Varying Views of America
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- Standards |
- Resources & Preparation |
- Instructional Plan |
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After reviewing the literary elements of tone and point of view, students work in small groups to read and summarize Walt Whitman's “I Hear America Singing,” Langston Hughes' “I, Too, Sing America,” and Maya Angelou's “On the Pulse of the Morning.” They identify the tone and point of view of each poem, citing specific text references. Finally, students compare the three poems using a Venn diagram, synthesize the similarities and differences they identified, and then discuss their findings with the class.
Varying Views of America Student Interactive: Students can use this online Venn diagram tool to compare and contrast three poems.
From Theory to Practice
Using poetry to explore an issue more typically explored through prose can provide many advantages. Because poetry is typically short, students can easily be exposed to more than one perspective on the topic. Poetry can also help students to make connections between historical periods and events and the impacts those events have on individuals. In writing of using poetry in their classroom to explore World War II, Elizabeth E. G. Friese and Jenna Nixon wrote that students "reached beyond the facts on the pages of a textbook, into deeper connections and the emotions of a difficult time in history." This lesson takes advantage of these positive aspects of using poetry to address social studies issues by exploring what America meant to three different poets at three different times in history.
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).
- 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
- Copies of the poems "I Hear America Singing," "I, Too, Sing America," and "On the Pulse of The Morning."
- Internet access
- Varying Views of America Student Interactive (optional instead of graphic organizer printout)
- Varying Views of America analysis and response assignment
- Varying Views of America graphic organizer (optional instead of Venn diagram interactive)
- Varying Views of America Rubric
- Make copies of the analysis and response assignment, the Varying Views of America Rubric, and, if desired, the Varying Views of America graphic organizer.
- Arrange for access to the three poems. See the Resources section for links to the poems online. The poems are also anthologized in some literature texts. If students do not have Internet access, arrange for copies of the poems.
- Test the Varying Views of America Student Interactive on your computers to familiarize yourself with the Venn diagram tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.
- demonstrate an understanding of tone.
- demonstrate an understanding of the role of cultural experiences on a writer's tone.
- support their observations with evidence from the text both in oral and written form.
Instruction and Activities
- Begin the first session with a minilesson reviewing the elements of "tone" and "point of view." This Checklist on the Elements of Literary Style could supplement the review.
- Then break the class into small groups and review the assignment handout, the Varying Views of America Student Interactive or the graphic organizer, and the rubric with the students.
- Each group will first read each of the poems and write a brief, succinct, summary of each poet's message, identifying the tone and point of view about his or her subject providing specific text for support.
- Next, the students should indicate on the Venn diagram the similarities all poems share, the similarities that exist between two at a time, and the qualities unique to each poem. Each member of the group will record the group's response using the graphic organizer provided.
- Proceed based on the resources that are available in your classroom for this lesson plan:
If students are working with computers
Once students have entered the details on the three poems on the Venn diagram student interactive, the interactive will ask them two synthesis questions. Remind students to print and/or save their work, following the instructions on-screen.
If students are working without computers
Students will gather details on the poems on their copies of the Varying Views of America graphic organizer. After the group has finished discussing the poem, ask each student to write on the back of the graphic organizer what he or she has inferred is the poet's view of America and how life experience affects each writer's tone and point of view.
- Bring the class back together to share their findings. Project the interactive Venn diagram or draw a three-circle Venn Diagram on the board. Have each group contribute their responses to a section of the graphic organizer.
- Discuss the differences or additions other groups or individuals contribute. Share the inferences students have made and draw conclusions about the influences, especially as they related to point of view, that shaped the tone of each selection.
- Have students write poems in response to one of the three poets as Hughes did to Whitman. Students should focus on tone (anger, sarcasm, humor, sadness, etc.) and emphasize their own backgrounds and life experiences through point of view.
- Use this checklist of the Elements of Literary Style to extend this lesson by asking students to consider the checklist and draw conclusions about the style of the author whom they have examined.
Student Assessment / Reflections
Assess both the graphic organizers and the reflective responses using the Varying Views of America Rubric.
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