As described earlier, this unit is geared toward English Language learners, but all students will benefit by participating in this unit. In order for this unit to be the most successful with ELLs, it is important that the content and language objectives be clearly stated to students before beginning the lesson. The next step would be to activate prior knowledge. This poetry unit is intended to be an introductory activity to the genre of poetry in general. Therefore, this unit should be taught after adventure writing. Because the New Haven Writing Curriculum spends a significant amount of time working with adventure writing, it is important that students are informed of the huge difference between adventure writing and poetry in general. Teachers are free to use whatever devices necessary to reiterate this difference.
Part of activating prior knowledge is having a discussion about what makes writing poetry and what doesn't. Students are able to do this by talking about the components of adventure writing and a poem. They can fill out a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the two. The New Haven Writing Curriculum uses Nancy Boyle's Adventure writing components which include setting the stage, going to at least two places, doing at least two things, thinking a thought, picturing an image, including dialogue, gestures and finally wrapping up the story. Students can be shown a poem; for example, the Jack and Jill rhyme, and students can talk about how different it is from their Adventure writing. The poetical devices students will experience with in this unit is reading and writing a Haiku, as well as analyze rhyme and rhythm in the different pieces through sound.
Following this, students can offer their own prior knowledge by turning and talking to a partner and sharing their own personal experience with poetry and with the specific poem being shown. I will anticipate, that some students will say they've had experiences with poetry in the prior grade levels, some will say that they have poetry in their native language that they are familiar with, and some might say that they've haven't had any experience with poetry at all. This is a great teachable moment informing students that the music that they listen to on the radio and internet is a form of poetry. Should teachers decide to bring in traditional Mother Goose Rhymes, that they've learned as children, they will be surprised to discover that a number of ELL's will have never heard of those rhymes before in their life. This would also be a good time to value and respect their culture and have them share some childhood rhyming songs from their culture. If need be, a short lesson on rhyming words might need to happen so students can understand what we mean by rhyming. As you may have noticed, we need to make no assumptions and think that our students have the prior knowledge and or experience that you and I have had as children. This is out of respect for ELLs and their culture and being sensitive and understanding the possibility that they might have had quite different experiences with working with poetry. We need to think of our students as being a blank canvas and assuming that they need to be taught how to do everything, even as simple as teaching about what a rhyme is. Even though we consider ELL's to be blank canvases, we need to keep in mind at the same time that they really are not blank slates because they have their own experience in their languages and cultures that can be acknowledged and drawn upon to help them make the transition into English.
The next step will be to introduce important vocabulary that applies to the poetry unit and to the specific poem being shared that day. Remember, our ELLs are a blank canvas and will probably not understand new and different vocabulary words that are not used on a daily basis. We want these students to completely understand what the poem is saying, and in the correct context. That is why it is absolutely necessary to take the time to teach important vocabulary words. It is essential that these vocabulary words be defined to students since they are still learning the English language, and make sure they are learning the new word in the correct context. For example, if we introduce the vocabulary term "block" and not give a visual example, they may think of playing blocks, when really we meant "street block". Because of this simple possible misinterpretation of vocabulary, picture cues as well as realia are excellent ways to teach new vocabulary to ELLs.
The third part of this unit will be to share the actual poetry pieces that will be discussed. Since research has shown that the largest population of ELLs are from Spanish speaking countries, the Alma Flor Ada poem has been placed first. It is a beautiful poem about all the different groups of people who speak Spanish, and the resounding message being proud to be Spanish speakers and they are united by the term Latino. The poem mentions just about all of the Spanish speaking countries and can be easily turned into a social studies lesson by showing on a map exactly where these countries are in relation to the United States. This would also be a wonderful opportunity for students to share where they and their family came from, as well as share their experiences with speaking Spanish and having to move to the United States and learn English. This technique I'm speaking of where students are able to share their experiences with where they've come from and their experiences with moving to the United Sates and learning a new language is called "turning and talking". Students turn to a partner and talk about their personal experiences. This oral language activity increases language and vocabulary which is really important for English Language Learners to practice as much English as possible. The reason why it's really important to increase language and vocabulary is so that they are able to comprehend things in the correct context in all subject areas.
