5th grade has a massive social studies curriculum. It spans from the civil war all the way up to the present. One of the things that they have been doing for the past 2 years that I love is using Christopher Paul Curtis’s books to tie in to the curriculum. They start with Elijah of Buxton, move to Bud Not Buddy, and finish with the Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963.
The civil rights movement is where they have been spending a lot of time recently, so the teacher emailed me to see what we might do in the library to focus on this time period in her language arts class. The standards they are working on are:
SS5H8 The student will describe the importance of key people, events, and developments between 1950-1975.
b. Explain the key events and people of the Civil Rights movement; include Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, and civil rights activities of Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Since it’s poetry month, I wanted to pull poetry into our time together, and I knew that 5th graders would be able to handle some complex text and concepts.
Just like with 3rd grade, we read Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles, but their background information was much deeper than what 3rd graders knew. They had connections and stories to share about the riots and peaceful marches that took place during the civil rights movement. It was the perfect opportunity for me to also pull in Revolution by Deborah Wiles. This book doesn’t publish until May 27th, but I have an advance reader’s copy from the Texas Library Association Conference. I was able to show them some of the speeches, music, advertisements, etc from the time period to accompany the picture book, Freedom Summer.
For poetry, the 5th graders created 2 kinds of found poetry. They used the Word Mover app on the iPad to create magnetic poetry. The app has a word bank that is words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. They also used pages from Freedom Summer and a couple of pages from Revolution to create blackout poetry.
This time for blackout poetry, we used the New York Times interactive site to create blackout poetry together. The site makes it very easy to select & deselect words from articles to create 15-word blackout poems. We did an example together on the board. The teacher also helped demonstrate how to mark words on their own paper by putting boxes around words in the NY Times article on the board.
We found that a good first step for students in making blackout poetry is to read or skim the page and then put boxes around words or phrases that stand out. Once you are sure of the words you want in your poem, then you blackout the rest of the page. Modeling this on the board was important today. We had very few students in 3 classes who needed to start over.
I randomly gave students pages from the books and they started the process. For the most part, it was a very quiet process. Students methodically chose their words and then quietly shared their work at their tables. A few students paired up to help each other decide on words and phrases.
As students finished their blackout poems, they grabbed an iPad and created their Word Mover poems. Just like with 2nd grade, most students arranged their words into solid sentences rather than shaping them up like a poem. If time allowed, I conference with students and they went back into their poem to shape it into line breaks.
Almost every poem was a reflective synthesis of student understanding about events of the civil rights movement and freedom summer. Some students had some humorous twists to their poems, but most were solemn, serious, and reflective.
Take a look at their gallery. Just like Revolution immerses us in the time period through story, music, advertisements, speeches, and other documentary pieces, the student poetry immersed us in the positive and negative feelings of the civil rights movement and freedom summer through multiple perspectives.