Generalization: Tone and imagery can make or break a poem: being able to compare and contrast the use of tone and imagery in two different poetic texts provides insights into how to make powerful poems through establishing a tone by using powerful images. Compare and contrast is also a more generally applicable skill that will serve students well in other capacities (comparing political platforms, ideological systems, plans, policies, resumes, decisions, insurance programs, etc.) Learning Targets: Skills: compare and contrast
1.3a read fluently focusing on text details when necessary to maintain meaning 1.4a identify literary devices (exaggeration, irony, humor, dialogue, devices that develop characterization, tension, and mood) 1.4c analyze literary elements (plot, characters, setting, theme, point of view, conflict, resolution) 2.2a critically compare, contrast, and connect ideas within and among a broad range of texts Development of Assessments: I will assess their verbal compare and contrast skills, and verbal analysis, plus paragraphs using a simple checklist and a rubric. Materials: Lesson plan, hand outs of poems, pens, pencils, paper, SmartBoard, electronically stored images of the paintings (and poems) to project on to the SmartBoard, text copies of the poems without any line breaks. Anticipatory Set: Show panoramic paintings of various Americans at work (or several paintings, perhaps from WPA-era) and ask them what kinds of images they see ... “Keep those comments in mind as we read the first of two poems today.” Context and Purpose: “Today we will compare and contrast two very different poems, one of which was written as a response to the first one. We will again practice our skill at analysis, and do a compare and contrast, which simply means finding the similarities and the differences, and putting them side by side and explaining about them. So, here’s what I’d like you to be able to do today: analyze the poems for meaning, themes, structure, imagery, and tone; demonstrate an understanding of the figurative or metaphorical language that the poets use by being able to identify those uses of figurative language, and compare the similarities of theme, structure, tone, and imagery of the two poems, being able to cite specific lines or pieces of the poems as evidence, as proof, of similarities or differences in theme, tone, and imagery. Also, tell me in your own words what you think each poet is trying to say, what the meaning of each poem is. That’d be comprehension.” Instruction: Look at the title first; treat it as the first line of the poem. What clues might this title give to you about what the poem will be about? “I Hear America Singing.” Optional (if the lesson is on a shortened day, skip this part): Give students one or the other poem re-typed without any line breaks and have them put the line breaks in where they think they ought to go ... Talk about why they chose to put line breaks in where they did. Then: read the poem straight through without stopping to analyze it. Initial reactions, ways into the poem: what one phrase, line, expression, image most struck you, or what was your first emotional reaction? Paraphrase the content of the poem.
Identify the narrator’s perspective/point of view: who is he/she? What clues led you to conclude that? Take two minutes to write reactions to the poem so far, reflect on it, free-associate, if possible, connect to prior readings. Teacher models this on the SmartBoard or using the document camera and reads it out loud. Find examples of figurative language.
Identify the attitudes or tones (emotions) of the piece.
Find the crucial moments—when the action shifts, direction alters, meaning changes, or when a new meaning is revealed—revelations. Find ‘moments of heat’ or ‘tension.’ Consider form and function, layout on the page: is there repetition, and are words and images juxtaposed against each other or woven into each other? Look at the language of the poem.
Look for deeper meanings. How does it compare with what we’ve read earlier, in terms of tone, imagery, themes? Ask students to find examples of imagery, and reconsider the title in light of all this. Then have students identify what the theme is.
Go through this whole process again with the other poem, “I Too.” Then, at end, with other activities, have students write their answers to the questions: What are the main similarities in terms of the themes or ideas between the two poems? What are the main differences?
What are the tones of each poem? How do they compare?
What kinds of images does each poet use?
What about the format, the structure of the poems?
