- Develop an understanding of some ways poets find inspiration
- Identify people, places, or objects that inspire them
- Use detailed language to describe something they imagine
- 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.
Step 1: Ask your students to go back to the online video of Arthur Sze reading "The Owl" to see what Sze says is his inspiration for the poem.
Step 2: Have the students write new things they learned in their notebooks.
Step 3: Ask students to discuss in small groups (perhaps four people) why they think Sze wrote the poem.
Step 1: Ask your students to view the video of Naomi Shihab Nye reading "A Valentine for Ernest Mann." They should also, at this time, watch her answer to the question, "What inspired you to write this poem?"
Step 2: Ask your students to view the video of Naomi Shihab Nye a second time and write down why she wrote this poem and what inspired her.
Step 3: Ask students to talk in small groups of no more than four about the similarities and differences between what inspired Arthur Sze to write his poem and what inspired Naomi Shihab Nye to write hers.
Step 4: Large group report in: Conduct a large group discussion on what inspired the two poets and the similarities and differences. You might need to give them examples of other possible sources of inspiration.
Step 1: Ask your students to think about where their poems "hide." What "speaks to them" the way the subjects of the poems they just saw/read spoke to their authors, inspiring them to write about those subjects? If students have difficulty, you can ask your students to answer the following questions:
- What do you love — people, places, and things?
- What do you think is beautiful?
- What do you hate?
- What makes you scared?
- What makes you angry?
Step 2: Ask students to write a list of these things and pick the one that seems the most important to them.
Step 3: Ask students to consider each of the following prompts, then write down the details they imagine:
- What do you notice (using all your senses) about this person, place, or object?
- What connections can you make to this person, place, or object?
- What questions do you have about this person, place, or object?
- How do you feel about this person, place, or thing?
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 compare Arthur Sze and Naomi Shihab Nye's videos? Were they able to point out both similarities and differences?
- Did students use their brainstorming time wisely? Were they able to start a foundation for the poem they will write in the next lesson?
- Did students respect others during the brainstorming time?
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"