Students previously will have learned the basic elements of a narrative composition. They include: setting, characters, problem, main events, or plot, resolution, and conclusion. Students will be given forms on which they will explain how each of these elements applies to the poem about Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout. "What was the setting? Who were the characters? What was the problem? What happened to Sarah and the garbage as the plot unfolds? What happens in the end? What thought does the poet leave us with in his conclusion? What are your personal reactions?"
When that has been completed and discussed, students will write out their interpretation of the tale. The need to include proper elaboration will be stressed and students will be urged to include feelings relating to the content. ("That really was a disgusting sight. It makes my stomach churn just to think about the putrid stench all of that gunk must have created.") When students have finished their narratives they will share them in pairs and with the class, offering one another constructive criticism. An opportunity will be given to improve upon their original. Completed stories will be put in their writing folder. They may include their rendition of Silverstein's picture or create their own.
At the next session, students will review Sarah's story. They then will be asked to create their own story about someone like Sarah who tried to avoid responsibility. Again, they will be given an initial planning sheet on which they will outline the elements of their story. When that outline has been completed, they will write out their own story with the same detail that was required when they wrote the story of Sarah. Again, students will share their final stories with each other and with the class as a whole. Opportunity will be provided for constructive criticism. They also will be given a chance to improve upon their original and copy it over. Some stories may be shared with students in other classrooms, especially those in the other classroom participating on the team. They will be encouraged to include a picture related to the content of their story.
Other possible activities which may be used in conjunction with student writing could include: selecting your favorite disgusting description from the poem, drawing a picture of your favorite disgusting description from the poem, writing your own disgusting description of something that might be rotting in the pile of garbage, and drawing a picture of your own disgusting description. They should love doing these.
I plan to follow this procedure about four times with four different poems. I will wait until I am familiar with the class I will be teaching before selecting all of these particular poems, but I have included a group of poems, which I feel lend themselves well to the procedures I have set up. They are listed at the end of my unit narrative. Teachers may find others that are more appropriate for their situations.