Poetry & Personal Narrative: Two Texts to Get Students Writing

For this #writingworkshopwednesday, I’m sharing a poem and a NYT resource, both of which can be used to get students writing, thinking, and creating.

Background Noise & Narrative:

This gem showed up in my Twitter feed yesterday:


And it immediately made me think of personal narrative (or really any kind of narrative writing) writing – in the tradition of Penny Kittle’s “Music of my Heart” and the life-soundtracks many of us have had kids think about.

The article, “What are the Sounds That Make Up the Background Noise in Your Life” by Michael Gonchar uses a New York Times article by Michael Kimmelman, “Dear Architects: Sound Matters” as a jumping-off point to get students thinking about what kind of background noises are in their lives.

The “Dear Architects” article is a great starting text for all of us, and when you and your students go to read it (I recommend using excerpts from it, which would work better since the whole article isn’t relevant for our purposes and to get the idea across in a manageable time frame.), make sure you have the opportunity to hear it as well.  Included in the article are photographs of everyday places, such as the New York Public Library’s Reading Room, an office building, and the subway that, when you hover your mouse over them, reveal the background noise of each place.  As Kimmelman states, “The spaces we design and inhabit all have distinctive sounds . . . It may be sealed off from the outside, and you may think it is quiet. Is it?,” sound is part of the architecture designers create and it also part of the architecture of our lives.

What can our students’ writing gain by thinking about, discovering, or recording the background noise of their lives?  How can this study reveal more about their personal lives (or the personal lives of any character)?  How can background noise be articulated in font and how might it drive, enhance, or amplify an existing narrative?

As we answer these questions, I think we begin to arrive at a valuable resource and idea to both prepare students to write about themselves and to test out new narrative techniques in their writing.  The original article, “What are the Sounds . . . ” provides some reading-response questions that might be a good transition from reading to thinking to writing.


Current Events & Poetry:

The other gem that found me yesterday was my poets.org poem-a-day, “Letter Beginning with Two Lines by Czesław Miłosz” by Matthew Olzmann.  “Letter” is a haunting poem that could be effective not only for writing workshop, but also for Socratic Seminar or literature circle discussions. (Here’a a word document version with line numbers: Letter Beginning Olzmann)

It’s going to take up a lot of room here, but please (PLEASE) take the time to read it all (you won’t be able to stop once you start . . . )

Letter Beginning with Two Lines by Czesław Miłosz

Matthew Olzmann

You whom I could not save,
Listen to me. 

Can we agree Kevlar
backpacks shouldn’t be needed

for children walking to school?
Those same children

also shouldn’t require a suit
of armor when standing

on their front lawns, or snipers
to watch their backs

as they eat at McDonalds.
They shouldn’t have to stop

to consider the speed
of a bullet or how it might

reshape their bodies. But
one winter, back in Detroit,

I had one student
who opened a door and died.

It was the front
door to his house, but

it could have been any door,
and the bullet could have written

any name. The shooter
was thirteen years old

and was aiming
at someone else. But

a bullet doesn’t care
about “aim,” it doesn’t

distinguish between
the innocent and the innocent,

and how was the bullet
supposed to know this

child would open the door
at the exact wrong moment

because his friend
was outside and screaming

for help. Did I say
I had “one” student who

opened a door and died?
That’s wrong.

There were many.
The classroom of grief

had far more seats
than the classroom for math

though every student
in the classroom for math

could count the names
of the dead.

A kid opens a door. The bullet
couldn’t possibly know,

nor could the gun, because
“guns don’t kill people,” they don’t

have minds to decide
such things, they don’t choose

or have a conscience,
and when a man doesn’t

have a conscience, we call him
a psychopath. This is how

we know what type of assault rifle
a man can be,

and how we discover
the hell that thrums inside

each of them. Today,
there’s another

shooting with dead
kids everywhere. It was a school,

a movie theater, a parking lot.
The world

is full of doors.
And you, whom I cannot save,

you may open a door

and enter a meadow, or a eulogy.
And if the latter, you will be

mourned, then buried
in rhetoric.

There will be
monuments of legislation,

little flowers made
from red tape.

What should we do? we’ll ask
again. The earth will close

like a door above you.
What should we do?

And that click you hear?
That’s just our voices,

the deadbolt of discourse
sliding into place.

Wow, right?

So since this is #writingworkshopwednesday, I’m going to stay focused on using this with our Writers’ Notebooks, but feel free to let your mind wander into all of the incredible possibilities available here.

