Materials:

Copies of "To His Excellency, General Washington"and "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," pens, pencils and paper, audio player with speakers.

Objectives (based on the North Carolina Standard Course of Study):

  • The student will critically analyze text to gain meaning, analyze text and synthesize ideas.
  • The student will analyze stylistic features such as word choice and links between sense and sound.
  • The student will demonstrate the ability to read increasingly complex print texts.
Vocabulary:

alder, belfry, ensign, enthroned, girth, grenadiers, impetuous, propitious, refluent, spectral

Procedures:

1. Play "The Tales of Brave Ulysses" by Cream or "Abraham, Martin and John" by Dion while displaying lyrics for the class. Discuss how these songs tell a tale of a public figure. What message do they send? How does the writer remember this person?

2. Discuss poetry as a means of historical documentation. Explain that poets use a variety of devices to help convey their message. For this lesson, the following should be highlighted: allusion, alliteration, end rhyme, imagery, point-of-view and repetition.

3. Introduce a biographical sketch of Phillis Wheatley to the class, explaining that:

  • Wheatley was born in Africa in 1751 and was brought to Boston in 1761
  • She was purchased by John Wheatley, most likely as a companion for his wife. In their household, she was taught to read and write.
  • Her first book of poetry was published in London when she was 19 years old.
  • She was the first African American writer of note in America. (Source "Phillis Wheatley.")
4. Read "To His Excellency, General Washington" or ask for a volunteer. You could also ask each student to read one line in sequence so that all students have the opportunity to read aloud.
 

5. Ask students to consider each line carefully and to search for the poetic devices explained in Step 2. If students have copies of the poem that they can write on, they can circle and label instances of poetic devices. If not, they can write examples on a sheet of paper or in a table.

6. After students have taken a few minutes to search for poetic devices, hold a class discussion about what they have observed.

7. Next, read "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" and follow steps 5-6. Discuss similarities and differences between the two poets.

8. Distribute copies of magazines or newspapers. Model "finding poetry," by taking words and phrases from an article and constructing a short poem. Discuss different impressions gleaned from reading the information as prose and then as poetry.

9. Ask students to choose an article and "find" their own poetry.

10. Present to class or post on wall.

Evaluation:

Found poetry can be graded for comprehension and completion.

Resources:

"Phillis Wheatley." The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Shorter Edition. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1986.

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