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Lesson Plan

Crossing Boundaries Through Bilingual, Spoken-Word Poetry

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Crossing Boundaries Through Bilingual, Spoken-Word Poetry

Grades 7 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Seven 90–minute sessions
Lesson Author

Danielle Berg

San Diego, California

Publisher

International Reading Association

 

Student Objectives

Session 1: Discussion of Theme and Models of Poetry

Session 2: Creative Exercises

Session 3: Poetry Workshops

Session 4: Writing

Session 5: Revision and Final Draft

Session 6: Delivery Practice

Session 7: Poetry Slam!

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

  • Learn how to effectively integrate and use different languages to convey a message through poetry by collaborating with other students and writing a bilingual poem
  • Use effective verbal and nonverbal communication skills by performing spoken-word poetry in a poetry slam
  • Develop empathy and an understanding of different cultures by exploring the issues that surround crossing the borders that divide our society and our lives

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Session 1: Discussion of Theme and Models of Poetry

  1. As an opening to the discussion, write the words “crossing boundaries” on the board or a large sheet of butcher paper. (Note: Since this lesson is specifically designed to explore bilingual poetry, it is assumed that the classroom is multilingual. In a Spanish foreign language class, you could instead write “cruzando fronteras”; or, if it is an ESL or bilingual classroom, ask students to give the equivalent in whatever languages they speak.) Then, begin to unpack this key phrase by asking students to brainstorm words they associate with crossing boundaries. Explain that the theme is open to broad interpretation—a boundary can mean not only a political border between countries but barriers that divide people according to class, race, language, and social group.

    Explain that there can also be boundaries within a person, such as our prejudices, comfort zones, or the limitations of expectations we have for ourselves. Students may associate this concept of “crossing borders” with concepts such as identity, cultural roots, poverty, racism, inequality, change, immigration, grief and loss, and challenging social norms and expectations, to name a few.

    Through this brainstorm, you will generate a list of possible topics to inspire students’ poetry. Keep this posted somewhere in the classroom for students to draw on for inspiration. This brainstorm can also lead to some interesting discussions about the issues that surround borders in our society and our lives. You may want to give students an opportunity to share or journal some of their own experiences.

  2. Show students the video models of spoken-word and bilingual poetry you bookmarked from Verbs on Asphalt and HBO: Brave New Voices. After each video clip, ask students to identify what made the poem powerful. Call attention to the poet’s use of body language, rhythm, tone of voice, volume, and tempo.

  3. For homework, have students find a poem or song lyrics that they like to bring in and share.

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Session 2: Creative Exercises

  1. Begin this session by dividing students into groups of 2–4 students. These groups are their “poets’ circle” for the rest of the unit. The purpose of these groups is for students to receive feedback and support from their peers and even collaborate on writing poetry together. Create heterogeneous groups that put students of different languages and proficiency levels together. Here are some grouping suggestions:

    • In a bilingual classroom, pair native English speakers with native speakers of another language so that they can help each other with the language they are learning.

    • In an ESL classroom, group students of different English proficiency levels together to support each other.

    • In a foreign language classroom that contains both native speakers and non-native speakers, intermix them and suggest that they collaborate.

    • In a linguistically diverse classroom that contains students who speak another language beside English, pair students who speak only English with students who speak another language and have them collaborate, each writing a portion of the poem.
  2. Depending on students’ prior learning, hand out the Glossary of Terms and briefly discuss poetic devices and how they are used in poetry. Review the delivery techniques and connect them to the poetry examples students looked at in the last session. Make sure to distinguish the difference between the two: poetic devices have to do with how the poem is written, while delivery techniques have to do with how it is performed.

  3. Have students share the poems and lyrics they brought in with their poets’ circle. Ask each student to first explain why he or she chose the poem; then, have the student read it aloud to their group. Finally, the group should look at the poem or lyric in more depth while the student annotates it, underlining words or phrases that stand out to him or her and identifying poetic devices.

  4. Next, as a creative warm-up to writing their own poems, have students play “Exquisite Corpse,” a game developed by surrealist artists to generate inspiration. In this game, each person writes a line of a poem on a folded piece of paper without looking at the previous lines.

