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Poetry is an excellent vehicle to express the nuances of the study of family, diversity, community, African American culture, and traditions. The student population of L.W. Beecher School is 90-95% African American, therefore, I feel this unit will be an interesting way to introduce students to poetry writing while exploring their heritage and culture at the same time. Another reason that poetry will prove to be an excellent vehicle for learning is that it can draw upon their prior knowledge and the family traditions. The writing and reading of poetry will add another dimension to the skills that the students are working with at their current level. Poetry writing can be a bridge to connect writing, reading, and expressive language all at the same time. It taps into the senses, emotions, and history or the children. Poetry writing does not always rely upon academic success. As well, it can help with social development and academic success as children become more proficient at reading and writing poetry. And most children can create a simple poem.
The unit will contain activities that will assist the students in developing their skills in using the medium of poetry. Most of the poetry that will be read in class and used as examples will be written in free verse or acrostic style. The students will create their own poetry using these formats, which allows them ownership of what they write. They will share the poems with other students, staff, and their families. Positive feedback will encourage the students to continue using poetry as a medium to express themselves about their lives. As the children get more proficient in writing poetry they will publish their poems in book form and on the web. In sharing their poems, the students will be able to celebrate, and be congratulated on, their efforts. As well as reading and writing poetry, this unit will focus on activities that include subject areas such as Social Studies, Are, and Music.
I am a library media specialist at L.W. Beecher School in New Haven. In the library I see students from grades K-5 on a flexible schedule. Flexible scheduling does not give time constraints for working on projects in the library. For example, the students may stay with me for a block of time until their projects are completed. Flexible scheduling allows the classroom teacher and I to collaborate on themes that relate to the classroom curriculum. This unit was written primarily for second grade students, although it can easily be adapted for students in grades k-3. Students will be invited to the library along with their classroom teacher where they will listen to poetry, being read by myself, and engage in activities related to the readings. The activities will be in conjunction with the classroom teachers' curriculum goals of studying the community, celebrations, diversity, traditions, and Black History. Children of any race need to see themselves as belonging, while having a strong sense of individuality. I will start by talking about families and how the classroom is like a family. Poems from the book Families will be read to the students. The children will also write poems about families, feelings, and other children, using acrostic poems. We will then proceed to study the community at large and the families that live there. Taking a community walk and hearing stories and poems related to families and their cultures will accomplish this. Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold, is written in poetic language, and is a story about a young girl who dreams of flying over her Harlem neighborhood to claim all she sees for herself and her family. This story will be read as an introduction to neighborhoods and families.
- 1. To provide an experience through self-expression and building self-esteem
- ____a. writing poetry
- ____b. reciting poetry
- 2. To help foster children's' cognitive development about families and traditions through African American poetry
- ____a. listening to poetry being recited in class
- ____b. through creative art activities produced in class
- 3. To improve oral reading skills
- ____a. through recitation of children's written works
- ____b. through recitation of African American poetry
- 4. To provide research experience through the use of technology
- ____a. through the use of the Internet
- 5. To provide publishing experience through the use of technology
- ____a. written poems on the computer
- ____b. submitting written works on a web site
- 6. To connect the unit with classroom curriculum
- ____a. language arts - reading and writing
- ____b. the arts
- ____c. social studies
The students will explore the surrounding community of our school and express what they learned by making a diorama showing what they saw and compose a poem that will tell what they saw. These will be displayed in the library for other to view.
The study of Kwanzaa will be approached in a similar manner. Students will research the origins of this holiday by using resources that are available in the library. They will demonstrate what they have learned by writing poems explaining what the holiday is and why it is celebrated.
In April, the students will compile all of their poems into a book and will share their favorite ones during a hot chocolate party to help celebrate Poetry Month. Other classes and parents will be invited to hear the poetry. The students will also participate in a poetry program that will be put on for the whole school by Mrs. Martin and Ms. Sutherland's classes.
A good source of acrostic examples is Autumn, An Alphabet Acrostic by Steven Schur, where the poem "Dog" can be found. Poetry from A to Z, by Paul B. Janeczko, contains the poems "Daniel", "Sister", and "PL" which will be used to illustrate acrostic poems using someone's name. After hearing the poetry the students will write their own name, brainstorm and list words that describe or relate to then, and then will write their own personal acrostic to illustrate it.
I will read the story Kwanzaa An African American Holiday by Sharon Gayle, to familiarize the students with this celebration. I will ask the students to give me words that would describe what Kwanzaa is and how it is celebrated. We will then discuss the seven principles or reasons for Kwanzaa. The principles will be listed on a chart and the students will give me descriptive words to explain each principle. I will then ask the students to choose one principle and to write and acrostic poem about the principle they have chosen. We will then compile the poems into a booklet about Kwanzaa. The students will also use the Internet to research more findings about Kwanzaa.
