Poems: A Lesson on American Diversity.

The United States is a vast place of diversity that deserves celebration, and your students should be a part of that celebration since they most likely reflect this very diversity. American Poetry is a wonderful way to embrace the American salad bowl, because of the many different styles and voices. This lesson exposes students to poetry in a way that makes it relatable to their lives. They are shown poetic styles as varied as America itself.

AIM

To expose students to a variety of American poets, and then to write a poem that reflects their lives.

MATERIALS

1. Books of poetry

2. Copies of individual poems

3. Various pictures of American life


GRADE

Upper elementary grades

TIME

One month

MOTIVATION

Talk about how the U.S. is a place of great diversity. Talk about the diversity of the physical landscape itself by showing pictures to the students of the many areas of this country. Talk about the diversity of political ideas by mentioning people who represent left-wing, right-wing, and moderate thought. Talk about the ethnic diversity of the American people, and have students look at one another in order to see this variety first-hand. Afterwards, start talking about diversity of writing styles in poetry.

STRATEGIES

1. Talk to students about four or five different American poets from different ethnicities and different writing styles. Present the works of these poets to the students in copied handouts. Read these poems along with the students, then discuss the various styles and ideas of these poets and their works. This discussion may take up to a week, because you want to focus on each poet with ample time.

2. Students should be given an assignment to find a poet from their particular American culture (African-American, Native American, Irish-American, even communities like the Quakers). Students should make a copy of their particular poem, so that they can read it for classroom discussion.

3. Students should then write their own poems that reflect their own lives. Don't impose any particular style of writing on the students--let them find their own style and voice.

4. Students should then do research on visuals that reflect their own poem and their assigned poet.

5. Students should decorate the classroom bulletin board with the poems and visuals in order to create a collage of American poets of various voices.


ALTERNATIVES

Perhaps instead of a bulletin board, a classroom book could be created of these poems and images, or even a computer portfolio.

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