Tuesday, March 20, 2018

2018 Poem #6 -- Our Many Worlds

by Rama Janamanchi

One of my favorite poems to teach is Joseph Legaspi’s “Amphibians.” It is a short poem which offers so many avenues for discussion and teaching that we often reference it as we go through our unit. The activity I am sharing below is one that I use when I introduce the poem.

We begin with reading the poem. Each student reads a line until punctuation indicates a significant stop (the period, the semi-colon, or colon). Then we read the poem again chorally. Once we are done with the choral reading, I ask them to list amphibians they know and picture those amphibians, their habitats, and whatever else they know about them.

The students then write down their own habitats: Where do you live? Then they list one activity they most closely identify with. Then we go into identity more broadly. Once they have listed about five or six words they use to identify themselves, we talk about similarities in the room. We begin with activity: all the basketball players stand together, all the gamers gather together and so on. Then they find them moving around the room and shifting groups based on race, hobbies, being the eldest, being adopted and so on. As they position themselves into different groups, they note the people with whom they share these groups.

Once the activity is done (about 7 minutes), we talk about Legaspi’s line: “Immigrants give birth to Americans.” Our many identities converge into the shared experience of the activity, of being students, of being learners. At the close of the activity, we read the poem again. I usually then ask them to reflect on the poem in their journals to give them more time with the poem.

Further Reading:

Rama Janamanchi teaches at a private high school for students with language-based learning differences. Twitter: @MsJanamanchi410

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