Lesson Plan: Rhyme and Rhythm in Poetry


I’ve started a recent unit on poetry with my class. I’m not a poet, and I’m not a poetry fan (I don’t hate it, but I’m a prose gal), so this makes it harder for me to teach than many other parts of the curriculum. One resource that’s been invaluable is Poets.org, which, I got from the redoubtable Larry Ferlazzo. Some resources I found are worth sharing so I thought I’d do that. The lesson doesn’t go in the narrative order that I came up with it, but there you have it.

Small Thing Big Idea: How Jump Rope Got Its Rhythm 

This popped up in my Facebook feed, which I guess is an argument in favor of the algorithm, because I wouldn’t have found it otherwise. It’s about the culture of jumprope/handclap rhymes, and their influence on rap music, etc. I wanted them to appreciate the rhymes they already know, and also it emphasizes beat, etc. My only beef is that it’s a Facebook video, which is really problematic to show in school, etc. I had to hook up my phone to the projector. Not everyone has the tech chops to do that.

We then watched the video for Double Dutch Bus, to show an early rap song with clear influences from playground rhymes.

Maya Angelou – Harlem Hopscotch | Genius

Next up, we looked at this phenomenal dance video based on Maya Angelou’s “Harlem Hopscotch”. Once again, it’s a poem/lyric based on playground rhyme.

Gwendolyn Brooks – Poet | Academy of American Poets

Finally we went to Gwendolyn Brooks, “We Real Cool” which while not her best, or deepest, fits in well with the rest as a short example of rhythm and rhyme. We talked about syllables/beats, etc.

There are loads of other resources available Poets.org, which I’ll be using as the unit progresses.
Photo Credit: “Hopscotch” by Skip on Flickr

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Bad Hair Day


It’s winter time. It’s cold — okay, not for anyone outside California and Florida, but still — I’m wearing hats in the morning. Lovely knitted hats that I’ve made. This results in a lot of “bad hair days”. I keep a comb, but my follicles, they want to be free! The other day it came in handy…

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Some thoughts on the Internment of the Japanese


One of the first dates I had with my husband, was a trip to see Min Yasui, one of the plaintiffs in a suit related to the Korematsu case trying to fight the internment of the Japanese by the U.S. government during World War II. I was young, maybe still 18 at the time. I knew a bit about the history of the internment, but not a lot. Mr. Yasui was impressive. Even in advanced age, his personality crackled. It was a good lesson for me on the failure of stereo-typing, as he was a firebrand, fitting with his occupation as a lawyer.

Why do I bring this up? Well, recent news has someone close to the Trump campaign (but not in his transition) citing Korematsu as precedent, which drew a gasp from Megyn Kelly. This is not surprising, as currently, the case is generally felt to be embarrassing, and a mistake. Don’t believe me? Here’s quote showing how far the idea that Korematsu was a bad decision has penetrated legal circles:

Justice Antonin Scalia has ranked Korematsu alongside Dred Scott, the 1857 decision that black slaves were property and not citizens, as among the court’s most shameful blunders.

That was recognized in 1983 shortly before I heard Mr. Yasui speaking. I remember at the time they were discussing the fact that the Korematsu had gotten his original conviction overturned, but since it was only at the appellate level, the original ruling still stood at the Supreme Court level. They actually wanted the case to advance, because they felt the time was ripe to have it overturned. It didn’t, so it’s still sitting out there are precedent. This article explains some of the legal niceties, and includes this surprising quote about Scalia above.

I remember as I was in my 20s running into folks in my grandmother’s generation, who would still defend the Internment. Heck, my grandmother herself made a number of embarrassing statements on the subject in my teens. In my late twenties, I was editor of the local Friends of the Library newsletter, and wrote a piece on materials on the Internment available through the Oakland Public Libraries Asian branch. I got a letter from an older member who tried to explain that I didn’t understand. Since he was a member, I couldn’t call him a deluded racist, but stood my ground explaining that history has taught us to view the events differently, and I thought it had.

A recent article in Time puts this point of view succinctly….

As TIME pointed out, the Supreme Court precedent would still stand, but the judge who cleared Korematsu’s conviction declared in her ruling that, in the words of the report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation, “Korematsu lies overruled in the court of history.”

But what if that’s wrong? What if the court of history is reconvening? Think about a case that even Antonin Scalia thought was wrong is being relied on for policy by folks in the President-elect’s orbit.

On the upcoming election of the first woman president…


Yes we can!

In many ways this has been a disheartening election. To see people make excuses for a candidate bragging about sexual assault (which was followed up by victims saying, “Yes he did.”) well, that’s almost sadder than the assault in the first instance. And all the racism, and xenophobia that preceded it was just as ugly.

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The price black students pay…


Sad Boy

Right before school started, edublogger Jersey Jazzman, posted a video of a lesson being taught from Success Academy meant to be used for teacher training.

The response from his readers was scathing, as it involved a couple of typical methods of teaching favored by no-excuses charters (but loathed by child-centered educators). The video is no longer public (SURPRISE!) so you can’t see it, but I’m going to talk about something that struck me as I was watching it.

The students participated, but I noticed a lot of them stuttering over their words. The teacher is constantly talking over and interrupting them when they are incorrect. The young white teachers are in a class full of black students. A really excellent example of a “Becky”moment.

I wanted to share a story that it reminded me of when I first saw it, but before that, some background…
My husband is black and grew up in San Francisco in the 1960s and 70s. His parents spoke AAVE/Black English/Ebonics reflecting their Southern background. My husband speaks standard English, and always has, but he once shared a story of another boy in his neighborhood, who struggled with standard English.

He was the son of a cop, which would means he was probably one of the earliest black SFPD officers. Dad was adamant that his son would speak “proper English”. Physical punishment was involved. My husband described how he would flinch as he spoke sometimes, self-conscious, as though waiting for blows to fall.

The students in this video, while not under physical threat, have that same self-conscious look, as though fearing the verbal “slap” (correction) that is sure to come when the inevitable slip is made. While they may not be in danger of a beating, they are in danger of losing many things are important, their sense of self, their culture, their pride.

The price they pay is this, we say, “Sure, you can be a scholar, but only if you give up your “culture”.
Image credit: Sad Boy

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