One way to use this poem as as mentor-text inspiration is to allow students to borrow the same lines from Czesław Miłosz that the author did:

You whom I could not save,
Listen to me. 

I think there are so many opportunities for students to write about themselves or characters in novels (from the perspective of the author, other characters, etc.) by beginning with these two lines.  I imagine Sethe writing to Beloved (Toni Morrison’s Beloved), Jay to Daisy (Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby), Ida or Vivaldo or Eric to Rufus (Baldwin’s Another Country), or Walt Whitman writing to the Country (since he desperately wanted Leaves of Grass  to keep the nation from falling into civil war).  There are so many possibilities; it could easily work with independent reading selections as well.

We could also use this poem to talk about this writing-move of the response poem (of sorts) or the “life a line” (or two from another poem) to begin our own.  Students could take lines from poetry or songs and use it to frame or inspire a poem. (The could lift a line from this poem to start another as well. I would choose something related to the “the deadbolt of discourse,” I think.)

And of course, this could be a wonderful mentor text on how to write poetry that is also relevant and timely social commentary.  Maybe students research current events (we could collaborate with the history teachers on this too) and use this format to write a poetic letter that makes a comment about an issue in the community that they care about.

Lots of inspiration with these two texts! Happy workshopping! 🙂

As always, feel free to share any adaptations, additions, etc. you make and student samples or work produced from these ideas.


#TBT Flashback to Iconic Photographs of the 21st Century

This throw-back-Thursday post is bringing back a resource that Karyn found, “These 75 Iconic Photos Will Define The 21st Century So Far. Everyone Needs To See This.”

A year later, I might ask students to evaluate the impact of these images and choose one event from the last year & a corresponding photo to add to the gallery – explaining why they added it (aka why the event/image is significant).  You’d hit some research standards here, including writing standard 7 (short as well as sustained research projects) as well as reading standard 1 (textual evidence).  This could be good practice for skills they’ll need for the fast-approaching research paper (more slowly approaching for 10th & 12th grade), such as:

  • using advanced searches
  • determining the reliability of sources
  • citing textual evidence
  • creating a works cited & parenthetical citations
  • differentiating between essential and non-essential (in selecting the image they want to add to the list)

Here’s the link to the previous post with the original ideas for how to use these photos in the classroom.

tbt photos

Socratic Seminar & The Big Ideas: On Mars, Wonder, Colonization & Imperialism

Google Mars

Google’s animated Mars drinks water to celebrate NASA’s recent findings.

What are the implications of hunting/searching for life on Mars?

With the discovery of flowing water on Mars, many ethical issues are likely to arise as we consider, “What are the implications of hunting/searching for life on Mars?”  As educators, I think we are responsible for helping students understand, analyze, and evaluate what’s at stake with discoveries like this to ensure they become responsible and curious citizens.

We can do this by bringing the Mars announcement (liquid water!) to the classroom through Socratic Seminar.  Through Seminar, we can connect the news to some of the “big ideas” that run through some of the texts we teach.  This would make students think about the implications of the current event while also helping them understand connections and patterns among various texts, eras, etc. and create a larger context in which they could understand the big ideas in the texts they’re reading.

For resources on Socratic Seminar, check our the Socratic Seminar page

Here’s a quick sampling of some of the issues the news has covered with this finding:

Ian Sample, in his article in The Guardian, “NASA Scientists Find Evidence of Flowing Water on Mars,” quotes John Bridges:

John Bridges, a professor of planetary science at the University of Leicester, said the study was fascinating, but might throw up some fresh concerns for space agencies. The flows could be used to find water sources on Mars, making them prime spots to hunt for life, and to land future human missions. But agencies were required to do their utmost to avoid contaminating other planets with microbes from Earth, making wet areas the most difficult to visit. “This will give them lots to think about,” he said.

And Jonathan Amos’s article on BBC, “Martian salt streaks ‘Painted by Liquid Water‘,” raises a similar issue:

An interesting consequence of the findings is that space agencies will now have some extra thinking to do about where they send future landers and rovers.

Current internationally agreed rules state that missions should be wary of going to places on Mars where there is likely to be liquid water.

A UK space agency expert on Mars landing sites, Dr Peter Grindrod, told BBC News: “Planetary protection states that we can’t go anywhere there is liquid water because we can’t sterilise our spacecraft well enough to guarantee we won’t contaminate these locations. So if an RSL is found within the landing zone of a probe, then you can’t land there.

