I open by asking students who has played baseball or softball? I do this with the lesson to determine what information I need to front load to build a conceptual understanding of the game. I then tell them that the top American baseball player had an average of .348 in last season and that the top National batting average was .331 (Batting Averages). That means that they only had one hit out of every three at bats, and if they were thrown all perfect pitches they would hit three out of every nine pitches. If you only got three correct on a nine question test would you consider yourself as passing the test?
Do you think they should be paid millions of dollars to play? Why do you think they have difficulty hitting more pitches? I want students to connect with the difficulty with getting a hit so that when I read the poem they can build more meaning into the hopes of the crowds and the futility of Casey's confidence at the plate.
I now introduce the objective and share with them that they are going to get a chance to read and identify the plot and main ideas in a famous poem titled "Casey at the Bat" about an exciting baseball game played by the Mudville Nine team.
I present the poem first aloud to my students and then I ask, What are the main events? With this group I had some students who needed support to understand the action in each stanza so, I decided to play them this video clip from the Disney rendition of the events of the poem.
The fun filled action of the pictures both gave them an insight into the era of the poem and also the suspense created for the fans with the at bats.
I then asked again what the main idea and sequence of events of the poem were. I asked why were people given the names Clooney, Casey? I explained that in baseball they only use players' last names and that their first names are not given. I discuss a short overview of innings, at bats and the basic rules of the game. It always surprises me that some students have never been to a baseball game, but this ensures that they at least have a basic understanding of the game.
I then explain the vocabulary they will see in the poem. We discuss kid friendly meanings and I have them create quick pictures of what each word symbolizes. These pictures help them to associate a meaning with each of the words.
Now that students have read and discussed the poem they are capable of completing the summary of the stanzas. I have some work with a partner (those who struggled more with the conversations and questioning) and some work independently (those who are higher level students).
I explain that they will get the opportunity to read the poem and summarize the main ideas of each of the stanzas in the poem. I model reading the first stanza and ask students how we could say what happened or the main idea in easier "kid friendly" language? They respond with "The Mudville team was losing four to two with two outs".
I share that they will continue to write a short summary of each stanza with their partners. I share that for the final page they will write the main idea of the poem and can write or draw the four main details that support this main idea. I project the Main Idea and Supporting Details- Casey at Bat worksheet and take questions. This not only adds an element of fun but also gives me a means to assess their understanding of the theme of the poem.
When we close the lesson I have students gather and we do a quick share of the main idea. We debate until they come to a conclusion and identify the main details of the poem.
I then tell them that I want to share some information about The Story Behind the Poem Casey at the Bat, about the author, Ernest Thayer, and how his poem became so famous. I ask them if they think the Mudville Nine was a real team? Was Casey a real baseball player? What evidence they have to support their opinions?
I don't give them an answer yet because I want them to keep the interest for the next lessons.