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Childhood Remembrances: Life and Art Intersect in Nikki Giovanni’s “Nikki-Rosa”
|Grades||6 – 8|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Three 50-minute sessions|
In her poem "Nikki-Rosa," Nikki Giovanni describes specific moments from her childhood. The images she recalls are more than biographical details; they are evidence to support her premise that growing up black doesn't always mean growing up in hardship. Adapted from Carol Jago's Nikki Giovanni in the Classroom, this lesson invites students to explore what Jago calls the place "where life and art intersect" by carefully reading and discussing Giovanni's poem. They explore their own childhood memories using an interactive tool and then write about these memories, using Giovanni's poem as a model.
Biographer's Interview Chart: This online tool allows students to record biographical information about their memories, challenges, favorite places, and special possessions.
A close reading of a poem helps students go beyond identifying simple and obvious characteristics to explore the poet in more depth. In the case of a poem by Nikki Giovanni, for instance, students can move from "identify[ing] the speaker as black and from the country" to "think[ing] about what they can tell from the poem about [the speaker's] attitudes, about what they think might be [the speaker's] priorities in life" (11).
After such an exploration, students are ready to write poems of their own on similar topics. As they share their poems with the class, teacher and student can "talk about how it feels to use details from their own lives as raw material for their art" (12). As Carol Jago explains, "Though at first some [students] think I go too far to equate what they have written with what ‘real poets' create, the more we look for distinctions between their best work and published poetry, the more their objections subside. Life and art intersect in the classroom as well as on stage or in a published volume" (11-12). Once students can see these connections in their own writing, the connections between poet and poems becomes natural to them.
This lesson plan adapted from classroom ideas presented in Chapter 1 "Where Life and Art Intersect" from Nikki Giovanni in the Classroom, pp. 1-17.
Jago, Carol. 1999. Nikki Giovanni in the Classroom: "the same ol danger but a brand new pleasure." Urbana, IL: NCTE.