Many customs are handed down from generation to generation. The African American culture is full of oral traditions as is evident in their gospel music, folktales and songs. African American slaves, for the most part, were not allowed to read or write, and therefore they relied heavily on oral traditions. The students will hear some of the stories that started as oral traditions, such as the one found in A Story A Story and African tale retold and illustrated by Gail E. Haley. They will also hear stories from the book Her Stories African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Stories as told by Virginia Hamilton. The students will become acquainted with trickster tales from the stories found in this book and this will lead them to explore other trickster stories that are found in the library.
The students will then explore their own family traditions and customs. The students will be asked, "What is a tradition?" They will learn through discussion and hearing stories that a tradition is an act that is done by all members of a group, such as a family, and is repeated regularly and is something that adults teach to their children and in turn the children teach to their children. To gain a better understanding of this concept, I will read the story Mirandy and Brother Wind by Patricia C. McKissack. This is a story about a little girl names Mirandy who tries to capture the wind as her partner in order to win first prize in the junior cakewalk dance. This story is based on the cakewalk dance that was introduced by slaves and is rooted in African American culture. The dance is done by couples that strut and prance around a large square while keeping time to the music. The couples were judged on their dancing appearance and their grace, by a group of elders. The winning couple got to take the cake home. After hearing the story, the students will participate in their own cakewalk dance. Our cakewalk dance will be done more like musical chairs, with couples that are at a corner of the table at the stop of the music receiving a cupcake. This will continue until every couple has had a chance to win a cupcake.
This will lead us to explore the traditions and customs that are practiced in each student's family. The students will do this by interviewing the member of their own family. Each student will ask a set group of questions when conducting their interview.
After completing their interviews, the students will share their findings with their classmates. They will then write a poem telling about their favorite family custom or tradition. During their Music time, the Music teacher will introduce the students to some of the work songs of slaves, spirituals, gospels, and jazz pieces. She will choose these songs from the book How Sweet the Sound that was compiled by Wade and Cheryl Hudson. The students will select one song that they will practice to use in the program that will be presented to the school with Mrs. Martin and Ms. Sutherland's classes at our ending program.
- ____- What is one family tradition that we celebrate?
- ____- How do we celebrate this tradition?
- ____- How did this tradition start?
- ____- When did it start?
- ____- What is another tradition that we have?
- ____- How and when did it start?
This week will also be used to evaluate the students' progress, and to see what worked with them and what didn't. The student evaluation will consist of checking to see if the students accomplished all the steps during the u nit that were required, such as:
The classroom teacher and myself will perform this evaluation. The students will do a self-evaluation on how they thought they did. This evaluation will consist of the following:
- ____- Does their folder contain at least two or three examples of an acrostic poem?
- ____- Are the examples done correctly?
- ____- Are there examples of free form poetry?
- ____- Are there poems for the various topics covered: family, community, customs or traditions?
- ____- Are there illustrations to accompany those poems that needed to be illustrated?
- ____- Did they participate in discussions?
- ____- Did they recite a poem out loud?
- ____- Did they read a poem out loud?
- ____- Were they able to write their poem using Microsoft Word?
- ____- Did they post a poem on the Internet?
- ____- Did they make a diorama?
The students will be asked to circle a number that represents how they thing they have performed. The scale will range from the number one, which will represent the least effort/could have worked harder to the number four, which will represent the best effort/terrific job done.
- ____- I listened to my classmates' poems
- ____- I completed all my work
- ____- I did a neat job
- ____- I did a good job writing and reading my poem
- ____- listen to various types of short story poetry
- ____- become aware of various styles of poetry
- ____1. Students will be asked what they think a poem is
- ____2. Their answers will be written on the board.
- ____3. Students will listen to various poems and discuss how these poems differ from their original perceptions of poetry
- ____4. Students will generate a list of words that describe poetry.
- ____5. Short poems by Shel Silverstein, Carol Diggory, and Jack Perlusky will be read to the students as examples of poetry
- ____6. Students will peruse a selection of poetry books to become familiar with the different authors and styles
- ____- listen to acrostic poems
- ____- brainstorm a list of descriptive words
- ____- write an acrostic poem using their name
- ____- share their poem with the other students
- ____1. Composition of an acrostic poem will be explained and demonstrated for the students.
