Where to begin?
Part of STEM is understanding the design process. Most of my projects follow the same sequence of steps, the first being to ask.
Ask. Define the problem.
With this project, the problem is figuring out how students can use powerful language to inspire others. I introduce this problem through an Introduction Letter I copy and send home with students. First, we read it together in class. It outlines the task, the process, and the standards that will be covered.
The next step is to acknowledge the common misconception with students that powerful language is not just in poetry. However, poetry is the easiest and most common place to find powerful language.
After discussing that for a few minutes, I have students do a paper chat. If you’ve never done one before, I highly recommend it. I learned about this strategy from my Discovery Ed STEM coach.
For this activity, I had students walk around the room for about ten minutes, reading and writing their answers to questions such as:
- How can language be powerful?
- Why does language need to be powerful?
- Who uses powerful language?
- Where is powerful language found?
- What specific things (devices and techniques) make language powerful?
After returning to their seats, we discussed their ideas for each question. A lot of students made the connection to advertising, commercials, political speeches, etc. Being in middle school, most of my students were able to name at least a few of the devices uses (imagery, symbolism, similes, metaphors, etc.) On a side note, one of my classes is co-taught with several students below grade-level. I did provide that class with some scaffolding in the form of giving a few examples and writing them down on each poster before we began the paper chat. That seemed to help immensely.
Once students watched one or two, I had them record some observations on a piece of paper as an exit ticket. They told me what the poet did to make the poem “powerful”. To challenge the students (eventually I did this for all my classes), I had them divide the paper into four and categorize their observations into the following sections:
What do you hear? (rhyme, music, alliteration, volume, rhythm, etc.)
What is being said? (similes, metaphors, imagery, hyperbole, etc.)
What do you see? (visuals, camera angle, words, font, colors, gestures, etc.)
How does it begin and end? (introduce with a title, pausing between stanzas, ends with a challenge as music fades, etc.)
Because of time, we usually end up watching only a few poems the first day. Later on, the other examples are used as part of our warm up on work days (I’ll explain those in my next few posts.) In the meantime, stay tuned!
Here are the resources for my Poetry Project Part 1:
Poetry Project Part 1 – Lesson Plan (Google Slides)
Poetry Project Part 1- Introduction Letter (PPT handout)