And here are some issues that we can discuss in conjunction with this current event:

  • 10th & 12th Grades: Colonization: (What happens when we introduce something foreign into a culture/society?  What happens when one culture overruns another? What responsibility to we have to other cultures/lives/places?) – with texts like Things Fall Apart or conflicts with Native Americans
  • 11th & 12th Grades: Language & Bias (AP Language): (Why are each of these news accounts providing different perspectives? What is the impact of their differences in word choice? What can we learn from their differences? Similarities?) – each of the articles below are different.  The CNN article, for example, is hopeful about the “search” for life and includes nothing about the potential sterilization issues that are discussed in both The Guardian & BBC articles.  The Guardian refers to the search for life as a ” hunt.”
  • 10th & 11th Grade: Manifest Destiny & Imperialism (American & Western Studies): (What right does one have to invade or expand its borders? What are the potential benefits and dangers of such an expansion?) – would work nicely after students have some background and in conjunction with political cartoons or other images/texts from the time 
  • 11th Grade: The Unknown: (What is our relationship with the “unknown”? How can not knowing impact how we perceive and react to it?) – pair a discussion of what Beowulf’s Grendel, who represents much of the uncertain and unknown of the times, with “Why are we obsessed with Martians?”
  • 10th Grade: Nature & Wonder: (Why do we go to nature? What happens when we over-turn nature?  What are the implications to interfering with nature? What value is there in “wonder”?) with The Secret Life of Bees & the moon-landing scene (August wants to turn it off . .. some things should be left to wonder – thanks to Sherrie E for this connection) or Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Nature.” John Muir & excerpts from the National Park documentary might also fit nicely here . . . in terms of the importance of preserving of nature (should we?). 
  • 9th Grade: “The Butterfly Effect” (What happens when we introduce something foreign into nature? What are the possible long-term effects?) – with the short story, “Sound of Thunder.”
  • All Grades: Perspective: Will we become the evil, power-hungry, & destructive aliens of science-fiction fantasies if we seek out life on Mars? (thanks to Sherrie for this one!)

Finally, here are some texts on the Mars findings to pair with the literary:

There are many more possibilities for bringing the issues with Mars to the English classroom. If you develop any of your own, please share them in the comment section below or via email.

Pre-Holiday Lesson Plans for the Days Before Break: The Year in Review, My Favorite Things, and Current Events

So I thought, since (of course) the expectation is that we’re conducting meaningful activities and learning in our classrooms through the 23rd (despite pep rallies and holiday parties and other distractions), that I would compile some options that might take the thinking/research/planning off of your plate after benchmarks are completed.

Option 1: The Year in Review

The New York Times’s Learning Network features an article “Looking Back on 2014″ with 15 ideas (with links and resources) for having students think about and reflect on 2014.  It also includes “retrospectives” linked from the New York Times and around the web for the biggest stories of 2014.

Included in the links are some resources that could be great sources of inspiration for discussion, Socratic Seminar texts, or Writing Workshop prompts including TIME and CNN’s “Top Ten Pictures” & “The Year in Pictures;” “16 Memes that broke the internet,” TIME’s 2014 Person of the Year, and “The Year in Ideas: TED Talks in 2014.”

There’s also Time’s “29 Instagrams that defined the world in 2014,” shared by Bonnie!

There are a lot of great ideas here that can be literacy-based and meaningful for those last two days of school in 2014! Check them out. 🙂

Option 2: A Few of My Favorite Things

Brainpickings creator and author, Maria Popova recently highlighted Maira Kalman’s My Favorite Things on her site. She includes screenshots from the book that often combine text with art and it might be fun to have students create a visual (with text explanations or titles) “My Favorite Things.”  This could easily be worked on Monday & Tuesday and displayed on bulletin boards and walls.  Have them share and discuss.

You could even create a class, “Our Favorite Things,” where you roll out big paper and have each student choose one of their favorite things to add to the class visual-list as they draw and write together on the floor or wall of your classroom.  It would almost be a class infographic on everyone’s favorite things.  This could springboard from or into a discussion or writing workshop activity where students reflect on the class-list and determine what this list tells them about their class or something that surprises or intrigues them.

If students have to provide a visual with their title and explanation, this could be a really fun and dynamic piece of your classroom decor.

