Day 1 – Introduce the "Book of Black Heroes from A to Z: An Introduction to Important Black Achievers for Young Readers" and the "Book of Black Heroes, Scientists, Healers & Inventors," both compiled and created by Wade Hudson. Use these non-fictional resources as a springboard to introducing great blacks in history who have overcome obstacles to become significant contributors to American society.
Days 2 and 3 – Poetry Selections:
Naomi Long Madgett's Midway, Tupac Shakur's "The Rose That Grew from Concrete, and Nikki Giovanni's "The Drum." Before introducing these poems, highlight that each is rich in metaphoric images. Revisit the term "metaphor." Call on students to share their interpretation of its meaning. (My ELL student, Priscilla, defined it as "a creative, non-literal way to describe a thing or idea.") Metaphors defined, begin with the first poem selection.
First, introduce Detroit Poet Laureate Naomi Long Madgett's "Midway" (see http://www.crmvet.org/poetry/amadgett.htm). Invite the children to identify the metaphors as they listen to the work. Additionally ask them and to zero in on the sounds they hear and images that the sound evokes. Then dive into "Midway's" rhythm, cadence, and rhyme. The 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-type pattern that seems to exist in the first two lines of each stanza compel one to maintain a steady, moderate speed. Strategically pause at the end of shorter verses, picking up the tempo.
Add extra "oomph" as you reach the poem's final line. When I read Madgett's work in this manner, my students said it initially sounded as if someone were struggling to climb a steep mountain, and the individual was determined to keep trudging until he or she made it to the top. We elaborated on how it must feel to climb a steep mountain, being sore and tired yet determined to reach the top. "What other sounds did we hear in this poem?" I modeled the reading again, having my students repeat after me, line by line. They grabbed hold of the cadence, rhythm, and energy and ran with it. Craigianna and Emma shared that the poem sounded like people marching together to protest Jim Crow laws in the south during the civil rights movement. Others related it to a civil rights song we had learned entitled, "Walk Together Children." For them, the words sounded like encouragement and perseverance. The experiential use of sound sparked understanding.
Lightbulbs went off for many of my students! Dashaun added that the old dirt track seemed to be a metaphor for someone's life being long and hard. I affirm their perspectives, stating that the words in the poem were metaphoric because they describe life circumstances through the use of imagery.Markel noted that one steep mountain may have been Rosa Parks being arrested because she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger even though she was sitting in the colored section. Such discussion serves as a great segue into having students answer why the poet may have written "Midway?" In addition to making use of poetic content, urge students to make use of personal connections or personal knowledge based on non-fictional readings to substantiate their response. Many students noted that the poet may have been talking about Dr. King and how people fought for equal rights during the civil rights movement. The experiential use of sound once again helped to bring subject matter to life. Upon completing the review of Madgett's poem, have students visit to learn why she actually created the poem.
Day 3: Because Tupac Shakur's and Nikki Giovanni's poems are short pieces, introduce them on the following day. Tupac's poem (see http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-rose-that-grew-from-concrete-2/), an autobiographical work, takes on an assertive, conversational style like that of a rapper. Before reading it aloud, introduce the words "
," and "
" contained therein. Ask students to define the attributes of concrete and a rose, to think about why Tupac makes reference to these objects in his poem. (Markel noted that concrete was hard, like the sidewalks we walk on. Misaelyz noted that concrete is man-made and that nothing can grow through it.) General definitions provided, subsequently read Tupac's poem, using a quick cadence in the first line, adding emphasis with varied intonation between short phrases and lengthier lines. Have the children once again attentively listen:
Upon completing the last line, ask, "What or who might the rose be?" You will find that children make extraordinary connections! Dashaun immediately responded, "The rose could be a person who might live in a rough neighborhood where a lot of bad things go on—but the person is not giving up. He's gonna make it, like me!" "The poem sounds like someone trying to escape from something, hoping to be free" Craig added, noting that the cadence in third and fourth lines sounded as if the words were pushing against one another other trying to get out. Breyona shared that the "learning to walk"
were written using the digit "2" instead of being written out in word form. "Maybe Tupac is writing about someone who may not be a good student in school. That person doesn't know how to spell, but even though he didn't spell out the word, he wrote it down in his own way, and that shows the person is trying!" The entire class agreed that the poem overall sounded like "hope." (Wow! My children students were using those metacognitive skills, making text-to-world-to-self connections!)
Follow up with Nikki Giovanni's "The Drum." (Refer to an enlarged copy of this poem at http://www.eggplant.org/pdf/poetry/drum_giovanni.pdf). Read the opening line using a strategic rhythm, followed by an emphatic pause before the words "tight and hard," and a bit of attitude in the last two lines. I read it twice, urging my students to close their eyes as they listened the second time. "What sound did you hear as I read this poem? What message does the sound convey?"
My students noted that the words took on a drumbeat-like quality. We reread the lyrical verse again, this time clapping out the rhythm. Kai—a child who at the beginning of the school year struggled with oral expression—noted, "I hear strength in this poem. It also tells me not to worry about other people. Be a leader, not a follower and have your own style!" As a closing exercise, have students revisit each of the three poems to enhance prosody skills and revisit the significance of each work.