Language Study: Holocaust Poetry (Day 2 of 2)

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SWBAT apply understanding of how language functions in different contexts to create meaning and tone by doing a close reading of a poem at the word, line and stanza level meaning.

Big Idea

As we continue our study of Holocaust poetry, we will do a communal, out-loud reading of a poem to analyze how meaning changes when you look at the various elements of a poem.


10 minutes

We will start class with ten minutes of reading time. I will read with students during this time. 

Poetry Jigsaw

20 minutes

The students were supposed to read either "Naked" or "Hitler's First Photograph" for today's class as preparation for a peer-to-peer jigsaw activity (SL.9-10.1a). To make sure that all students are exposed to both poems, I will ask students to partner up with a peer who read something different than they read. As is the purpose for any jigsaw, each student will be required to share their expertise on the poem they read and then gather information from their partner, who should be an expert on the poem they didn't read. 

I will give them the very basic instructions to read through each poem and have an informal conversation about the meaning, structure and/or style as revealed through their TPCASTT analysis of each poem. 

As they are jigsawing, I will encourage them to take notes on what their peer is sharing with them as both of these poems can be used for their seminar next week. 

Communal Reading "To The Little Polish Boy Standing In the Ghetto With His Arms Up"

20 minutes

This is probably one of the strangest lessons that I do, and have done for many years. I keep coming back to it because it always works so well to show students the different layers of interpretation a reader can have when reading a poem. I am especially excited to do it today given my observations about their less than proficient annotations from Tuesday. 

Here's how it works...

I will hand out a copy of "To The Little Polish Boy Standing in the Ghetto With His Arms Up" by Peter Fischl to all students. I will tell them that I want to hear all of their voices, so we are going to read the poem collectively. 

Reading One: Word by Word

Our first read through, I will ask students to read one word each. I will start then have students read the poem word by word going up and down the rows in my classroom. I will warn the students to follow along so that when we get to their seat/turn, they know which word to read. If a student loses track, we will start over. Inevitably, we have to start over at least once, but the students get so frustrated with their peer who slipped up, that they are eager to do better the next go round. 

We don't make it through the whole poem this way. Once we find our rhythm and make it through the first few stanzas, I stop the students and ask them to reflect on how much of the poem they understood (SL.9-10.1). I hope that they will be able to take note of the repetitive words/phrases, but anticipate that they will not have much to say about the poem as a whole (RL.9-10.4). 

Reading Two: Line by Line

Once we've had a chance to reflect on our first reading, I will tell students that we are going to read the poem again, this time with each person reading a full line rather than just one word. We will follow the same pattern as before and this time read through the whole poem line by line. Again, once we're done, I will ask students to reflect on what stood out to them or what they understood differently in this reading. Typically in this round, students are able to tell me more about the poem as a whole and I will ask them to take note of their own or others' thoughts as they are listening. 

Reading Three: Stanza by Stanza

We will do one final reading of the poem, where I will ask 17 students to volunteer to read a whole stanza each. I will ask these students to stand up for their reading and we will read the whole poem with different voices for each stanza. Once again, after we finish the poem, I will ask students to share orally what stood out to them from this reading. I will then have them reflect on each of the readings that we did and think about why it is important to read a poem at the word, line and stanza level (L.9-10.3), which is basically to identify the various implied meanings of language as well as shifts in tone, message, etc. 

I find that students love this activity because, frankly, it is one of the few times that they are forced to take the time to read a poem more than once and to really pay attention to the way the words, lines and stanzas work as structural tools. They also like being actively involved in the reading process, which helps them to engage more with the analysis of the poem as a whole. 

After this, I will ask students to annotate the poem using TPCASTT so they can write down their observations/thinking about this poem using the annotation tools we used yesterday in class. 


Wrap Up and Next Steps

5 minutes

I don't think that we will have much time left at the end of class today, but in case we do, I will ask students to share any of their insights/ideas about "To the Little Polish Boy Standing in the Ghetto With His Arms Up." I will likely also point out a few cool things about the copy that I gave them, which makes the last stanza look like a machine gun. I like to keep them on their toes, after all. =)