|A note for teacher users: These lessons are posted so that you may borrow ideas from them, but our intention in providing this resource is not to give teachers a word-for-word script to follow. Please, use this lesson's big ideas but adapt everything else. And adapt it recklessly; that's how you become an authentic writing teacher.
Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources:
Pre-step…before sharing the song: This lesson's mentor text is inspired by the life and art of Vincent Van Gogh, which can be a heavy topic. To begin with, you will need to have students read and discuss some developmentally appropriate reading material on the artist and his work. Here are three options:
Ask students to look over the information --perhaps working with partners or small groups--and pull out fiften or twenty words (or short phrases) that stand out as ideas that really seem to stand out as words that represent the life and art of Van Gogh. The words/phrases they choose should probably be specific nouns, strong verbs, interesting adjectives, and perhaps an adverb or two, which you may have to encourage them to dig for. Under no circumstances, should students pull out phrases longer than four or five words, and absolutely they should not pull out an entire sentence. A found poem, which is their ultimate assignment here, relies on simple words and phrases.
Ask students to assemble the words/phrases into something that looks and sounds like a poem; they do not need to use every word they found to create their "word splash" poem. They can add their own words and phrases between the ones they've "borrowed" from the research in order to build the poems.
Share several poems out loud. Have students listen for words or themes or commonalities that all the poems seem to share.
Step one…sharing the song and the poem: Tell students you'll be listening to a song and reading a poem today that were both inspired by the life and art of Vincent Van Gogh. They might find, if they're lucky, identical words in these two mentor texts that they chose for their own "word splash" poems, but more than likely they will find synonyms. You might have students use a highlighter to pull-out these words and synonyms.
Tell students the song you are about to play is a tribute to Van Gogh and his art by a singer/songwriter who was moved by the artist's life story as well as his paintings. Play the song Vincent by Don McLean and let students go over the lyrics with a highlighter. Ask students to find a theme in McLean's song; ask, "What is the singer trying to say about Van Gogh? Can you put the message in one sentence?" Share sentences out loud.
Next, share the poem Starry Night from Tupac Shakur's poetry collection The Rose That Grew From Concrete
Though shorter than the song, the same highlight and find-the-theme activity can be run and student ideas shared out loud.
If it is helpful, you might have these two paintings by Van Gogh ready to show as you look over the song and the poem. The links below are links to Google searches, where you can choose which image you will print or put on an overhead.
Ask students to do some comparative thinking based on this song and this poem. Were the themes similar or different? Were the poetic techniques similar or different? Were the word choices similar or different?
Tell students, for this poetry assignment, they will be researching information on a different artist and his/her paintings. They will be pulling important words and phrases from their research to help them create a "found poem."
To show them how a found poem works, I have provided a model of the process, inspired by the life and art of Norman Rockwell. Feel free to "pretend" this is your poem when showing this process to your students:
Step two…introducing student models of writing: In small groups, have your students read and respond to any or all of the student models that come with this lesson. The groups will certainly talk about the idea development, since it's the focus of the lesson, but y ou might prompt your students to talk about each model's word choice as well.
WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! In 2008, we first began accepting students samples from teachers anywhere who use this lesson. Hundreds of new published students now go up at our site annually!
We're currently looking for student samples for other grade levels for this lesson! Help us obtain some from your students, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom! Visit this lesson's student samples page for details.
Step three…thinking, talking, and pre-writing: The "interactive button” on the student instructions page will give your students twenty options for interesting artists they might choose to research for this found poem. Of course, you could assign all your students to write on the same artist, if you're studying a particular one in class anyway. Personally, I link this lesson to one of my favorite books, When Pigasso Met Mootisse by Nina Laden, which sets your students up with some basic and interesting information about two great artists in the form of a delightful picture book. When I link this lesson, my students get to choose Picasso or Matisse as the subject of their found poems.
Lately, I've been thinking how this could be an excellent writing lesson in history class. Paintings often are very historical in nature, and many great artists lived in very historical times. Dorthea Lange or Matthew Brady captured American history with their photographs, and Winslow Homer and John Trumball both painted historical events.
However your students choose their artist, they need to next be given time to research and pull words and phrases from their findings that represent their artist and his/her work. Use this graphic organizer, which gives them a place to record the words as well as an opportunity to ponder themes about the art and the life.
Before students begin drafting, look again at the song by McLean and the poem by Shakur. Bring back the idea of theme in these two works, and remind students that their found poems must aim at a theme that other students can look for. Have students explore possible themes after they've researched and before they write a rough draft.
Discuss how theme can often be stressed in writing by being hinted at in poem's title, through ideas or lines that are repeated, or by making an idea stand out in a differet way. Challenge students to try these techniques as they craft a poem that conveys a theme they have planned before writing.
Share Original Graphic Organizers (for Pre-Writing)
from Your Teaching Toolbox.
We share graphic organizers with our peers, we find them in books, and we think we should also be able to find tried-and-true ones online at WritingFix. This year, if you create an original graphic organizer (or adapt one of ours) when you teach this page's lesson, and post it, we might just end up publishing it directly here at WritingFix, and we will post it here, giving you full credit.