After viewing and discussing videos of contemporary poets, including Naomi Shihab Nye and Arthur Sze, sharing their poetry, students create and perform their own poems.
- Identify examples of alliteration and the use of color as a symbol
- Write a first draft of a poem about a person, place, or object that inspires them
- Revise their poem after peer consultation
- Rehearse some performance techniques they observed in the online video
- Read and perform their poem
Explain to your class that before they write their own poems, they will:
- Explore some of the poetic techniques Arthur Sze uses in "The Owl"
- Practice presentation techniques
- Computer and projector or laptops and iPads for group instruction
Note: Depending on the technology capabilities in your classroom, students can work individually, in pairs, or in small groups (on a laptop or iPad), or as a large group with an image projected at the front of the room.
- Access to Arthur Sze's "The Owl" video
- Student writing notebooks
- Whiteboard or chart paper
- Markers for whiteboard or chart paper
Warm Up: Ask your students to stand in a circle. Tell them you are going to say a color and then say something you think about when you say that color, and how it makes you feel. Then go around the circle and ask each of them to pick a color, make an association to that color, and say how it makes them feel.
Step 1: Now your students will experience Arthur Sze's online performance once more, this time by listening at least twice to the words. Have them close their eyes as they listen.
Step 2: At the end of each listening, ask them to write down the words they remember the most. What sounds did they hear repeated?
Step 3: Break students into partner groups and ask them to share the sounds and words they remembered the most.
Step 4: In a large group discussion, ask your students what they heard and keep a running record of the sounds and the words on the board at the front of the room.
Note: You can use this list of words and sounds as an introduction to the use of alliteration and color as a symbol. You can choose to introduce one or both of these ideas. The purpose of this discussion is to give your students some tools they can use in their writing.
Step 5: Ask your students to find a quiet space in which to write about the person, place, or object from the previous lesson that has their "hidden poem." They can think about a "mystery or dream" the way Arthur Sze did, and they can use some of the techniques he used in "The Owl" as well as other poetic elements with which they might be familiar, such as rhyme.
The critical point is that your students write about something that inspires them. They may need to stare out the window, go to the library, or write at home. Inspiration comes in its own way at its own time, so we ask you to give your students opportunity for the poetic space they need.
Step 6: After your students have written their poems, place them in small groups no larger than four people. If you have regular writing groups, it's fine to use them. Each group should follow these steps:
- Each student reads her/his poem aloud.
- After each student reads, the others give supportive criticism by starting with a strength of the poem, and then asking questions or stating things that were not clear to them.
Step 7: After all students have had a chance to share their poem and receive feedback, students should return to their desks to revise their poems.
Step 1: Return again to the online video of Arthur Sze. Ask your students to watch how his body moves when he speaks and how he uses his voice. Have students jot down what they notice as they watch the video.
Step 2: Break students into pairs and have them practice performing their poems for each other. One person should perform; the other should watch and give criticism. Then they should switch roles.
Step 3: As a culminating activity, you can ask your class for volunteers willing to present their poetry performances to the whole class.
Step 4: Celebrate!!!! You might want to invite other students to see your students perform as well, or to hold a Poetry CafÃ© after school for the school community.
Ask your students to keep a running list on the front board in your room of the words they have read and heard that they do not understand. You can either conduct a separate vocabulary lesson on these words where students try to figure out their meaning from context and connections, or go over vocabulary as you progress through the other activities.
- Did students participate in group and class discussions?
- Did students complete a poem based on the previous lesson's exercises?
- Did students incorporate their group's feedback during the revision process?
- Did students actively participate in the performance portion of the lesson?
Common Core State Standards/College and Career Anchor Standards
- Reading: Key Ideas and Details, 2; Craft and Structure, 4; Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, 7, 9
- Writing: Text Types and Purposes, 3; Production and Distribution of Writing, 5, 6
- Speaking and Listening: Comprehension and Collaboration, 1, 2
- Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use, 4, 5
- Interdisciplinary Connections: Science (Animals, Environmental Issues)
Studying Other Poet Videos
You can adapt the above activities to viewing and reading any of the other poems in the Poet-to-Poet collection. Of course, you will have to change the poem-specific activities, but the viewing and reading activities can be easily adapted.
Poets and Their Poems:
Juan Felipe Herrera, "Five Directions to My House"
Edward Hirsch, "Fast Break"
Jane Hirshfield, "My Skeleton"
Naomi Shihab Nye, "A Valentine for Ernest Mann"
Ron Padgett, "Nothing in that Drawer"
Arthur Sze, "The Owl"
Arthur Sze, "Here"
Anne Waldman, from "Manatee/Humanity"