Color of Silence: Sensory Imagery in Pat Mora's Poem "Echoes"
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In this lesson, students explore how writers use sensory imagery as a literary device to make text more meaningful for the reader. They begin by using all of their senses to describe known objects such as pasta, chocolate, or grapes. Students first feel and listen to the object, in a bag, before then taking it out of the bag to look at, smell, and taste it. They then use at least three senses to write a poem about the object they've described. Next, they evaluate how this literary device functions in Pat Mora's poem “Echoes.” As students read this poem, they look for sensory images and write an explanation of how these images contribute to the meaning of Mora's poem. Finally, students think about how sensory images work in their own poems and then make appropriate revisions to their work.
Using Your Senses: Students use this sheet to record what an object feels, smells, sounds, tastes, and looks like.
From Theory to Practice
"Fearful and frustrating," contends NCTE author Jaime R. Wood, "are the words I've often heard to describe the experience that many students have when they read poetry in school" (xi). In response to these anxieties, Wood argues for the need to provide students with exposure to living voices, poets who are "alive and writing" and whose "cultural backgrounds...parallel many of the lives of our students" to reduce the initial hesitation students may have toward the study of poetry (xii). She takes her focus on living a step further by offering students a learning invitation that is a lived multisensory experience, providing readers with the necessary scaffolding that builds toward literary understanding with the ultimate goal of "introduc[ing] students to a kind of literacy about which they can feel excited" (xii).
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Prepare an opaque bag of edible objects for each group of three or four students in your classroom. It’s best to place the objects in a plastic bag and then inside the opaque bag so they don’t get contaminated when students reach in to feel them. Each group should get a different edible item, which can be anything from grapes to small candies to cooked spaghetti.
- Be aware of any food allergies your students may have. Because you will be asking students to touch and eat food, be sure to alert students ahead of time to find out foods to avoid. If you use any packaged foods, be sure to check labels carefully, reading ingredient lists and looking for any “may contain” or “processed in the same facility as” indicators. If you are in doubt as to the appropriateness of a certain food, select something else. Students with allergies (or their families/guardians) may be able to offer advice in your selection process.
- Obtain a copy of Pat Mora’s “Echoes” for each student. It can be found in Living Voices: Multicultural Poetry in the Middle School Classroom by Jaime R. Wood (NCTE, 2006).
- Make copies of the Using Your Senses graphic organizer, the Explaining the Images writing exercise sheet, and the Sensory Imagery in Poetry Checklist for each student.
- Display a map of North America in an accessible location in your classroom.
- Arrange for your students to have access to the Internet for one class period to do research for the extension exercise.
- Print the Example Explanatory Paragraph for reference when assessing students’ paragraphs.
- (Optional for extension activity) Test the Acrostic Poem Tool and Diamante Poem Tool interactives on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.
- use all five senses to describe known objects.
- explain the purpose and effect of using sensory imagery when describing something.
- write a poem using sensory images.
- identify sensory images in Pat Mora's poem "Echoes."
- discuss how sensory images contribute to the poem's meaning.
- write a paragraph using textual evidence that explains how sensory images affect the poem's meaning.
- Because students will be working with food, allow students to wash their hands and/or have students disinfect with hand sanitizer at the beginning of the session.
- Divide the class into groups of three or four students and explain that each group is going to get a bag that contains a different edible object. Their job is to feel and listen to the object before taking it out of the bag to look at, smell, and taste it. Once they have engaged all five of their senses to explore their objects, each group must use the Using Your Senses graphic organizer to describe the object according to each of the five senses. One student from each group should record all the information onto the Using Your Senses graphic organizer, listing students’ names next to their answers.
- Have each group choose a student to present their object along with the answers that the group recorded. Ask the presenters to read each box of the Using Your Senses graphic organizer without stopping to show how their answers already sound like a poem.
- As a whole class, discuss how the sensory images they created change the way they think about and understand the objects in their bags. Ask students:
- Do the sensory images make the objects more interesting?
- Do they help the objects come to life? Explain.
- Do the images help you better relate to the objects using your senses? Explain.
- Do the sensory images make the objects more interesting?
