by Pernille Ripp
My classes read the poem “Hugging Jose” by Jason Reynolds because they love the work of Jason Reynolds, and also because it shows poetry from a different standpoint. Not the traditionally viewed version of poetry, but instead one that is written to evoke emotion and help students connect to the form of poetry.
I read it aloud while the students follow along and then in small groups I have them discuss the following questions:
Who is the person writing it?
Who is he writing it for and why?
How can you relate to this poem?
How do you feel after reading this poem?
A big part of our focus whenever we discuss poetry is looking at how language is used to evoke emotions and so we do not analyze poetry in the traditional sense, but instead reflect on what mood we are in as readers after experiencing a poem. Which words are powerful to us and why? The answers vary from group to group, and I think this is so important to emphasize with the kids; there is no right answer but instead answers based on our experience.
I wrap the lesson up by asking about the end message -- the final two lines of the poem -- what does Jason Reynolds want us to walk away with? This poem speaks to many of my kids, not all, but I think it offers a way to show them that poetry might be more raw than they assume.
Pernille Ripp is a seventh-grade language arts teacher from Madison, WI. Follow her work on Twitter: @pernilleripp