As I have done in my narrative section, all of my lesson plans will relate to the poem "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out." They may be easily adapted to other poems, but I wish to illustrate how much can be done with one poem and feel that, since I have thoroughly discussed the poem, the teacher reading this unit will be able to easily grasp my objectives.
Lesson One: Using Poems to Develop Degrees of Reading Power
Subject Matter Area:
Will vary with each lesson developed.
1. Students will develop skill at using various context clues to identify unknown words and as a result will develop greater reading power.
2. Student will be able to justify their choice of the appropriate missing word.
The goal of developing independent readers is a primary objective of the elementary school. One means of achieving this goal is through an approach which teaches pupils to look for various clues within the context of the material being read as a means of recognizing and understanding unfamiliar words. Besides teaching these techniques for unlocking unfamiliar words, this approach trains pupils to read more carefully, resulting in an overall improvement in comprehension. All New Haven elementary school teachers are familiar with this program, designed to increase pupils' "degrees of reading power." (DRP)
There are a variety of materials available to use while working with students in such a program. Basically, these materials provide paragraphs where key words have been omitted. Students are asked to find the appropriate word from among four choices, all of which could "fit" within the sentence's structure, but only one of which makes sense within the context of the larger piece. Students learn to explore the context before and after the missing word in order to find clues that will help to identify the missing word. The important skills developed here are to understand the procedures needed to explore the context for clues and to recognize and utilize these clues when they are found.
In this lesson plan, I provide an example for using a poem related to this unit to create an original worksheet that will be used to develop the skills discussed above. This sheet and others that I will develop will have the advantage of serving as reading instruction material as well as providing a source of review of the poem's content and narrative components. Its primary function, however, will be to improve the student's reading ability. Initially we will focus on the context that leads one to the appropriate missing word. Pupils will be asked to justify their choice. The completed worksheets will be saved in a folder for future reference related to the unit's content.
Below is an example of such a passage based upon the poem "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout."
"Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out"
Read each of these paragraphs about Sarah's problems. Where there is a missing word, use context clues to help you select the most appropriate word from those listed after the blank. Be ready to identify the clue(s) that led to your selection. You may underline those words from the context that helped you make your choice.
Although Sarah refused to take the garbage out, there were some chores that she was ________ (a. unable b. willing c. reluctant d. slow) to perform. Scouring the pots and scraping the pans were among the ________ (a. events b. games c. memories d. tasks) she would do. Her refusal to take the garbage out particularly ________ (a. pleased b. interested c. enraged d. attracted) her father, who would proceed to scream and shout. Sarah still refused.
Eventually the garbage ________ (a. filled b. excited c. angered d. enjoyed) the entire house. There were no places left for it to go, so it crashed through the windows, roof, and walls. There was no ________ (a. truck b. shovel c. food d. barrier) which could hold it back.
Higher and higher and further and further, the ________ (a. colorful b. disgusting c. famous d. happy) pile spread. Even the neighbors were driven away by the repulsive mixtures. When Sarah ________(a. wrote b. read c. realized d. laughed) that her friends would not come out to play, she finally ________ (a. laughed b. played c. finished d. relented). She announced that she now would take the garbage out. Unfortunately, it was too late. The garbage had spread across the entire ________(a. nation b. yard c. city d. street), from New York to the Golden Gate.
We have not been told ________(a. slowly b. quickly c. exactly d. happily) what happened to Sarah, but somehow the garbage was ________ (a. arrested b. responsible c. chosen d. punished) for her awful fate. Hopefully we will all ________ (a. call b. imitate c. remember d. find) Sarah if someone should happen to ask one of us to take the garbage out.
When students complete the worksheet, there will be a discussion to determine which word is the most appropriate choice. Students must justify their selections be referring to context clues from the story. Similar exercises will be included for other poems we read.
Lesson Two: Creating Our Own Garbage Pile
Subject Matter Area:
Language arts and art
1. Students will develop skill in using descriptive language.
2. Students will develop ability to create rhyming lines.
3. Students will develop ability to develop a single poem from a group of related but unorganized parts.
Before this lesson is initiated, students will have read and discussed Shel Silverstein's poem "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out." They also will have taken part in a number of writing activities related to the piece.
