Children enjoy words, thus making them natural poets. They sense the importance of their words and delight in using them to create, whether it is a story, a rhyme, or a poem. The words they use can create images or pictures for them, through which they can understand the world around them. Poetry can be used to express their feelings, longings and thoughts; it provides total freedom for them in their writing. Also, it taps into a child's natural creativity, especially in the case of free verse poetry where regular rhythm or rhyme patterns are not required. When children are not bound to such restrictions, they can let their imaginations soar. This proves to be particularly rewarding and beneficial for those children who feel constricted by school writing requirements, such as journal entries and assigned writing.
In this unit titled African American Poetry: Family and Traditions, I will focus primarily on works that relate to family and traditions. The African American culture is rich in oral traditions, such as the church and gospel music, which play and integral part in family life. The experience of an African American church is markedly different from the average Sunday experience of most American churches, in that it is a much more interactive service. The role of oral tradition is a dynamic one within the church. The poetry of language is very much evident in both the preaching and in the gospel music traditions. Such traditions are meant to raise the spirit and celebrate life. Aside from the church and gospel music, traditions are seeped deeply in oral storytelling, folktales, festivals, and rhythms.
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
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.
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.