For my 2 week clinical teaching unit I chose to teach my poetry unit using the poems by Amanda Gorman. My unit follows the same outline as the 2 day poetry unit I created at the beginning of the semester with a few alterations.
The first thing I chose to change was where I steered the focus of the lessons. As I discussed the unit with my cooperating teacher we decided the students needed continual lessons on theme. We decided I’d highlight thematic elements along with figurative language such as metaphor, simile, and alliteration. Another alteration to my lesson plans from the original 2 day unit was the direct mention of President Biden. I had planned on mentioning what Gorman’s poem The Hill We Climb was based on, but my teacher advised me to not mention this because the school leans on the more conservative side. Since Gorman’s poem is based on the January 6th riot, and was written for President Biden’s Inauguration. Both of these events would have only caused a distraction for the students and possibly a problem with the parents. Though I may make different choices in the future with my own classroom as a visiting student teacher I respected my cooperating teacher’s insight.
For this unit I researched resources that would help students effectively analyze a poem. I found the acronym S.W.I.F.T:
The students seemed to find this method helpful, and as a class we analyzed the poems by Gorman together step by step. The students also seemed to grasp that there can be more than one theme in a piece of literature and a theme isn’t just one word. I also noticed how students were able to discuss the poem effectively with the help of the acrostic.
My cooperating teacher helped me find other useful resources that she had previously used in the class. She gave me books with various styles of poem to teach and this helped with the second part of my unit where I taught students how to write free verse, acrostic, and diamante poems. They then had the choice of which of these three poems they would create. I was happy with how much they enjoyed making the acrostic and diamante (diamond) poems. They seemed to like these poems that helped jump start their creativity.
The overall problem with this unit I noticed afterwards was that I should have spent more time analyzing the poems. I would also revise this by choosing sections of Gorman’s poems or just one of her poems. I taught them how to analyze The Hill We Climb and New Year’s Day Lyrics, and though they’re full of wonderful lessons I realize now they were too much to teach and have students execute themselves.
My goal with this unit was to introduce a more modern type of poetry to the students, in hopes that they would come to enjoy poetry more. I think some came to understand elements of poetry better, but I noticed they still didn’t want to like it. I do think it helped to provide a newer poet, but until students can learn to appreciate poetry it will always be something they won’t lean into.