Popova even references and links Barthes’s favorite things – and not favorite things (scroll down for the visuals) and Susan Sontag’s (scroll down for visual).  Lots of fodder for mentor texts here!

Option 3: Current Events (Caution: Heavy): The Taliban’s Murder of 132 Children at School in Pakistan

Here’s the Reuter’s article: Taliban go on killing spree at Pakistan school, 132 students dead.

My goals in sharing this and opening up a dialogue about it would be creating awareness of others  and self, including how lucky they are to be provided an education without question or issue.  The other interesting topic of discussion here could be the power of education.  Why would they target school children?  What is so “dangerous” about a school and children learning?

Of course, we know that education is perhaps the single greatest weapon in history, but our students don’t have any such appreciation for it.  Pair this current event with excerpts from I am Malala or a news story about her fight for the education of young girls and the price she paid for it.  In fact, here is her response to the attack.

This might also be fascinating paired with the TED Talk from Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the filmmaker responsible for the documentary, Children of the Taliban, Inside a School for Suicide Bombers, which explicitly shows how the Taliban uses and manipulates the educational system to its political and religious ends.

I know this is a rather heavy option right before the holidays, but it’s engaging and important also.  It reminds me how important the season’s cry of “Peace on Earth” is in the world in which we live.

Discussing Ferguson in the Classroom

As we see history continue to repeat itself after the verdict in the Michael Brown case, I think it is important to use text to engage our students in the issues surrounding the verdict, the case, and the riots.  In doing this, I can only hope that our students may find ways to understand different perspectives and think about what their role is now and could be in the future as our society continues to deal with similar issues.

Since Ferguson is a hot news item at the moment and arguably a pertinent one for American society, I’ve compiled some resources you could use in your classroom to discuss the underlying issues and the riots that erupted last week.  You could easily work these in for Socratic Seminar, practice with informational text, creative writing and/or writing prompts, or even a performance assessment.  And it would be interesting (I think) to see what parallels or connections might your student be able to draw to history and literature they know and/or have read with you.

Hopefully you find something here that is helpful to you.  If you want a brainstorming partner to work out ways to connect this to your 2nd marking period curriculum, you know how to find me. 🙂

1. The Learning Network: A blog post from from the New York Times Learning Network, “The Death of Michael Brown: Teaching about Ferguson” has some great nonfiction resources including article links and photographs.  It even has a section on preparing students for a difficult discussion.

2. Poetry (spoken word and written):series of poems on a blog from Words Dance Publishing that deal with some of the issues coming up in the Ferguson trial and result.  You could choose poems (spoken word performances as well as links to poems) to annotate or analyze in class (if you’re doing expository and/or text analysis), you could analyze the author’s compilation — why did she choose these poems? What is her bias? slant? (if you’re doing argument), and with any of them, you could have students connect these poems to current events and use the current events to work on analyzing informational text.  If you’re looking for a creative writing assignment, you could also ask students to write their own poem about the case and the riots. (Don’t forget our Writers’ Tea in the Spring!! Would be great to have some student thoughts & commentary on social issues and current events).

3. Leonard Pitts’s Commentary: One of my favorite editorial authors (great for analyzing structure and teaching/modeling kids how to analyze structure – reading informational text standard 5 and also for bias/slant and argument), Leonard Pitts has had a few things to say:

4. 1992 LA Riots & Rodney King: There’s also the connection to the LA Riots from 1992, covered in this article with before and after pictures of LA during the riots and today.  This might work great with a poem by Wislawa Szymborska, “The End and the Beginning,” which includes this final stanza:

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.
This pairing could encourage discussions about “war” and perhaps some a Writers’ Notebook prompt where they imagine what the “someone” is seeing as he gazes as the clouds or continue/create a narrative from that perspective (Writers’ Tea?)  (FYI: In another translation of this poem, “gazing” was translated at “gawking,” which I think is a dramatic difference also worthy of discussion).
I also am intrigued by this idea of grass overgrowing causes & effects, and I think the before and after photos in the article linked above demonstrate it.  What does that mean? Is it positive/negative?  I think this says something about Szymborska’s attitude about war, but it could also inspire a discussion about the implications of this overgrowth.

5. King vs Malcolm X: Nonviolence vs. Force.  These two men’s writings and philosophies could easily help start the discussion about how to deal with injustice.  Is nonviolence enough?  Have the riots in Ferguson overshadowed injustice?  Which makes people stand up and pay attention more?  Which might achieve the goal more effectively?  If you want to work in technology, you could read King (Letter from Birm. City Jail?) and watch a clip from Malcolm X.

