Day 1 - Read Aloud: Jacob Lawrence's "The Great Migration: An American Story" and Walter Dean Myers' "Migration" poem contained therein.
Jacob Lawrence records African American history using tempera paint and canvas. His children's book (which includes Myers' poetic work on its final page) takes young readers on a visual journey from the American south to northern industrialized communities as experienced through the lives of blackfolk. On Day 1, introduce students to the pictorial images and accompanying text. Invite students step into the shoes of those portrayed in each picture and envision what it must have felt like to leave one's community in search of a better life. Record student responses on chart paper.
Day 2 – Poetry Selections:
Walter Dean Myer's "Migration"
from Jacob Lawrences' "The Great Migration: An American Story"
This poem begins with someone sitting in a train depot waiting area. "With bible in calloused hands, the person nervously awaits a northbound train, leaving from Georgia, Carolina, or Alabama soil."
Myer's work is steeped in imagery, idiomatic expression, and rich vocabulary. Before reading the poem aloud, introduce students to words contained therein:
ancient, calloused, humbled, unclasp
, to "
." Then begin reading, initially at a slow pace and increasing in speed as you reach the second and third lines, particularly after the word "calloused" in Line 2 through "journey" in Line 6, slowing down again at the seventh line. Modify the cadence of each line as you continue, reading lengthier, polysyllabic sentences at a more increased speed, slackening the pace slightly at verses containing monosyllabic words. Also pause at strategic phrases. Students will immediately tune in to the rhythm. "It sounds like someone waiting in a huge train station--like in New Haven's Metro North train station, only long ago, and the person does not feel very comfortable," noted Craigrianna. Many students hear a sense of nervousness and anxiety, particularly where reference is made to hands that "clasp and unclasp silently." "I can picture someone nervously rubbing his or her hands together like the person doesn't know where he/she is going or what to expect when he/she gets there," notes Tristan. Other students perceptively associate the rhythm and cadence of this work with the clattering, drum-like sound of a train pulling out of a station. Once again, sound and words help to create images and evoke comprehension using text-to-world connections.
Day 3. Have students revisit the poems to enhance prosody skills and to revisit the main idea and overall theme of Myer's poetic work. Extend the lesson by having children interview parents/family members to determine whether members of their family have ever migrated from one portion of our country (or the world) to another. Have students subsequently visit Jacob Lawrence's "The Great Migration" on-line art exhibition at http://www.columbia.edu/itc/history/odonnell/w1010/edit/migration/migration.html; using his artistic style as a springboard, have students create art to depict their family story.