I am currently teaching English/language arts in an inter-district magnet middle school that focuses on both arts and academics. The student body is diverse, comprising of approximately 560 students from different towns and many cultural backgrounds. The cultural diversity produces many students who are English language learners. I teach four fifth grade classes with a total of 95 students grouped heterogeneously. As a result, a variety of language competencies exists within each class. For example, some students speak and write English fluently, but struggle with reading comprehension. Others comprehend what they read although they have difficulty with choice of words or pronunciation, as evidenced in their speech.
Poetry, with its rhythmic style, seems to be a great stimulant for language acquisition and development. Throughout my teaching career, I have observed that many students who have difficulty engaging in sustained reading of a novel show more interest when reading poetry. The fact is that poems are generally shorter. Consequently, students are able to complete reading a piece at one sitting and maintain enough interest so that they will even read some poems repeatedly. In addition, students may more readily retain the content of specific concepts written in a poetic form. For these reasons, poetry is an integral part of my teaching.
I had never studied poetry formally during undergraduate or graduate programs, so I am taking this seminar,
"Poems on Pictures, Places, and People,"
to enhance my own skills for teaching English, with an emphasis on poetry. I know it will aid in developing my analytic and critical thinking skills.
The purpose of designing this unit on poetry is to integrate the arts and other disciplines in the English language curriculum
the year. I have studied the curriculum map for my grade level, and have discussed it with teachers of the other disciplines to determine the main themes they usually emphasize. Consequently, the poems selected are relevant to specific themes or particular historical periods, and are connected, in one way or another, to the various academic disciplines taught at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School. One motto in this school is "learning through artademics." This means the faculty strives to integrate the arts with the academic subjects or vice versa. The integration does not stop with the arts but reaches across to all subject areas. Lessons are included to facilitate comparing, contrasting, and connecting multicultural
and other social experiences. Teachers may use this unit to help students develop interpretations that enable them to create pictures they visualize from poems, as well as
compose poems from visual art forms. Connecting multicultural and other social experiences will help students develop a critical stance by becoming aware of values, customs, ethics and beliefs. Consequently, the implementation of this unit will facilitate teaching and learning that conform to the standards and objectives of language arts.
The unit also contains lessons that will help teachers of middle school students, or teachers in the upper elementary self-contained setting, teach the forms and patterns of ballads, narrative, and free verse poems while introducing or reinforcing particular language devices. All three kinds of poems tell a sequential story, but each has its unique characteristics. A ballad is a stanzaic saga that tells a story, usually with a catastrophic ending. Narrative poems, sometimes referred to as dramatic narratives, tell a single story with beginning, middle, and end, but occasionally with more than one tone or voice. Free verse, as the word 'free' implies, lacks the rigidity of a specified structure, or form. It does not have a set meter, and does not usually rhyme. The length and placement of the lines can vary, but the arrangement of the words on the page should still convey the intended message in a poetic manner.
The selected poems focusing on themes are works of both traditional and contemporary poets, such as
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Myra Cohn Livingston, Nancy Byrd Turner, Carl Sandburg, Arnold Adoff,
. Poems of other poets will be used as resources to guide or develop instruction in specific skills.