6 The Justice System: Twelve Angry Men: And, of course, there’s always Twelve Angry Men (film and text), which could easily be a performance assessment when paired in part or full, but can also be a Socratic Seminar text in clips.  I don’t see it listed on the Scope & Sequence, so it’s fair game.

If you’re using other resources or have additional ideas, feel free to share them in the comments section below for all to see.

7. History Repeating: Robert F. Kennedy’s Remarks on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. is both a great tie in and another way to do language and structure analysis through these current events and their connections to the past.  And, of course, there are great options for pairing text.  Thanks Karyn Miller for this text and great idea!

Infographics of the Week, Oct. 20-24 – Social Media & Elections

As the next election draws near and our TVs are littered with political commercials, these infographics might invite a new avenue of discussion while practicing analyzing visual text and perhaps preparing to turn research into an infographics.

As a reminder from the first post:

Here are the discussion points used by Brett Vogelsinger, a teacher in Doylestown, PA:

  • Which of these was the best infographic and why? (when looking at multiple)
  • How does the writer try to engage an audience, even an audience who may not initially care about the topic?
  • Is the text or the visual design most important in each of these? How does the use of color and white space affect your ability to focus on the main message of the infographic? How is font size used to emphasize certain facts?
  • Does the infographic make a claim or develop an argument? If so, how can you tell?

Politics and Technology social media elections social media

The Columbus Day Controversy and Seattle’s Response

There has long been a controversy over the celebration of Columbus Day, much of which can be summed humorously but poignantly up in these memes:

columbus day 1 columbus day 2 columbus day 3

Informational Text Connection: If you’d like to discuss this controversy with your students, you can easily do it with a simple article about Seattle’s recent decent to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day on Columbus Day:

Here are few options:

From RT, a nonprofit new source: Seattle to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ day on Columbus Day

From Huffington Post: Columbus Day In Seattle Replaced With A New Holiday

This could work as a Socratic Seminar (which could be extended with additional text, maybe a poem by Sherman Alexie . . . see below, an article or first-person account of colonization in another part of the world, etc . . . ), a class discussion, practice with annotation and writing higher-level questions . . . anything.  If you’re taking a contemporary issues route, you could also relate this colonization in other parts of the world or illegal immigration issues in America.

And of course, this is timely for Monday, but it would work anytime with the ideas above, so if you’ve got the time and the desire, rock on. 🙂

Poetry Connection: Here’s “Evolution” by Sherman Alexie:

Buffalo Bill opens a pawn shop on the reservation
right across the border from the liquor store
and he stays open 24 hours a day,7 days a week

and the Indians come running in with jewelry
television sets, a VCR, a full-length beaded buckskin outfit
it took Inez Muse 12 years to finish. Buffalo Bill

takes everything the Indians have to offer, keeps it
all catalogues and filed in a storage room. The Indians
pawn their hands, saving the thumbs for last, they pawn

their skeletons, falling endlessly from the skin
and when the last Indian has pawned everything
but his heart, Buffalo Bill takes that for twenty bucks

closes up the pawn shop, paints a new sign over the old
charges the Indians five bucks a head to enter.

Short Story Connection: This would work well with “Poison” by Saki, which is in the freshmen textbook.

Multimedia Connection 1:This clip from a moving episode of “What Would You Do?” (on illegal immigration; takes place in New Jersey) might also be a nice tie in:

Visual Text Connection: Why Columbus Was Awful (an infographic) (From the Oatmeal, no author or sources cited FYI . . . . could be a discussion all on its own about what makes a source reliable, still valuable as one person’s belief, I suppose)

There’s plenty more you could pair this article with to get students engaged in a discussion about the deeper issues at stake for Columbus Day, including things on Italian American contributions to America (the other side of the coin, I suppose) and other relevant global issues.  But this is a great opportunity for students to practice digging deeper, thinking more globally, and understanding the implications of actions. 

If you have or find additional resources related to this issue, feel free to mention them in the comments for all to see!

Teaching & Discussing September 11, 2001 with TED

Looking for new ways to have discussions that matter surrounding 9/11?

Check out these TED Talks as ways to spark discussion or as text for Socratic Seminar, mini-seminars, whole class discussion, etc.  Don’t forget you could put these in EdPuzzle and add questions.