To begin, they will review the vivid, rhyming descriptions of the disgusting pile of garbage which accumulated when Sarah refused to take it out. The use of end rhyme, alliteration, and descriptive language will be stressed. They then will be asked to check their refrigerator for leftovers, especially any that should have long ago been removed. They should also observe the remains of their meal: their own plate, what is scraped from serving bowls and thrown down the drain or into the garbage, any crusted pots or pans remaining on the stove, and even the garbage itself. If you are brave and perhaps include an appropriate note to parents/guardians, the children might collect some of the available "material" in a plastic bag and bring it to class for further examination and discussion. Each teacher should examine their own tolerance and that of the group before deciding whether to have the real items brought to class. There definitely should be clearly stated guidelines and restrictions placed on student collections. Either way, students should make a list of what they have observed and/or collected.
The next day, the group will make a class list on the front board based on the individual investigations of each student. If actual samples are selected, their ingredients should be explained as they are shown to the class. This could be done by viewing the sealed plastic bag or by placing the contents on a paper plate. Again, the discretion of the individual teacher should determine what is done.
Students will now be asked to add adjectives that they think are appropriate for describing the individual items. To the adjectives, metaphors and similes will be added. Students should consider all of the senses when attempting to describe them.
After reviewing the rhyming lines from Silverstein's poem, students will be asked to write similar lines motivated by the list of garbage components and descriptive words and phrases which they have compiled. Depending upon the group, it might be helpful for the group to develop one pair of lines together or for the teacher to model one of her/his own. A possible example might be: "Mushy, moldy bits of peach/Smelling like a low-tide beach."
Upon completion, students will share their lines with the whole group. Constructive comments and/or suggestion might be made now. The group will now attempt to put individual rhymes together to form a single poem. If there is repetition in content, the group should decide the best remedy: putting parts from different poems together, changing lines slightly to make for more variety, asking some to revise what they have written, or whatever solution the group thinks is appropriate. An attempt should be made to include the work of as many students as possible. They should also be reminded that everyone contributed to the collection, listing, and description.
The students will now have the opportunity to create illustrations related to their garbage collection. These could show individual concoctions, the pile as a whole, scenes from their home where the garbage originated, or whatever the student is motivated to draw. At least some of these should be displayed with the final draft of the poem, which should receive its title from the group. The poem and pictures may be shared with another classroom or during a culminating activity when students share highlights of the unit with other classes and/or parents. Finally, I strongly suggest that you carefully get rid of the actual garbage before the custodian discovers it.
Lesson Three: A Closer Look at Sarah Cynthia Stout and Lazy Jane
Subject Matter Areas:
Language Arts-Reading, writing, speaking and social development
1. Understanding and appreciation of each poem.
2. Ability to identify elements of poetry in each poem.
3. Ability to recognize problems that may be created by a lack of appropriate action.
4. Ability to recognize the possible consequences of inaction.
By the time this lesson is initiated, students will be quite familiar with the tale of Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout and will have met Lazy Jane, a character from a Silverstein poem with that title. The story of Lazy Jane is much shorter than that of Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout. It is a poem consisting of one sentence written in a vertical line with one word on each line. The word "lazy" is repeated six times in succession and the word "waits," connected with "and," occurs five times in a row. Though broken by a few other words, "wants" and "water" occur in the string of "w" words. The only rhyming words are "Jane" and "rain."
To begin, students will be asked to find the similar elements of poetry occurring in the two poems: rhyme and the repetition of words and beginning sounds. The differences will then be explored. They will note that "Sarah" contains a great deal of descriptive language, while it could be argued that "Jane" has none, other than the physical structure of the poem. We are given considerably more detail about "Sarah" and more of the elements they share are present in "Sarah." Students will discuss what effect these facts have upon the poems.
The class will then turn to comparing and contrasting the poems' content. They already know Sarah quite well: a stubborn girl who must face the consequences of refusing to take the garbage out. Examining Lazy Jane, we'll discover a girl of similar age, judging from the illustrations, who wants a drink but refuses or lacks the capacity to use common sense in obtaining that drink. Her solution is to lie down with mouth wide open and wait for it to rain. As with Sarah, her decision is not an appropriate one.
Students will be asked: "How are the girls alike? Are they really alike? If not, how are they different? Are they both lazy and/or stubborn? Explain. What do you think will happen to Jane? Do you know people whose actions are similar to those of Sarah and/or Jane? What would you tell each of them regarding their actions? Does choosing stubborn or lazy behavior always result in a negative?" Some of these questions could require a written answer.
The discussion will attempt to show that though the girls' behavior is both similar and different, they each have made an unwise, impractical decision which has, as in Sarah's case, and could, as in Jane's case, result in dire consequences. The goal is help students to recognize the importance of examining the long-range picture when making decisions.