    To begin, give each student a copy of only one of the following (depending on the language skills of your students): Exquisite Corpse Game – English A, Exquisite Corpse Game – English B, Exquisite Corpse Game – Spanish A, or Exquisite Corpse Game – Spanish B. (Note: You may opt to distribute Version A to some and Version B to others to add a little variety. If it is a foreign language class, students may need to use a dictionary to translate the words.) Instruct students to write one line that incorporates the given word and then fold it over and pass it to their right. They will then write a line on the next piece of paper without looking at the previous line, and so forth, until each papers are filled out completely. Call on a few students to read the “poem” they have in front of them. This random method of writing can generate some very interesting results.

  5. As homework, ask students to think of ideas for a topic they would like to write about. Remind students of the overarching theme, “crossing boundaries,” and explain that their poems should connect to the theme in some way but does not have to be about crossing literal borders. Review some of the ideas they brainstormed at the beginning of the unit and encourage them to think in terms of changes or addressing social issues. The theme is meant to be a point of departure and inspiration, not a limiting restriction.

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Session 3: Poetry Workshops

  1. In this session, you will give students three different models for integrating different languages in the poems they create. Hand out Bilingual Poem Model, Option 1: Code-Switching, Bilingual Poem Model, Option 2: Diamante, and Bilingual Poem Model, Option 3: Poema en Dos Voces. For each model, first explain the format and read an example or two. Be sure to make note of the following:

    • Code-switching: Code-switching means going back and forth between two languages depending on which one best expresses what you are trying to say. This format integrates Spanish and English fluidly and works well for beginner-level students, as they can select key words and phrases to use in Spanish while maintaining a structure in English. Explain to students that this should be spontaneous and stream of consciousness. If students are struggling, tell them to just start writing the first thing that comes into their minds; the important thing is to start recording ideas and keep the pencils moving! Beginning students may have to start primarily in English and then go back and translate some portions into Spanish. Or they can pick a key Spanish phrase or word and keep repeating it, weaving it into their poem.

    • Diamante: This poem uses a traditional “diamond” format, beginning with a one-word line at the top, with each subsequent line getting progressively longer. The longest line is in the middle. After that point, the poem repeats itself in reverse order, however this time in Spanish. This poem provides good practice with translation.

    • Poema en Dos Voces (poem in two voices): This model consists of two parallel lines in each stanza, one in Spanish and one in English. The idea is that it is written in two voices, from the perspective of different people. The lines should be similar, but not exactly the same, and can show contrasting perspectives. This can be a very effective way to express two sides of an issue or to collaborate in a performance that would involve two or more people speaking different parts of the same poem.
  2. Have students work in their groups to do a 20-minute “quick write” using one of the poem models. They may either work independently or collaborate on one poem. The topic of the poem may be one of the ideas from the chart that the class brainstormed at the beginning of the unit, or one that they come up with as a group. These do not have to be completed poems but are just a means of exploring the model.

  3. Explain to students that for the next session, they will choose one of the poem styles they learned today for the poem they will write on their topic. If there is any time left in the class, have students talk with their poets’ circle and share their ideas for topics. By the next session, they should have an idea of what they want to write about and the model they want to follow.

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Session 4: Writing

  1. Begin the class by asking a few volunteers to show examples of their poems from yesterday for inspiration. As you look at the samples, ask students to discuss the chosen themes and styles.

  2. Give students the rest of the time to work on writing a rough draft of their poems, which may be typed or handwritten. Circulate around the room to check on progress and to ask students to share their ideas for their poem. If students are struggling to come up with an idea, draw their attention to the chart where the class brainstormed ideas for topics at the beginning of the unit.

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Session 5: Revision and Final Draft

  1. Hand out the Bilingual Poem Evaluation and go over what each of the items mean. Explain to students that they will score the poems presented in their poets’ circle according to each item using a check system. Explain that a check-plus means “excellent”; a check means “satisfactory”; and a check-minus means “needs improvement.” Most importantly, direct students to write comments to give feedback for each section as well as holistic feedback at the bottom. Explain to students that you will use this handout separately to grade their final poems.

  2. Have students exchange their poems with other people in their groups (or, if groups are creating a collaborative poem, exchange with another group) and review the poem. Then, have them discuss feedback from the Bilingual Poem Evaluation with the poet. Each student in the poets’ circles should get the chance to have their poem reviewed.

  3. Students may have the rest of the period to work on revisions and type the final draft of their poems. If possible, conduct mini-conferences with each student to look over their poems and give them additional feedback before they print them.