- For the remainder of class time, have students use the objects from their bags or choose a new object to write a poem about. Share the Sensory Imagery in Poetry Checklist with students, and explain that they will be evaluated based on the requirements on the checklist. They must use at least three of the five senses, but are encouraged to use as many as possible in the poem. The goal is for them to use their senses to describe something so well that their audience senses it too. Students may want to start by making a list similar to the one they created on the Using Your Senses graphic organizer so that they have a variety of sensory images they can use in their poems.
- Students may need to finish writing their poems at home. Explain that volunteers will have a chance to share their poems aloud in the next session.
- Start by asking two or three volunteers to read the poems they wrote. Remind students of the need for respectful attention as volunteers read and ask members of the class to point out examples of sensory imagery from the students’ poems. Discuss why students chose the images they did and how the images affect the meaning of their poems. Ask all students to turn in their poems.
- Now give students a copy of the poem “Echoes” by Pat Mora. Ask them to locate the word “Zacatecas” in the poem, circle it, and write in the margin “a city in Mexico.” Have three volunteers go to your classroom map of North America and point out the following places: Zacatecas, Mexico (where the maid in the poem is from); Santa Fe, New Mexico (where Pat Mora lives); and the city where you are located. Use push pins or sticky notes to show on the map the locations of those three places. Ask if anyone has ever visited the first two places, and, if so, ask for descriptions. Have students keep these settings in mind as you read the poem.
- Read the poem to students twice. The first time they can either read along or underline places where they see Pat Mora using one of the five senses to describe something. After you have read the poem twice, have students take a few minutes to label which senses are used next to each underlined passage they underlined during your readings.
- During classroom discussion, students should be able to explain what the poem is about (using the map to locate the people in the poem and to show how close we as Americans are to Zacatecas, Mexico) and how sensory imagery works to make the poem more meaningful or easier to understand.
- Have each student use the Explaining the Images writing exercise sheet to write a paragraph explaining what “Echoes” is about and how the sensory images affect the poem’s meaning. Students should use textual evidence in the form of paraphrased or quoted examples from the poem to support their answers. If you want, share the Example Explanatory Paragraph with students as a model before they get started.
- Students should finish writing their explanatory paragraphs at home and turn them in at the beginning of the next session.
- Ask students to turn in their Explaining the Images writing exercise sheets.
- Return the student poems that the class wrote during session one. Ask students to read their poems to themselves or trade with a partner and underline all sensory imagery in their poems.
- Have students think about how sensory images are working in their poems and what they might want to revise to make images stronger or work harder to convey a message. If they are working with partners, have them discuss their reactions to their partners’ poems.
- Give them time to revise their poems, and invite volunteers to share their poems with the class, discussing how sensory images are working in their poems or what changes they made.
- Have students complete the Sensory Imagery in Poetry Checklist to turn in with their revised poems.
- Use ReadWriteThink online interactives Acrostic Poem Tool and Diamante Poem Tool to challenge students to create sensory poetry in a specific poetic form.
- Have students brainstorm questions about what Zacatecas, Mexico, is like. Then have each student use the Internet to research facts about a specific aspect of Zacatecas, such as tourism, climate, industry, etc., to share with the class. Finally, have each student choose one area of Zacatecas to focus on, such as culture and music or industry and jobs (choosing a specific type of music or job to focus on) and write a one-page report using sensory imagery to better explain their topic.
- Have students use Pat Mora's author site along with the resources in the ReadWriteThink calendar entry Poet and author Pat Mora was born in 1942 to complete an author study.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Using Your Senses graphic organizer: Since this organizer is used during a collaborative learning exercise, it should be assessed according to whether it was completed and whether all group members contributed. This can be determined by asking each group’s recorder to list who shared each response.
- Student poem: The poem should be assessed according to whether or not students followed the directions. Use the Sensory Imagery in Poetry Checklist to help keep students on track and to use as an assessment tool.
- Explanatory paragraph: The goal of the explanatory paragraph is to show how well students understand the poem “Echoes” and the effect of using sensory images in the poem. Use the Example Explanatory Paragraph as a guide.