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Lesson Plan

Making History Come Alive Through Poetry and Song

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Making History Come Alive Through Poetry and Song

Grades 6 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Ann Kelly Cox

Normal, Illinois

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will:

  • read, analyze, and compare a news article and poem on the same topic.
  • use research techniques to find historical events of interest.
  • compose a poem inspired by the historical event of their choosing.

 

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Session One

  1. Begin class by playing the montage of song clips about historical events.
  2. Pose the question: Can you guess what each of those songs has in common?  Encourage students to share their guesses with the class. If no one is able to guess correctly, tell students that each of those songs is about events in history. You may wish to point out one or two songs in particular and briefly explain the event (For example, Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” is a response to 9-11).
  3. Tell students that they will also have the chance to write about their responses to a historical event, but first the class will look at an example together.
  4. Distribute copies of “The Cruelest Month.” Explain to students that the article is from Newsweek magazine in 1975 and describes an event in history.
  5. Have students read the article (silently or aloud).
  6. Ask students to highlight or underline major facts in the article. They should consider the 5 W’s and H: who, what, where, when, why, and how.
  7. Lead students through a discussion of their findings, prompting them with the 5 W’s and H as needed.
  8. Tell students that a songwriter named Gordon Lightfoot also read the same article. He was moved by the tragedy, so he decided to write a song about it as a tribute.
  9. Distribute copies of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald lyrics.
  10. Ask students to highlight or underline any facts from the article that Lightfoot uses in his song.
  11. Play the song while students follow along with the lyrics. Students should highlight facts as they listen.
  12. Ask students to re-read the lyrics, this time noting poetic devices and narrative techniques they find. Students should mark the text as they re-read. Elements they might look for include:
    • imagery
    • alliteration
    • internal rhyme
    • figurative language
    • repetition
    • dialogue
    • chronological order
    • use of emotion
  13. Model the use of the Venn Diagram interactive. Then have students use the interactive to compare and contrast the article and song.
  14. Discuss student findings. How are the article and song similar? How are they different? How does Lightfoot transform the factual article into a poetic song? What facts from the article did Lightfoot include in his song? What elements does he include that are not found in the Newsweek article?
  15. Encourage students to add to their notes during the discussion. Point out literary devices (tone, for example) that students may have missed.

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Session Two

  1. Remind students of yesterday’s discussion comparing the Edmund Fitzgerald article and song.
  2. Introduce the historical poem assignment. Explain to students that they will use the song as a model for their own poems. You may also wish to provide students with the list of songs used in the montage from Session One as additional examples.
  3. Depending on your students’ familiarity with online research techniques, you may want to discuss how to evaluate a web site. Refer to the ReadWriteThink lesson Wading Through the Web: Teaching Internet Research Strategies or the Critical Evaluation of Information.
  4. If your students are unfamiliar with using MLA format to cite sources, you will want to devote class time to discuss the guidelines. Refer to the Purdue Online Writing Lab for more information.
  5. Allow time for students to research historical events on the Internet. You may wish to approve each student’s topic before they continue with the assignment.
  6. Once students have selected a topic, they should narrow down one or two articles they plan to use to write their poems. Remind students that they will use their articles to write a poem, just as Gordon Lightfoot used “The Cruelest Month” to write his song.
  7. Model an example of a bibliography using an LCD projector. You may also wish to create a sample bibliography as a class.
  8. Students should create a bibliography using MLA format to document the articles they selected.

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Session Three

  1. Distribute the Prewriting Chart and allow students time to complete it.
  2. Distribute the Historical Poem Checklist and Historical Poem Rubric. Discuss the requirements of the assignment before students begin. Clarify any questions students may have on how their poems will be evaluated.
  3. Allow time for students to draft a poem about the article(s) they have chosen.
  4. As the class works, circulate through the room and conference with students as needed.
  5. Students may also wish to ask their peers for feedback as they write and revise their poems.

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Session Four

  1. Students should finish final revisions and editing of their poems.
  2. Allow time for students to share their poems with their classmates, either as a whole class, or in small groups.
  3. Distribute the Reflection Sheet and have students complete before submitting their poems.

 

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EXTENSIONS

  • Teachers may wish to use more contemporary songs and events as models for the lesson. Consider:
  • Have students share their historical event and poem to the class as an oral presentation.

 

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

 

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