They will now begin a compare and contrast write-up of the two poems; show them a student exemplar or two from previous years using the document camera and ask them what they notice about what makes the exemplar (or exemplars) so exemplary and point out to students that on the exemplar(s) the words theme, tone, imagery, structure, and the quotations from the poems themselves have been highlighted, and that this is required of them, too, and that if they fail to highlight these terms they’ll lose points. Also point out that it’s not enough to use and highlight the terms; they must actually compare and contrast the similarities and differences of the poems in terms of those things (theme, tone, etc.). So if they use the term imagery and highlight it and write about only one poem’s imagery, they won’t get points on the checklist for comparing/contrasting imagery in the two poems. Also point out how nicely the exemplar(s) demonstrate the concept of blending a quotation smoothly into a paragraph, rather than just tacking it on as a mere afterthought or throwing it in just anywhere. Tell students: “Now put your name and a standard heading at the top of a piece of lined paper, and write your name on your rubric for good measure, and begin writing your paragraphs comparing and contrasting these two poems in terms of tones, structures, imagery, and themes. As you write, every time you use the word ‘theme,’ or ‘tone,’ or ‘imagery,’ or ‘structure,’ highlight it. This assignment should be completely done tonight, so that literally the only thing you have to do next time when you arrive to class to be ready to hand it forward right after the bell rings, is to get it out of your binder and set it on your desk in front of you.” Closure: Thank students for their participation and for their staying focused and on-task. HW: At least two paragraphs in which they point out and list several similarities and differences in the two poems in terms of their structures (line breaks and line lengths, etc.), tones, imagery, and themes. Remind them, “For next time, finish writing your two compare/contrast paragraphs on these two poems, comparing and contrasting their tones, patterns or structures, imagery, and themes.”
“I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman (1900)
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 woodcutter’s song, the plowboy’s on his way in the morning, or at 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 him or 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.
“I, Too, Sing America” by Langston Hughes (1925)
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Walt Whitman does not address issues of race in his poem at all, and most of the working people whom he describes in his poem are most likely white. Also, there are NO slaves in the poem by Langston Hughes, and no references to slavery, since slavery in America officially and legally ended in 1865. As you can see, Langston Hughes wrote his poem in 1925, sixty years after slavery in America had legally and officially ended. Hughes very well might be describing a black servant in a white home, but that servant gets paid a salary for doing his job, and is a free man, NOT a slave. Do NOT refer to him or to other black Americans living in the 1920’s as slaves, because they weren’t.
Checklist/Rubric for Compare and Contrast Paragraphs on Whitman and Hughes (30 points)
Checklist: (each item 3 points) The paragraphs address the main similarities and differences in the poems’:
themes/ideas (important concepts or ‘messages’ that are apparent throughout the poem) (3 points) tones (the apparent emotions) (3 points)
images (descriptions of a highly visual nature) (3 points)
structure/format (pattern, the way it appears on the page, line breaks) (3 points)
you quote twice from each poem for a total of four quotations in the whole assignment (3 points)
NOTE: in order for these checklist items to count, you must use and highlight just specifically the terms: themes/ideas, tones, images, structure/format and highlight the two quotations you use from each of the two poems for a total of four. Fail to do this and you won’t get the points on the checklist.
Rubric: Organization, Fluency/Word Choice, Ideas (from the Six Traits)
5 Clear, focused, relevant details, every piece contributes to the whole
3 Clear but not detailed, some support—some ‘dead wood’ that does not contribute
1 Limited or unclear information, text is repetitive, or disconnected and random thoughts
5 Sequence is logical, effective, thoughtful transitions to connect sentences
3 Sequence is mostly logical and effective, lacks some transitions
1 Sequencing needs work, connections between ideas are confusing or missing
WORD CHOICE/SENTENCE FLUENCY
5 Words are specific, precise, and accurate, easily understood meaning, lively verbs, precise nouns, sentences relate to and build on each other, sentences are varied in length and structure
3 Words are correct and adequate but lack flair, some lively language but could be more, imprecise nouns, sentences do not consistently flow well one to another, some variation
1 Language is unclear, vague, repetitive, lots of clichés, words are used incorrectly, sentences are choppy, incomplete fragments, ramble on, or are awkward, endless connectives (and, and so, but then, because, and then) create jumble of language
“The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.” —Walt Whitman, from the Preface to Leaves of Grass
Topic: Similarities/differences in the poems Audience: Me/your peers Purpose: To explain
Level of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Thinking required to successfully complete this task: Analysis
YOU MUST ATTACH THIS RUBRIC/CHECKLIST TO YOUR PARAGRAPHS!
“I Hear America Singing” by 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 woodcutter’s song, the plowboy’s on his way in the morning, or at 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 him or 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.
“I, Too, Sing America” by Langston Hughes
I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes, but I laugh, and eat well, and grow strong. Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table when company comes. Nobody’ll dare say to me, “Eat in the kitchen,” then. Besides, they’ll see how beautiful I am and be ashamed—I, too, am America.