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Younger Readers: Poems for Fun
 
All Readers: Poems about Aspiration DISCUSSION GUIDE
 
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  The discussion guide below is divided into two parts: (1) IMITATION and (2) DISCUSSION exercises. Teachers can use the imitation exercises to encourage students to write their own poems or stories. The discussion exercises are intended to spark students to think about applying the ideas in the poems to their own lives.  
  # POEM BOOK  
  34. I'll Try The Sun Is On  
  IMITATION EXERCISE
Write a poem about responding with “I don’t know” to a question. What happens when you say, “I don’t know”? Is it possible to feel something besides embarrassment? Can you learn something from saying “I don’t know”?

DISCUSSION EXERCISES
This discussion can choose one (or both) of two tracks. In the first, students can talk about their embarrassment at “not knowing,” and the teacher can impart the value of learning as inquiry, which, of necessity, must always begin with the statement “I don’t know,” rather than “yes,” or “no” to a question.

In the second track, students can take read the poem closely, and notice that each stanza consists of three distinct thoughts, one for each stanza, each of which appears unrelated to the other. Why and how, then, does the poem cohere? Discussion could explore this topic.

 
  42. I'm the Man For the Love of Life  
  IMITATION EXERCISE
Write a poem about gender stereotypes, and about how individual behavior reveals the untruth of these stereotypes. This can be a poem about games, speech, feelings, favorite things, hobbies, tastes in movies or music, or any other subject.

DISCUSSION EXERCISE
This poem seems to be about how gender identity is a made thing that’s based on the way people think we should conform to preconceived ideas of “gender.” This poem also reflects on how conforming to people’s expectations about how “man” or a “woman” “ought to act” can stifle our individuality and creativity. Students can discuss how this idea affects their everyday lives, desires, and choices; they can talk about how the preconceived idea of how a man or woman “should act” influences decisions about how they work and play today, and how it could influence their thinking about their future lives and careers.

 
  39. Idea Sitting The Sun Is On  
  IMITATION EXERCISE
Students can do their own version of “idea sitting.” Ask them to write a poem or a paragraph. Then ask them to rewrite it, by crossing out some words (even at random) and putting in new words.

DISCUSSION EXERCISE
Discussion can focus on how important revision is to the writing process. Whether you’re writing an email to a friend, or a paper for class, you should never let the first draft go out into the world. The significance of the last line of the poem is especially important in this regard.

 
  46. Jump for the Sun Click on sun Also here For the Love of Life  
IMITATION EXERCISE
Write a poem giving advice to someone you know. Make sure you write in short, declarative sentences, with an occasional exclamation for emphasis. Make one of the statements the title of your poem, and repeat this title as the last line of each stanza of the poem, except for the last stanza.

DISCUSSION EXERCISE
Class discussion can focus on identifying those words and concepts that block us from “jumping for the sun.” What does it mean to get knowledge, stamina, discipline, and control? How can each of us invent a new way of seeing ourselves? Students can write a paragraph on what they would do with their lives if there were no barriers to getting what they want.

  62. Poem About a Teacher For the Love of Life  
  IMITATION EXERCISE
Write a tribute poem to an adult in your life. What is it about this person that you’ve learned to love in spite of yourself? Make a list of this person’s qualities and then turn them into a poem.

DISCUSSION EXERCISE
Talk about some of the unexpected things you have learned from one of the adults in your life. Talk about this process of learning, and about how second thoughts about your initial rejection of a elder’s imparted wisdom can lead to learning something valuable.