For Some Slight I Can't Quite Recall

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SWBAT compare violent encounters in literature, along with their aftermath

Big Idea

Through comparison, big ideas and small nuances are brought forth.

Warm Up: Latin Roots

10 minutes

This is our daily warm up, wherein students work with two or three Latin roots per day.  The resource that I use to get my roots is Perfection Learning's Everyday Words from Classic Origins.

Every day, when the students arrive, I have two Latin roots on the SmartBoard.  Their job is to generate as many words as they can that contain the roots, and they try to guess what the root means.  After I give them about five minutes, we share words and I tell them what the root means.

The students compile these daily activities in their class journals.  After every twelve roots, they take a test on the roots themselves and a set of words that contains them.

Reading the Poem - Three Times

10 minutes

After the warm up, I distribute copies of Ross Gay's amazing poem, "For Some Slight I Can't Quite Recall," which details a fight on a school bus.

Before we begin to talk about the poem, I insist that we read it three times.  First, I read it aloud, then I ask two students to volunteer to read it.  After each reading, I ask the students -- Is there anything that you think should be done differently with regard to pacing or emphasis by the reader?  It sounds like a weird question, but the students have just finished a found poetry activity, and they understand the importance of punctuation and arrangement.  

This particular poem doesn't give anything away through its formatting, so the reader has to do the work.

Annotating the Poem

20 minutes

After we read the poem, the students want to talk about it right away.  Instead of doing that, I ask them to annotate the text before we talk, and I annotate my copy at the same time.

Students will often ask, "What am I looking for?"  I tell them to think about the poet's purpose and the overall effect of the poem, then I ask them to try to figure out IF the poet achieved his or her goal and, if so, how?  Sometimes, I give students a list of poetic devices, but that can send them off on an alliteration treasure hunt, which isn't particularly instructive.  That's who I leave it a little bit open.  After they attempt to do some good annotations, I will show them what I have done and we will talk about the big questions at the bottom of my notes.

Answering the Big Questions: Discussion and Writing

15 minutes

The big questions that I want the students to wrestle with involve the importance of a first person speaker and a comparison between the violence in the book and in the poem.

The students are able to "get" the importance of the first person narrator in the novel, now that the poem brings that idea into focus.  They start to understand and discuss the power of writing as the perpetrator, and not the victim.  A key difference between the novel and the poem is that Gene is victimized by his own act of violence (after the fact) and the speaker in the poem is clearly violent because he is victimized (before the fact.)  That's an idea worth exploring, if the kids seem to be able to handle it, but I would definitely consider that to be advanced.

If the students are able to think about cause and effect in that way, it leads naturally in the question that asks them to compare the two acts of violence.  However, I think the discussion is still valid, even if it focuses on just intention (Did Gene mean to hurt Finny?), which I think the author leaves up to the reader.

In class, we were able to discuss the first question pretty thoroughly (without really delving deeply into cause and effect/victimization, so the students had to deal with the other question independently.