After students turn and talk to their partners, I usually give an opportunity for a few students to share what they said to their partner. Following this, I introduce new vocabulary in relation to the poem. In this case, I will have created a power point with the word and a visual cue so students can understand the poem better. I will have the names United States, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Columbia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Cuba, Mexico, Spain, as well as the word 'pride' each with a visual cue on a slide. I will then read the poem in Spanish and then English and have students read it with me in both languages. Then I will ask questions such as:
1. What is this poem about?
2. Why do you think the Author wrote this poem?
3. How are the words the same in English and in Spanish?
4. How are the words different?
5. Are there any sounds the same in both English and Spanish?
6. Are there any sounds different in English and in Spanish?
7. Are there any words or sounds the same in the language you speak?
8. Are there any sounds or words different in the language you speak?
9. What does this poem make you think of when you read and hear it?
10. What do you think is the message that comes from reading this poem?
Now, since we are assuming that our students are a blank canvas, the teacher needs to spend a significant amount of time with each question MODELING how to answer the question. I would take the first question and answer the question out loud while the students are listening so they can get an idea of how to answer the question. For example, I would say, "Hmm? What is this poem about? Well, I think it's about people who speak Spanish. And these people who speak Spanish are happy that they speak Spanish and are happy to be called Latina and Hispano." Then I will give some time for students to think about how they would respond to this question and share their answers. Now, it is very important to give enough time for students to think about their answer as well as give a lot of time to share their answers as well. Baker suggests that the wait time should be 5-7 seconds or more. Remember, they are thinking in their native language as well as trying to translate what they want to say to English. This takes a lot of time for any new English speaker. The more practice they have with this, the faster their answers will come. Ideally, students who don't want to share their answers in English should be able to share their answers in their native language, but this can be problematic especially when the teacher does not speak the native language, nor the other students in the classroom. But there are lots of ways around this challenge. For example, the student can be paired up with another student who speaks the same native language, but is stronger in English and can translate what they said for the student in English.
This brings up another important issue regarding the language acquisition process. When a student learns a new language, there are 5 stages: preproduction, early production, speech emergence, intermediate fluency and advanced fluency. The preproduction stage is basically a silent period where the student does not speak but communicates nonverbally by nodding or shaking their head to answer questions. They are getting a sense of their new environment and are familiarizing themselves with the sights and sounds of the new language. The next state is the early production stage, where they are saying words in the new language, but have a strong accent. They try to read and write words based on their native language. The next stage is the speech emergence stage where they are able to have simple conversation in relation to every day routine and language. Intermediate fluency stage is they are able to read, write and speak in sentence form and may comprehend in the new language using simple words. The advanced fluency stage is they are able to clearly communicate their ideas and comprehend and express complex and high levels of thinking through reading, writing, listening and speaking in the new language. Each ELL goes through this process at different lengths of time and may regress to earlier stages depending on the level of stress in different situations. Depending on where students are in relation to the Second Language Acquisition process, will vary and greatly affect how they will respond to these different activities.
After presenting the poem, and answering the questions, the next step will be to share their thoughts and ideas in their Poetry notebook. The notebook has a copy of all of the poems in this unit as well as a page where students are able to write new words they've learned in English, or in the new language they've experienced. They have a space to write their thoughts about the poem, as well as a chart to write words and sounds that are similar in the language they speak. At the bottom of the page is space for them to visualize their interpretation of the poem so they can get a better personal understanding and memorization of it.
Following this written reflection of the poem is an optional special activity component that has been created to enhance the new learning experience with each poem. In the case of the Alma Flor Ada poem, the optional activity would be to have the students turn the poem into a song, rap, dance or cheer. The students who are kinesthetic learners will love to complete this activity since they will be able to use their body to interpret the words of the poem. They have the option of using the English or Spanish component of the poem and make it their own. Depending on how far the teacher wants to go with working with this poem, teachers have the option of having a small performance at the end of the week inviting friends and family to come in and see what the students have created. The teacher can ask parents to bring a Hispanic dish to eat all in celebration of the Latino and Hispanic culture. It is clearly understood that time is always of the essence when it comes to getting things done in the classroom, and teachers are free to add, or remove any part of this unit to accommodate their individual classroom needs.
