Southwest Children's  Literature

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Navajo Voices and Visions Across the Mesa

In the classroom/library:

GRADE LEVEL: 11th Grade
SUBJECTS: 11th-grade English
OVERVIEW: Students will be creating a class book of poetry, as modeled by the book Navajo: Visions and Voices Across The Mesa by Shonto Begay.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this lesson is to address the poetry standards in the Arizona 11th grade reading and writing standards and to expose the students to the work of a local author.

At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
1. identify the main poetic devices.
2. create a poem that utilizes one or more poetic devices.

Standards - Language Arts
AZ 11th Grade Reading Standards:
S2C2PO2: Interpret figurative language, including personification, hyperbole,
symbolism, allusion, imagery, extended metaphor/conceit, and allegory with
emphasis upon how the writer uses language to evoke readers' emotions.
S2C2PO6: Explain how meaning is enhanced through various features of poetry, including sound (e.g. rhythm, repetition, alliteration, consonance, assonance), structure (e.g. meter, rhyme scheme), and graphic elements (e.g. line length, punctuation, word position)

AZ 11th Grade Writing Standards:
S3C1PO1: Write in a variety of expressive forms (e.g. poetry, short story, and/or drama) that…employ literary devices (e.g. irony, conceit, foreshadowing, symbolism) to enhance style and voice.

AZ ELL V Reading Standards:
Comprehending Text (Early Advanced 3): Explain different elements of figurative language in poetry, including simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, symbolism, allusion, and imagery in a literary selection.

AZ ELL V Writing Standards:
Writing Applications (Intermediate 1): Write in a variety of expressive forms (poetry, skit) true to type that include an appropriate figurative language, rhythm, dialogue, characterization, and plot.

Standards - from the AASL's Standards for the 21st-Century Learner
3.2.3: Demonstrate teamwork by working productively with others.
4.1.2: Read widely and fluently to make connections with self, the world, and
previous reading.
4.1.5: Connect ideas to own interests and previous knowledge and experience.

Illustrated Poetry Book:
Navajo Voices and Visions Across the Mesa written and illustrated by Shonto Begay

Copies of the 7 poems selected from Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa ("Night Holds Mysteries," "Reflections After The Rain," "Mother's Lace," "Into The New World," "Navajo Power Plant," "Our Mysteries, Hid Knowledge," "Lifeline," and "Storm Pattern").


* "Analyzing Poetry" worksheet (pdf file) that asks for the theme of a poem, and what poetic devices are used in the poem
* Assignment explanation and student-authored poem rubric (pdf file)
* Blank white paper
* Markers, crayons, colored pencils

1. Introductory Set
Students previously completed an online pathfinder to locate song lyrics that represent the various poetic devices, in order to learn the different poetic devices (metaphor, simile, onomatopoeia, alliteration, personification, rhyme, and repetition).

Students also previously read an essay by Shonto Begay called "The View From The Mesa" about his childhood on the Navajo reservation and in a government-run boarding school.

Students will be introduced to the book Navajo: Visions And Voices Across The Mesa through a booktalk given by Ms. Metz.

2. Objectives - The students will:

1. be able to able to identify the main poetic devices (Day 1).
2. create a poem that utilizes one or more poetic device (Days 2 and 3).

3. Input
a. Explain that students will be working in groups, using the jigsaw technique, to analyze the poems in Navajo: Visions and Voices Across The Mesa. Each group will have a different poem to analyze for poetic devices and theme. Distribute poems.
b. Assist groups in their analyses of the poems.
c. Conduct large-class discussion of the theme of the book, in order to consolidate the poem themes into one theme for the book.

4. Modeling
Model how to write the relevant part of the poem on the board once the poetic device has been determined by the group.

5. Check for Understanding
Review process of looking for one or more poetic techniques in their group poem and of looking for theme.

6. Guided Practice
Teachers will support students as they search for poetic devices contained within their poems, and attempt to determine the themes. A representative from each group will go up to the board and write the excerpt from the poem that demonstrates their poetic device once it has been found. The representative will also write the theme on the board.

7. Independent Practice - or Homework
Students who were absent may make up the assignment as homework without a group. Students who were present must complete the analysis in class with their group.

8. Closure

The class will review the theme they have chosen/created together, and partner up to begin working on creating their own poems. Finish out the class by brainstorming in partners about poem topics that fit the class theme.

Days 2 and 3:

3. Input

Review the rubric for creating the poems with the students. Students must work in partners to create and illustrate a poem that uses one or more poetic device, and adheres to the chosen class theme. Poems will be collected and bound into a class book by the district's Curriculum Center.

4. Modeling
None. Students will be writing and illustrating their poems.

5. Check for Understanding
Review the rubric.

6. Guided Practice
Students will work in pairs to write and illustrate a poem that adheres to the class theme.

7. Independent Practice
Students may finish their poem at home if they cannot finish in class.

8. Closure
Collect poems and take them to the district's Curriculum Center, where they will be bound into one book for the class.


On Day 1, the group poetry analyses are collected and graded. After Day 3, the finished product (poem and illustration) are graded according to the rubric provided.

Working in partners and groups is a modification both for special education and ELL students, because it allows each person to contribute their own strengths. All eight types of poems were written both on the board and on the worksheet, and students were allowed to use their notes and previous explanation of the poetic devices from the online pathfinder.


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