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These “America” poems show how gender and race influence a poet’s viewpoint

Subject:

Language Arts  

Grades:

10, 11  

Title – Voices of America
By – Ashley Brence
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Grade Level – 10-11

PA Academic Standards

      1.3.11.A Read and understand works of literature

 

      1.3.11.F Read and respond to nonfiction and fiction including poetry and drama

 

      1.4.11.A Write short stories, poems and plays

 

      1.6.11.A Listen to others

 

      1.6.11.B Listen to selections of literature

 

      1.6.11.D Contribute to discussions

 

    1.6.11.F Use media for learning purposes

Goal of this lesson:

      For the students to see how a poet’s attitudes, thoughts, and feelings towards America affects his poetry

 

      For the students to convey their own attitudes, thoughts, and feelings towards America in poetry

 

    For the students to see how gender and race influence a poet’s views towards America

Materials

  • CD player
  • CD of Lee Greenwood’s God Bless The USA
  • Overhead
  • Transparencies
  • Chalk/Chalkboard
  • Lyrics to Lee Greenwood’s God Bless The USA
  • Walt Whitman I Hear America Singing
  • Langston Hughes’s Let America Be America Again
  • Adrienne Rich’s From an Atlas of the Difficult World

Instructional Objectives (Student-centered, observable, and precise statements of what students will be able to do)

      TSWBAT identify thematic elements of poems

 

      TSWBAT discuss/analyze poems by identifying elements of a poem that emphasize its theme

 

      TSWBAT identify the attitudes the speakers of the poems have towards America

 

      TSWBAT identify the differences between the male, female, and African American voice in American poetry

 

    TSWBAT compose a poem that conveys his/her personal feelings/views about America

Introduction (attention getter, anticipatory set, discrepant event, open-ended problem scenario, engagement)

    Good morning class!!!! Today, we are going to be starting our unit on American poetry. What better way to begin then to look at poems that talk about America. As you all know, poetry is music without the instruments. With that in mind, we are going to listen to a song about America and then talk about the lyrics, so listen closely. (30 seconds).

Developmental Activities (Instructional components that provide opportunities for students to make progress toward intended instructional objectives)

      1. Play Lee Greenwood’s

God Bless the USA.

      After the song is over I am going to place the transparency of the songs lyrics on the overhead. I am then going to ask the students how they think the musician feels about America. I will ask them to cite specific lines that led them to believe this. I will underline the lines they specify on the overhead. I will then call on the students randomly and ask them how the song made them feel. I am then going to ask the students what they think of when they think of America. I will write their responses on the board. (3-5min)
      2. Next I will put up a transparency of Walt Whitman’s

I Hear America Singing.

      I will call on a student to read the poem aloud. I will ask the students to cite specific themes of the poem. I will write the themes they cite on the board. I will then ask the students to cite specific lines that reinforce the theme. I will underline the lines on the transparencies and write the themes they correspond to next to the cited line. To aid in the interpretation of the poem I will ask the students why Whitman chose mechanics, shoemakers, carpenters, mothers, etc. to talk about his perception of America. I will then ask the students how the speaker of the poem views America. I will ask the students to cite specific lines that support the view of the speaker. I will underline the lines on the overhead. I will ask the students why they think the speaker feels this way about America. I will then ask the students how they think the speaker would respond to Lee Greenwood’s

God Bless The USA

      and why. (10-15min)
      3. Next, I am then going to ask the students to recall their ideas of America that we brainstormed about on the board. I will then ask the students how they would feel if all the things they love about America were taken away from them, or they were denied them. I am then going to ask them if that would change their view towards America. I will then call on a student to read Langston Hughes’s

Let America Be America Again

      aloud. I will then break the students up into groups of two that I have already pre-selected. I will tell the students that their job is to work with their partner and cite specific themes of the poem and cite specific lines that reinforce the theme. After this the class will regroup and we will discuss the themes as a whole. I will write the themes each group states on the board. I will ask the students to cite specific lines that support the theme. I will then ask the students how the speaker of the poem views America. I will ask the students to cite specific lines that support the view of the speaker. I will ask the students why they think the speaker feels this way about America. I will then ask the students how they think the speaker would respond to Lee Greenwood’s

God Bless the USA

      and why. (10-15min)
      4. Next, I will call on a student to read poem

From an Atlas of the Difficult World

      by Adrienne Rich. I will break the students up into groups of four. I will ask the students to cite specific themes of the poem, cite specific lines that reinforce the theme, identify how the speaker of the poem views America, cite specific lines that support the view of the speaker, explain why they think the speaker feels this way about America, and how they think the speaker would respond to Lee Greenwood’s

God Bless The USA.

