Activity I: Reading and Listening in Multiple Ways
Objective: Students will use careful noticing skills to identify important parts of a poem while listening and reading.
- Hand out copies of “The Weakness” by Toi Derricotte.
- Ask your students to read the poem once, silently, to themselves.
- Have the poem read out loud twice, each time by a different student.
- Ask your students to read the poem silently, again. This time, ask them to write down what “jumps out at them” in the poem, including words they don’t know.
Activity II: Small Group Discussion
Objective: Students will communicate their own ideas and perceptions in a small group.
- Ask your students to get back in their groups of four.
- Have them discuss the following questions:
- What jumped out at you in the poem?
- What connections do you make to your own experience (the short skits, other things you’ve done, what you’ve read, what you’ve seen) to the poem?
- What questions do you have?
- What words need explaining? In your group, try to puzzle out the meanings from context and other clues.
Activity III: Vocabulary
Objective: Students will learn vocabulary from cues in context and from making connections.
- As a whole class, ask your students for the list of vocabulary words in the poem they do not know. Conduct a discussion of the meaning of these words, based on their prior small group discussions.
- Here are some words you might want to include in a vocabulary lesson if your students are not forthcoming with words they do not understand.
Activity IV: Whole Group Discussions
Objective: Students will form an interpretation of a poem while citing evidence in support of their interpretations.
There are multiple topics you can include in whole class discussions of “The Weakness.” Choose the one(s) that fit most closely with your curriculum—or create your own!
- Ask your students what jumped out at them in the poem. From their answers you can frame a discussion of line breaks, simile, and metaphor.
- List your students’ questions on the board and conduct a discussion around possible answers.
- Based on your students’ connections, answers to their questions, and what jumped out at them, what do they think this poem is about? Ask them to cite evidence from the poem to back up their interpretations.
Activity V: Other African American Perspectives
For this activity your students will need to access the anthology The African American Experience on their laptops or tablets.
Divide your students into their groups of four people each. Assign each group one to three poems to read from the anthology. (Each group should have different poems.)
- Ask your students to silently read the poems that have been assigned to them as a group.
- After they have read the poems twice silently, ask them to read the poems out loud to each other.
- Then have them write down what jumps out in the poem, the connections they make, and the questions they have. (They should be familiar with this process because it mimics what they did when they read “The Weakness.”)
- Still in their small groups, they should have a discussion about their interpretations of the poems, offering evidence to each other for their thoughts.
- Ask them to choose one of the poems (if you have given them more than one) that they think offers an important perspective on the African American experience to present to the whole class.
- Each small group should pick one of their members to read the poem to the class, and one member to explain the group’s interpretation of the poem and the evidence for it.
Conduct a whole group discussion on the varying perspectives on the African American experience that your class has encountered through reading these poems.