To wrap up the Alma Flor Ada poetry lesson, teachers can always ask at the end of each activity what the students learned and how they will use what they learned to help them with English. Teachers can also get feedback from students by asking them what they liked about the lesson, what they would like to do again and what they would like to change in the lesson to make it more fun and useful in the future.
The second poem is called
, which is a children's song from Puerto Rico, and it is sung to the tune
This poem as well as the rest of the poems is intended to go through the same lesson process as described with the first poem. Then a sound activity will be recommended after each poem, but teachers are free to come up with their own. The sound activity that goes with this poem is to write the alphabet in English and Spanish that have the same sounds. Then have students write a list of sounds that are not the same in English and Spanish. The poem title has been hyperlinked so students can hear the tune to it.
The third poem is a Portuguese poem called Barboleta/Butterfly:
The sound activity for this poem is for students to write what words are the same in Spanish and Portuguese and what words are different in Spanish and Portuguese. Following this, students can draw and paint their own interpretation of what the butterfly looks like.
The fourth poem is an Italian poem called Farfallina/Butterfly:
The title of this poem has been hyperlinked so students can see a teacher saying the poem in Italian. Click to the site and scroll down to where it says "watch video". The sound activity is to go through the alphabet and write which sounds are the same in Spanish and Italian. Then students should create a list of sounds that are the same in Italian and English. Following this, students can create their own poem about a butterfly in their primary language or in English.
The fifth poem in the unit is called
. It is a poem in English and Japanese and talks about a melting snowman. This poem was found a book entitled
Japanese Poems About Death
, and what attracted me to this poem was all the poems were in both English and Japanese. In my ventures of finding bilingual poems, it was quite difficult to find poems both in English AND in the native language, so I was very excited and determined to use at least one poem from this book. To introduce the poem, the content and language objectives will be shared with students and time should be spent on asking students what occurred in the previous lesson/activity. This is a good segue into this next poem and it can be stated that this poem is not in Spanish, Portuguese or Italian, but Japanese. A bit of social studies can be infused by showing on a map where Japan is in relation to the U.S. Again, before this poem is shared, vocabulary needs to be taught and explained so students can understand the piece. The teacher also should teach what a Haiku comprises of, which is a simple form of poem in English that is usually organized in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. It does not necessarily require syntax or complete sentences. The important vocabulary that needs to be defined to understand this poem is "melting", "snowman", as well as any other vocabulary that you think might be necessary to teach to your students. Visual images, realia, and manipulatives will be best to teach new vocabulary.
Following the introduction to the new poem, teaching new vocabulary, the whole process can be done as previously explained in terms of turning and talking about their experiences with poetry, Japan, and even talking about their experiences with snow and making snowmen. You will be surprised to learn that a number of ELLs will never have seen snow or never made a snowman, due to them living in tropical climates. This will be a wonderful opportunity to discuss this and have students who have had experiences with cold, snow and making snowmen to share their experiences. Students coming from other countries may like to share their experiences with other types of nature, such as rain, hail, and the like.
This poem is a short piece, but since the poem is also in Japanese, you may need to practice saying the words in Japanese on your own before sharing with students. Ideally, it would be great to either find a native speaker of Japanese to read the poem and help us pronounce the words correctly, or find a way to have it recorded so the students can hear the correct way to pronounce the words. This can be done by asking students in the class or around the school if they speak Japanese or if they know of someone who does and can help. The teacher will read the poem in English and in Japanese and have the students do the same thing. Students will then turn and talk to their partner about their experience with speaking Japanese and some will share. The previous 10 questions can be discussed and students will complete a new page in their poem notebook about this poem. The optional activity that accompanies this poem would be to look up 5 words they would like to learn how to say in Japanese and create a class poem in Japanese using all of the words the students in the class found out how to say. Students will need lots of support to complete this activity, and internet resources such as yahoo babelfish, English/Japanese dictionaries will be needed to successfully complete this activity.
The sound activity that can be done with this poem is to write sounds from the alphabet that they hear in Japanese, Spanish and English. A class activity could be to write a Haiku about a snowman.