      Because these are all tasks that we have done throughout the class, the students will need to respond to these questions on a piece of paper that will be turned in for participation points. I will walk around the room to monitor the progress of the groups. (10-15min)
      5. The class, as a whole, will now share some of their interpretations of the poem. I will call on groups randomly to share their responses. We will then talk about how the poems were written by a white male, a black male, and an African American female. We will briefly recap the themes that were present in each poem. I will then ask the students to identify whether or not the poet’s gender and/or race influenced their views and why they feel this way. I will then inform the students that we are going to take a few weeks to learn about the different voices of American poetry. I will inform that that we will primarily focus on the white male, African American, and female voices of American poetry. (10-15 minutes)

************If Time Permits Activity

    6. The students will stay in the groups they formed in the activity above. I will inform the groups that their next task is to construct a group poem that conveys their feelings, attitudes, or views towards America. The poem needs to be at least 12 lines long, but can be written in any style. They will have about 10-15 minutes to complete the task. The poems will be collected and graded for participation points. I will walk around and monitor the groups’ progress. After the time for the activity has expired each group will read aloud the poem they have constructed. (10-15 minutes)

Assessment/Evaluation (How you and the students will know that they learned. May be formative or summative)

    Assessment is preformed throughout the whole lesson because students are actively identifying themes of the poem and the lines that support the theme. Also, the students are identifying the speaker of each poems attitude about America. In addition, the activities are all graded for participation points. Each student can receive up to 20 points for participation because each group activity is worth 10 points.

Conclusion (Closure; a planned wrap-up for the lesson)

    I will tell the students that their assignment for tomorrow is to write a poem. The students will construct a poem that expresses their feelings towards America. The poem must be at least 6 lines long and can be any style. Each student will receive 10 points for constructing the poem as long as it is 6 lines in length. I will then tell the students to have a great day. (1-2min)

Accommodations/Adaptations for Students with Mild Hearing Disability

    I have the desks in the classroom in a horseshoe formation, so I can be in close proximity at all times to the student. I make overheads and handouts of everything we read aloud, so if the student cannot hear what is being read he can at least have the material in front of him to read to himself. I have the student seated in close proximity to the CD player in order to hear it, but I also have lyrics for the student so he knows what the song is saying.

References

      Greenwood, L. (1984). God bless the USA. On American patriot [CD]. Capitol. (April 21, 1992)

 

      Hughes, L. (2000). Let America be America again. In C. Nelson (Ed.), Anthology of modern

 

      American poetry (pp.515). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

 

      Rich, A. (2001). Atlas of the Difficult World. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

 

    Whitman, W. (2000). I hear America singing. In C. Nelson (Ed.), Anthology of modern American poetry (pp. 2) New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

 


Proud to Be An American
Lee Greenwood

If tomorrow all the things were gone
. . I’d worked for all my life,
And I had to start again
. . with just my children and my wife,
I’d thank my lucky stars
. . to be livin’ here today.
Cause the flag still stands for freedom
. . And they can’t take that away.

    And I’m proud to be an American
    Where at least I know I’m free
    And I won’t forget the men who died
    Who gave that right to me
    And I gladly stand up
. . next to you and defend her still today
    Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land
        God bless the USA

From the lakes of Minnesota
… To the hills of Tennessee
… Across the plains of Texas
… From sea to shining sea
… From Detroit down to Houston
… And New York to LA
    Well there’s pride in every American heart
    And its time we stand and say..

That I’m proud to be an American
Where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me
And I gladly stand up . . next to you and defend her still today
Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land
    God bless the USA

And I’m proud to be an American
Where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me
And I gladly stand up . . next to you and defend her still today
Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land
     God bless the USA!


I Hear America Singing
Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics–each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat–the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench–the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song–the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning,
or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother–or of the young wife at work–or of the girl sewing or washing–Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day–At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.


Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again! 

 


From an Atlas of the Difficult World
Adrienne Rich

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains’ enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
hand
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.


 

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