  • First, Aicha el-Wafi + Phyllis Rodriguez: The mothers who found forgiveness, friendship – a TED Talk from two mothers, one of a victim of the 9/11 attacks and one of a convicted conspirator in the attacks.  Simply the nature of this relationship – and the nature of grieving, remembrance, suffering – can spark a discussion different from the typical 9/11 discussions we have each year.  We don’t often think about the victims’ mothers and I’d venture to guess that we never think about the conspirators’ mothers.  Here, there is humanity amidst and beyond terrorism.  How does this/can this change how we think about 9/11 13 years later?  Why, in the aftermath of terrorism, should we embrace getting to know people from other countries, cultures, and religions?
  • Second, Zak Ebrahim: Zak Ebrahim: I am the son of a terrorist. Here’s how I chose peace – a TED Talk from the son of a terrorist (one involved in the 1993 World Trade Center attack that killed 6 and injured many more).  Although his father was involved in a different terrorist attack than the one we’re remembering on Thursday, Ebrahim’s talk is still relevant and poignant.  Consider discussing some of Ebrahim’s points about learning to hate (rather than hate being innate to a person or religion) about choosing peace . . . about not following in a father’s footsteps.   Now, 13 years since the attacks, some children of victims and terrorists are adults.  What is the personal, rather than national or international effect of these attacks?  Where does terrorism come from?  How do we choose peace?  There’s wonderful fodder for discussion here:
  • Third, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy: Inside a school for suicide bombers – a TED Talk from a woman who completed a documentary, Children of the Taliban and spent time inside a school training children to be a part of their organization.  This is a terrifying TED Talk that begs many questions: What is the relationship between poverty and terrorism? (Interesting connection to our own military recruiting strategies) Why does the Taliban target children from poor families? What is the power of education? How do we fight this level of strategic indoctrination?  What is the danger of ignorance? Of relying on others for information?  This would be great paired with either 1 (the mothers) or 2 (the terrorist son) to discuss why we should reach out and know others and/or how we change (if we can) our path [can the young boys in this school change their “fate” the way Zak Ebrahim did?]

As always, if you need anything, want help planning or another brain to throw ideas around with, let me know!

Ideas for Bringing Memorial Day to the Classroom

Memorial Day is upon us.  Here are some ideas for bringing it to the classroom to remind students that it’s more than a three-day weekend and the unofficial start of summer!

Veteran’s History Project (from the Library of Congress)

Check out the Veteran’s History Project, where students can search the collection and learn about a veteran (or two or three . . . or ?).  After reading through different stories (each account has different resources — some audio, some copies of letters, official documents), students could creatively share/present their veteran and why that person’s service is important or they could write a poem or story based on one veteran or multiple veterans based on what they learned about them, their service, etc . . ..

This is a great way to incorporate the standards for using text as evidence, gathering information from sources, writing, etc . . .   You could even work with students to develop a question (yay inquiry!) about war or service or the importance of Memorial Day and let them use this source to help them answer that question.  They can search by war or by branch of service so you (or they) could narrow/expand this as broadly as you want.

If you’re World Literature, it might be interesting to look into Vietnam or Afghanistan.  Brit Literature folks should find plenty in World War I and II that they could perhaps connect to.  If you’re an American Literature teacher, you can tie this idea to the American Civil War, but check out Civil War Soldiers’ Stories instead.

United States War Memorials (from the USA.gov)

Check out this usa.gov site called Military History, Memorials and Monuments that has links to sites about the various monuments and memorials in the United States.  This would be great with an over-arching question, “Why do we memorialize?” or “Why do we remember?”

After choosing a monument to research or read about, students could share what they learned with the class.  You could look at one or two memorials as a class and engage in a Socratic Seminar (see possible questions above) in which the memorials become the “text” that students reference in discussion.

If you’re aching for the literary-connection, there are poems about monuments and memorials, including Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Facing It” (Vietnam War Memorial) and Langston Hughes’s “Lincoln Memorial: Washington.”  Students could use these as mentor texts to write a poem about a memorial or monument of their own or as starting points for research, or for discussion or Socratic Seminar.  There are plenty of possibilities depending on what your students and you may want to do. 🙂

You could also use this information to invite students to design their own memorial in order to answer the question, “Why do (should) we memorialize?” (How?)


And if none of these ideas are moving you and you still want to do something, check out Teaching History’s list of Teaching Memorial Day resources.

Have an idea to share?  Shoot it to me in an email or leave it below in the comments!