- ____2. Students will be read examples of acrostic poems
- ____3. Students will brainstorm to make a list of descriptive words that will describe qualities about themselves
- ____4. The class will write their own acrostic poems using their names
- ____5. The students will then share their poems with the class
- ____6. The poems will be displayed on the bulletin board under the title "Look at Us"
- ____- demonstrate their knowledge of simple word processing
- ____- demonstrate their knowledge of accessing a web page
- ____- be able to write their poem using Word
- ____- be able to submit a poem to a poetry web site
- ____1. The students will compose a poem of their choosing from the various topics covered in the unit
- ____2. The student will then use the Microsoft Word program on the computer to type their final copy
- ____3. The students will select a poem to submit to a poetry website. They will check for errors and completeness of their poem.
- ____4. They will access the book-marked site and follow directions on how to submit their poem.
- ____5. They will check the website to view their published poem.
Haskins, James. African Beginnings. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1998. This book tells about a series of civilizations that lived on history and on American culture.
Janeczko, Paul B. Poetry from A to Z. New York: Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing Division, 1994. An anthology/writing guide by poets such as X. J. Kennedy, Gwendolyn Brooks and Eve Merriam among others.
Kapell, Dave. The Magnetic Poetry Book. New York: Workman Publishing, 1998. This book contains ideas for teachers to use in the classroom and comes with a magnetic board that can be used to create poetry.
Koch, Kenneth. Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? New York: Random House, Inc., 1973. This book contains examples of poetry by authors such as Black, Donne, Stevens and others as models that can be used when helping children write their own poetry.
Koch, Kenneth. Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry. New York: Harper and Row, 1970. A description is given by Koch of the methods he used to teach elementary students how to write poetry.
Sanders, Nancy I. A Kid's Guide to African American History. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, Inc., 2000. A guide to African American history for children. Contains activities, songs, and games that teach students about the people, experiences, and events that shaped African American History.
Silverman, Jerry. African Roots. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1994. This is a songbook of African folk songs and music.
Tucker, Shelley. Word Weavings. Illinois: GoodYear Books, 1997. The author shows how children can compose their own poetry using poetic elements from their everyday conversations. There are writing suggestions, art activities, and sample poems to help the classroom teacher introduce students to poetry.
Tucker, Shelley. Painting the Sky. Illinois: Good Year Books, 1995. A good source for the classroom teacher to show students how to write their own poetry. Students use metaphors, similes, and personification and other poetic elements that are more natural to them.
Bryan, Ashley. Ashley Bryan's ABC of African American Poetry. New York:Simon and Shuster Children's Publishing Division, 1997. A collection of African American poetry. The poems capture the feeling from African American culture.
Dunbar, Laurence. Jump Back, Honey. New York: Hyperion Books, 1999. Acollection of poems by Dunbar. He was among the first to publish poems written in Black dialect which recall the lively rhythms of Black life in American during the turn of the century.
Greenfield, Eloise. Africa Dream. New York: Harper Collins, 1997. The reader is taken on a journey to see the people and places of Africa through a child's dream.
Greenfield, Eloise. Daydreamers. New York: Dial Books, 1981. A poem about the dreams of childhood, and of children passing on their way to adulthood.
Greenfield, Eloise. Night on Neighborhood Street. New York: Puffin Books, 1991. A collection of poems about the sounds, sights, and emotions of an African American neighborhood on one evening.
Feelings, Tom. Something on My Mind. New York: Dial Press, 1978. A collection of poems expressing the hopes, sorrows, fears, and joys of growing up.
Giovanni. Spin a Soft Black Song. New York: Hill and Wang, 1985. Poems that recall memories of what it was to be a child.
Grimes, Nikki. Come Sunday. Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996. A collection of poems in which a little girl describes her typical Sunday.
Hudson, Wade. Pass It On. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1993. A collection of African American Poetry by some African American poets, including Langston Hughes, Eloise Greenfield, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Gwendolyn Brooks. This collection captures the joys and discoveries of childhood within the context of the African American experience.
Hudson, Wade & Cheryl. How Sweet the Sound. New York: Scholastic Inc.,1995. A collection of traditional and contemporary music that spotlights key periods in African American history. This is a companion book to Pass It On: African American Poetry For Children by Wade Hudson.
Kroll, Virginia. Masai and I. New York: Simon % Schuster, 1992. This is a story of a little girls who's name is Linda and how she dreams and imagines what her life would be like if she were Masai after learning about them in school.
Quattlebaum, Mary. A Year on My Street. New York: Delacorte Press, 1996. A collection of poems that cover what happens on a street during the four seasons.
Micklos, John Jr. Daddy Poems. Pennsylvania: Wordsong, 2000. A collection of children's poems that take a look at routines and rituals shared by fathers and their children.
Strickland, Dorothy S. Families. Pennsylvania: Wordsong, 1994. An anthology of poems that explores family relationships.
Thomas, Joyce Carol. Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea. USA: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993. A collection of poems exploring the heritage of the African American family and individuals.
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