Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Introducing Poetry - Unit Plan

Introducing Poetry:
Our Voices Break Open

For Young Adult Urban Learners in Grade Nine -
A Poetic Language Arts Unit Learning Plan Design

Unit Learning Plan Overview

In this three-week unit, scheduled very early in the year, learners encounter the literary genre of poetry. Learners expand their understanding of figurative language, and explore the ways we can use poetry and poetic language to express ourselves. Having studied the short story and the novel, students now examine the differences between prose and poetry. Through questions about identity and community, learners consider the power and expressive potential of alliteration, simile, metaphor and other kinds of poetic devices.

Learners will:

•    Review and discover vocabulary associated with poetic literature, in particular, defining the names of seven common poetic devices (Repetition, Rhyme, Simile, Metaphor, Personification, Onomatopoeia and Alliteration);

•    Read poetry, inspecting how key ideas are communicated, and detecting how language is creatively employed to affect tone and meaning;

•    Prepare for and participate in a poetry seminar;

•    Listen to poetry, including hearing a local poet read an original work;

•    Write poetry, exploring use of repetition, detailed images and other devices;

•    Publish a poem to the web via -- and present their work.

Instructional Strategies: The three anchor strategies in the unit are the Socratic Seminar, the BioPoem/ Identity Chart found online at Facing History and Ourselves, and the For My People exercise from Linda Christensen’s Teaching for Joy and Justice.

Big Ideas: Identity and Community

Essential Questions:

•    What is poetry?

•    Why would an author choose to use poetry or poetic language over simple, straight-forward prose?

•    What literary tools have successful poets traditionally used?

•    What is identity?

•    How do I define myself?

•    How do I write effectively about my own feelings and experiences?

•    What is community?

•    What communities do I identify with?

•    How do rules and traditions shape communities?

•    In what ways are we a learning community?

Lesson Plan Outline:

•    Lesson 1 - Introducing Poetry
Highlighting the Writing (What is identity?)

•    Lesson 2 - Identity Charts
Create Identity Charts (How do I define my identity?)

•    Lesson 3 - BioPoem
Write BioPoem (How do others define my identity?)

•    Lesson 4 – Pair, Share and Prepare
Print and Publish BioPoem / pre-seminar (What is community?)

•    Lesson 5 – Just My Type
Print and Publish BioPoem / pre-seminar (How do rules and traditions shape communities?)

•    Lesson 6 –Our Voices Break Open
Socratic Seminar (How does identity relate to community?)

•    Lesson 7 – Perspective
Post-seminar reflection (How do communities define “we and they?”)

•    Lesson 8 - Community Lists
Create Community Lists (What groups or communities do I identify with?)

•    Lesson 9 – For My People
Write Poem (How do I view my community? How do others view it?)

•    Lesson 10 – Pair, Share and Prepare
Print and Publish poem (What does it mean to belong?)

•    Lesson 11 – Fine Print
Print and Publish - Vocabulary Baseball (In what ways are we a community?)

•    Lesson 12 – Identifying Poetry
Unit Assessment/ prepare (How do rules and traditions shape communities?)

•    Lesson 13 - Poetry Showcase
Presentations (Who are we?)

•    Lesson 14 – Poetry Showcase
Presentations (Who are we?)

•    Lesson 15 – Reflection
Reflect on learning (Who are we?)

Learners: 22 mixed ability students of widely diverse cultural backgrounds. Class has reviewed basic literary devices and gone through the seminar process in prior lessons.

fifteen 60-minute sessions

Unit Texts:

Confluence -- Yusef Komunyakaa, We and They -- Rudyard Kipling, For My People -- Margaret Walker, Firework -- Katy Perry, This Is Just to Say -- William Carlos Williams,
I, Too, Sing America -- Langston Hughes, I'm Nobody! Who are you? -- Emily Dickinson, kidnap poem -- Nikki Giovanni, The Sneetches -- Dr. Seuss

Special Resource Requirements: highlighters, computer lab, Katy Perry clip, clip of Sneetches, account, secure a guest poet visit

Materials: student folders and unit forms -- Identity Chart, BioPoem page, Seminar prep sheet, homework sheets 1-5 and Deborah Tannen quote - read and react, Poetry rubric, Seminar rubric, Seminar reflection, Presentation rubric, Figurative Language assessment

Resources - Websites:,,

Christensen, L. (2009). Teaching for joy and justice: Re-Imaging the language arts classroom.  Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Rethinking Schools Publications.

Our voices break open the pink magnolia
where struggle is home to the beast in us.

-- from the poem, Confluence
by Yusef Komunyakaa

Unit Learning Plan Core Learning Strategy Map

Standard: (Writing) Write narratives and other creative texts develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences. (d.) Use precise words and phrases, telling details, figurative and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.

Core Objective: I can express my ideas through a formatted piece of poetry.

Learning Targets: I can shape the meaning of a text through use of poetic language.

Learning Assessments: Poem I (BioPoem)

Core Assessment: Poem II (For My People) - 35%

Standard: (Writing) Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

Core Objective: I can use webware to publish my writing products.

Learning Targets: I can use word-processing software to publish my poetry. I can manipulate text elements in webware to post my poetry online.

Learning Assessments: Poem I (BioPoem) print and webpage

Core Assessment: Poem II (For My People) webpage presentation     - 15%

Standard: (Speaking / Listening) Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, including those by and about Minnesota American Indians,  building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. (a.) Come to discussions prepared having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.

Core Objective: I can participate effectively in a collaborative discussion.

Learning Targets: I can verbalize my thoughts clearly. I can actively listen to provide feedback.

Learning Assessments: class discussions, Pair-Shares

Core Assessment: Socratic Seminar (Seminar Summary) - 15%

Standard: (Language) Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. (a.) Interpret figures of speech.

Core Objective: I can identify common poetic devices.

Learning Targets: I can identify figures of speech. I can recognize figurative language.

Learning Assessments: Vocabulary Baseball, Figurative Language handouts (5)

Core Assessment: Figurative Language Assessment - 35%


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