Before I progress further with my unit, I think it is important to include a brief picture of my school and classroom, including a very general appraisal of the circumstances surrounding my students' lives. This in no way should limit another teacher in using my unit's suggestion. My comments are included primarily to explain my motivation and goals.
Though I plan to teach my unit in a third grade classroom, I am presently teaching fourth grade. Having taught third grade for a number of years, I feel that the material in this unit is adaptable to either grade and perhaps, with appropriate adaptation, could be used on an even higher grade level, especially fourth, fifth, and sixth grade. A middle school group of low achievers could be a target for this unit's material. In fact, since much of Silverstein's material may be interpreted on an adult level, even a high school teacher might find some of the material to be appropriate. Explaining that students will be taking a deeper look into a "children's" poet might overcome any reluctance on the part of those who think the poems might be "beneath" them.
I work in an elementary school where about 90%-95% of the students are African American. My classes have always reflected this percentage. Of the remaining members, most are Hispanic/Latino and there are a few white students. The ages of most third graders in our school vary from those who have just turned eight to a few who are close to eleven. In fourth grade, each of these ages would advance a year. The students come from a variety of social-economic backgrounds and home situations. A number have a relative other than their mother as primary caregiver. Their academic ability and the level of their general knowledge vary considerably. Some are members of families with multiple problems. Few of their lives are without difficulties. Most, though not all, parents or guardians are supportive of school. Most want to be helpful but often are not sure of the best way to go about it. Often the struggles of everyday life interfere with their efforts.
At this point most students still enjoy school but not just for the academics. They are starting to understand that their school career will have some bearing on their lives beyond the present, though their actions often are influenced negatively by peer pressure, their lack of basic skills and general knowledge, difficulty in establishing long-term goals, and the lack of positive image, especially regarding their academic abilities. Nevertheless, at least on the surface, they still have high aspirations regarding their futures.