Exploring Change through Allegory and Poetry
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Change is an inevitable part of life the challenges many young adults. Understanding and accepting change are key components in career and future planning. In this lesson, students explore the theme of change through allegory and poetry by reading an example of literary allegory and creating their own pictorial allegories. Students first define allegory and complete a pictorial allegory—or "me tree"—that displays phrases describing their interests, trails, and dreams on outlines of their hands. Next, they read and discuss a text, such as Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree or Sandy Stryker's Tonia the Tree that addresses change, and then review basic literary concepts as they complete a literary elements map and plot diagram. Finally, students further explore change, and what it means to them, as they write diamante poems related to the theme of change.
Diamante Poems: Using this online tool, students read about and see examples of diamante poems and then create and print poems of their own.
Literary Elements Mapping: This online tool can be used by students to create a character map, conflict map, resolution map, or setting map, for stories they are reading or writing.
Plot Diagram: Students can use this open-ended online tool to graph the plot of any story.
From Theory to Practice
In her book Risking Intensity: Reading and Writing Poetry with High School Students, Judith Rowe Michaels writes that "poems...create a sense of community" (4). The act of sharing poetry widens that sense of community within a classroom and can help students recognize commonality among people from different groups.
The author also reflects that, "Reading and writing poems can help us discover profound truths we didn't realize we knew . . . so we really begin to see a new world" (3). By reading and writing poems therefore, students can gain a better understanding of the idea of change. After reading a poem that focuses on change, and then creating their own poems on the same theme, students further explore theme, structure, and poetic forms.
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
- The Giving Tree or another text that addresses change
- Assorted art supplies
- Gather art supplies.
- Choose a text that addresses change for the class to read. Ideally, choose The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein or Tonia the Tree by Sandy Stryker to parallel the symbolism of the tree in the text with students’ “Me Trees.”
- Make one copy of the “Me Tree” Reflection Questions for each student.
- Make one copy of the Change Reflection Questions for each small group of 3-4 students.
- Create an overhead of the Sample Diamante Poem, or copy the sample for each student.
- Test the Diamante Poems, Literary Elements Map, and Plot Diagram on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools.
- demonstrate comprehension of basic literary elements.
- identify the characteristics of an allegory.
- create a pictorial allegory.
- explore the theme of change.
- write and publish a diamante poem.
- Ask students to define the term allegory.
- After students have shared their definitions for the term, provide students with a standard definition: a literary, dramatic, or pictorial representation with two levels of meaning. One level provides a literal, and seemingly superficial meaning, but a second level reveals a deeper, symbolic meaning.
- Tell students that they are going to construct a pictorial allegory, which is a visual way to convey an allegorical story.
- Distribute construction paper and other art supplies.
- Ask students to trace one of their hands (with fingers spread out) and wrists (up to their forearms) on the construction paper.
- Have students cut out their hand outlines and write their names on one side of the cutouts. Students then should cut the remaining paper scraps into small sections, approximately 1" by 1" in size.
- Place cut paper scraps from all students into one central pile for easy student access.
- Ask students to brainstorm a list of their interests, traits, roles, and dreams. A sample list may include items such as reading, basketball, organized, shy, daughter, friend, sister, college, and doctor.
- Tell students to circle the 10–12 items on their lists that are the most critical in providing a clear picture of who they are as a person.
- Have each student select 10–12 paper scraps from the classroom pile and write one of the circled items from his or her lists on each scrap. Students may wish to use varying colors or to further shape the paper scrap to match the information it carries.
- Explain to students that they are making a “Me Tree.” The hand outline they cut out earlier will form the trunk and branches. The paper scraps will serve as leaves.
- Give students time to paste their leaves onto their trees, so that the side of the cutout with their names is showing.
- Display the “Me Trees,” and allow students to view their classmates’ creations.
- Distribute copies of the “Me Tree” Reflection Questions, and allow students time to answer the questions.
- When students have completed the reflection questions, discuss the project as a class. Ask the following questions:
- In what ways are the “Me Trees” allegorical?
- What symbols did they use?
- What two levels of meaning do the pictures they created represent?
- In what ways are the “Me Trees” allegorical?
- Review the definition and forms of allegory with students.
- Divide students into groups of 3–4 students.
- Distribute one copy of The Giving Tree, Tonia the Tree, or another text that addresses change, to each student or group of students. Have students take turns in their groups reading the text aloud.
- Distribute a Change Reflection Questions to each group as they finish reading.
- Have students discuss the story, and then complete the Change Reflection Questions as a group.
- Reconvene as a class, and use the Change Reflection Questions as a springboard for a class discussion about the story and its theme of change.
- Refer to the appropriate sections of the story when relevant to illustrate key points of discussion.
- Using definitions from your class literature textbook or the Literary Vocabulary site, review the following literary terms: character, climax, conflict, exposition, plot, resolution, and setting.
- Have students reconstruct the story that they read in the previous session using the Literary Elements Map and Plot Diagram tools. These tools require student application of the reviewed literary elements to the covered text. Make sure students print their work before closing the tools.
- Place students in small groups of 2–4 members, and allow students to compare their Literary Elements Map and Plot Diagram.
- Direct students’ attention to their group responses to the Change Reflection Questions from Session Two and to the pictorial allegories they created during Session One.
- Give students one minute to jot down a list of words that come to mind when they hear the word change. Advise students to think about change in both a personal sense and a global sense. Responses may include constant, scary, necessary, refreshing, new, and so forth.
- Share the Sample Diamante Poem, and explain that students will use the online tool to create their own diamante poems.
- After reviewing the structure of diamante poems, ask students how the diamante poetry form might reflect the concept of change.
- Have students refer to their word lists compiled at the beginning of the session as they use the interactive Diamante Poems tool to write their own diamante poem about change. Make sure students print their work before closing the tool.
- Create a class display of students’ poems.
- Revisit students’ pictorial allegories, group responses to Change Reflection Questions, and published poems as a springboard for discussion of future changes in their lives.
- Have students use the Webbing Tool to organize future/career plan categories and concerns. Sample categories may include school, family, and finances.
- Use online resources such as the Mapping Your Future Website to assist students with career and future planning.
- As an alternative display method for Session One, ask students to display the blank sides of their “Me Tree” trunks, hiding their names. Mark each “Me Tree” with a different number or letter as you display them for class viewing. Have students attempt to match each “tree” with its creator. As a class, allow students to share their matches and the basis for their inferences. Reveal the creators of each tree, and then distribute the “Me Tree” Reflection Questions. (This extension may cause Session One to overlap into Session Two.)
- Use the ReadWriteThink lesson “A Poem of Possibilities: Thinking about the Future” to further explore change through poetry.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Review the completed Literary Elements Map to ensure students understand the key points for the text. Did students correctly identify the setting, characters, conflict, and resolution?
- Review the completed Plot Diagrams to confirm that students understand basic plot elements relevant to the text. Are the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution correctly included in the diagram?
- Review student responses on the “Me Tree” Reflection Questions and in the class discussion following the activity. Are all questions completed? Does response exhibit comprehension of the question? Could students explain how their pictures were allegorical?
- Review group responses to the Change Reflection Questions. Did students show comprehensive of change during small group and class discussions of the text? Did all students participate in the discussions?
- Check student Diamante poem for form and theme comprehension. Did students complete the poems as instructed? Do they reflect the theme of change?