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Session 6: Delivery Practice

  1. Begin this session by showing another video of spoken-word and bilingual poetry you bookmarked from Verbs on Asphalt and HBO: Brave New Voices. Ask students what they noticed that made the poem delivery powerful. Create two sections on the board, one titled “Do’s” and the other titled “Don’ts.” Ask students to brainstorm ideas about how to create a powerful poem reading (for example, Do: have good eye contact; Don’t: read off your paper; Do: change the volume and speed of your delivery to make it interesting, Don’t: use monotone).

  2. Ask student volunteers to come up and read their poem to get feedback. If students are reluctant, begin by reading a poem yourself. Start out demonstrating a poor performance, reading rapidly with little expression. Then ask students what you could do to improve it. Read the poem a second time, incorporating their suggestions so they can see the difference it makes.

  3. Hand out the Spoken-Word Poem Delivery Evaluation to each student. Go over each element on the handout, such as crescendo and enunciation, so students understand the poem delivery expectations. Explain that you will use this to evaluate their performances. Have students break into their poets’ circles and practice their poems with each other, using the handout to give one another feedback on the poem delivery.

  4. For homework, instruct students to practice their poems at home with family members, friends, or in front of the mirror.

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Session 7: Poetry Slam!

  1. Use this session to have students present their poetry. Or if possible, reserve the school auditorium or commons area. If you choose to make the poetry reading a community event, either at the school or a local venue such as a coffee shop (see Extensions) to which parents are invited, use this class session as a “dress rehearsal.”

  2. Assign an order for the poem presentations and brief students on how to be respectful and supportive audience members. Remind students to speak loudly and clearly and make eye contact with the audience. Use the Spoken-Word Poem Delivery Evaluation to score their performances. You may evaluate them yourself or enlist some guest judges from the school or community.

  3. Following the poetry slam, ask students to write a one-page reflection to the following prompt: “What does ‘crossing boundaries’ mean to you? How has your perspective on these issues changed as a result of writing this poem?” Also ask students to fill out the Poets’ Circle Peer Evaluation to evaluate the contributions of their classmates. If desired, use this feedback to inform a participation grade. Collect students’ poems, one-page papers, and Poets’ Circle Peer Evaluation when they are finished, or collect them the next day if students need homework time to finish these.

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EXTENSIONS

  • Host a poetry night and invite students’ family and friends. This could take place at the school during the evening or at a local venue. Many coffee shops and libraries are open to hosting poetry readings and can provide a fun atmosphere and authentic audience for students. If you have a large class, it may not be practical for every student to perform their poem, so you may consider allowing the students to vote on the top ten or fifteen students to perform. Additionally, you can have an “open mike” portion in which any student may volunteer to perform. This is a wonderful way to involve the community and make students feel like their voices are heard.
  • As a final product, consider compiling an anthology of students’ poems (and possibly artwork). There are many resources available to make books. If your financial resources are limited, you may choose to make them yourself and bind them in a simple spiral pad. Or you can order books through Blurb. This site has several affordable options, with no minimum orders and discounts for volume orders. Blurb’s free software is easy to use, with templates that allow for creative layering of text and images.
  • Have students make a visual interpretation of their poem by creating a collage of words and images that conveys its message. Through this, students will learn about design and develop an aesthetic awareness of how to effectively communicate an idea through art. This project is suitable for students with different backgrounds, as it does not require advanced technical skills. Students may use their own original photographs or drawings or find photographs or images in magazines or online.
  • As students explore the theme of “crossing borders,” one of the desired outcomes is an increased social consciousness. Have students make a real difference by turning their poetry night into a fundraiser, where they can sell copies of the poetry anthology and donate the proceeds to an organization. Consider supporting a local nonprofit organization working on issues related to the theme, such as a local homeless shelter or program for refugees. Have each poets’ circle conduct research on a particular organization. Use the Making a Difference Through Community Service Learning handout for them to record their findings. Have each group present their organization to the class and then vote on which one to support. Regardless of the amount of money students raise, the important goal is that students are taking action and working together to benefit their community—preparing them to be responsible citizens.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

  • Use the Poets’ Circle Peer Evaluation that students filled out for each of their group members to assess each student’s participation and contributions to their group.

  • Evaluate the poem using the Bilingual Poem Evaluation. Provide students with feedback on their assignment based on this handout.

  • Use the Spoken-Word Poem Delivery Evaluation to evaluate students’ performances of their spoken-word poems. Give them feedback on strengths and areas to improve.

  • Use the final reflection as a means to assess students’ development of empathy and understanding of the issues that surround the theme of crossing borders.

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