice gaining control of language and further understand that language choices impact meaning. It is useful to read a good example at this point because they can hear similar parts of speech and grammatical form better than they can imagine it.
Students continue working. These are some sample poems students completed today.
I’m often pleased with the things students come up with when I ask them to present information in a way that is a bit out of the ordinary and I want students to take a look at each other’s work so that they can, hopefully, join me in appreciating the work.
Students will be reading and commenting on a total of four poems today. I explain the process, which consists of four rounds, each round following these steps:
Students rotate four times. At the end of the fourth and final rotation, students go back to their original seat and I give them some time to read the comments other students made on their paper.
I ask students to share their observations. Several students express appreciation for the poems they read today. I let them know that this marks the end of out unit on The Things They Carried.