One of our favorite lessons comes from Kathleen O'Connor Abrams, who teaches at Williams Middle School in Chelsea, MA:

Teacher's Reflection:

When I introduce a poetry unit, I ask each student to name a favorite poem. In addition, the students must interview family members, friends and neighbors until they find three people who have favorite poems. One week after I give the assignment, the students bring copies of the poems, which they have written out by hand, to class, along with brief statements from the people who selected them. Since ours is a school with a substantial number of students for whom English is a second language, I remind the students that the favorite poem may be written in any language, and that the student may bring both the original poem and an English translation to class. If the person comes from a different culture, I ask the student to learn a few facts about the person's life story.

Teaching Ideas:

Post the favorite poems and the reflections of those who selected them. Invite the students to read the poems and to write their reasons for selecting their own favorites from among the poems contributed by their classmates. Post these reflections close to the poem and response of the contributor.

Discuss the similarities and differences among the responses, beginning with the response of the person who selected the poem. If the poem was contributed by a family member or neighbor, ask the student who brought the poem to class to tell about the person and his or her life story. Ask the student to consider how the life story might have affected the choice. If the poem is a translation, invite the student who brought it to class to read it in both languages.

Teaching Connections:

Literature and Art: compile a booklet of the favorite poems, adding illustrations.
Writing: write a poem on a favorite theme or about one of the life stories.

The lesson demonstrates to students that people around them are attached to poems and exposes them to several poems that they may not have yet known or seen.

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