Thursday, January 28, 2016

Poetry Friday and Deconstructing a Standard

RL.5.6. Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.

That's the 5th grade reading (literature) standard we're just beginning to work on in my class. So that my students can better understand what's expected of them, we deconstructed the standard, brainstorming around these words: describe, narrator, speaker, point of view, view, and influence. Next, we rewrote the standard in our words. Then, I gave them this poem and a series of scaffolded questions that would lead them to describing how the speaker's point of view influences how events are described.

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Robbphotos1


Outside my apartment
is a small patch of grass
and a parking lot.
Beyond that is a ditch
full of dirty snow and trash.

But across the road
are power lines
where a hawk often perches
long enough for me to sketch.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2015

Lo and behold, it worked! Not all, but some, realized that the point of view of the speaker is that of an artist, and "they see everything that is ugly but they can make it beautiful." The speaker will "make things better in the picture." And "An artist can see in detail, and they can make art out of whatever they see." Not bad for a first try.

Catherine has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Reading to the Core.


  1. What an excellent way to make the standard come to life! I am sure this became a a very concrete activity with the students, which is pretty powerful for students who are new to poetry. I would love to see how you introduce other literacy standards to your students, as I can tell from your description of this one that they got it!

  2. Anonymous11:06 PM

    Impressive responses! I love that you had the kids rewrite the standard in their own words. I wonder what the scene looks like from the hawk's point of view?

  3. Wow. What a clever way to guide your students to understanding. Love the poem, too.

  4. Perfecto!! We just discussed this with our coach yesterday and I was all "hung" up on the vocab. Totally stealing ALL of this post.

  5. I immediately had to copy this lesson and send it to our fifth grade teacher. Pretty darn brilliant my friend! Are your kids impressed that their teacher is a poet too?

    1. They're kind of used to it by now! :-) We had to have a discussion about how the speaker isn't necessarily the writer. (And definitely isn't, in this case. This speaker lives in my imagination.)

  6. Dude you could totally sell this on Teachers Pay Teachers....

    But seriously, the big genius here is to use a POEM. A little not-scary, simply-worded (but *full*) poem, so that kids who are navigating a new set of expectations and sharpening up a new and complex set of skills can apply them to the text without getting overwhelmed. Thanks for sharing, ML--off to see how I can replicate for 2nd graders. Can I see your list of scaffolded questions?

  7. Thanks for sharing this wonderful lesson. And how cool for the students to work with one of your poems. :)

  8. Love that you had the students write the standard in their own words, as others above have admired. The poem is brief and clear, must have been fun for your class to imagine that speaker looking out the window. Great responses, and lovely poem, Mary Lee.

  9. Anonymous10:49 AM

    Bird's eye view! Happy Friday!

  10. I like how the POV shifts to identify the ugly and then rise about it, to the imperious predator and the grateful artist.

  11. Beyond the dirty snow lies the beauty-wonderful lesson and poem.

  12. Mary Lee, this is brilliant. I've looked at some of the standards for NH and I'll be damned if I could understand them without the help of a dictionary. Why can't they be written so normal people can understand them?

  13. There you go - the magic a gifted teacher and beautifully taught students can create.

  14. Those kids are quick to catch on! A writer can see the beauty, indeed.

  15. Not bad for an amazing teacher....

  16. Such smart students must have a brilliant teacher! That's an amazing lesson from the brai storming to the text selection of the poem.

  17. Man, could I ever learn from you, Mary Lee. What am I saying? I already do. :)

  18. Wonderful lesson, Mary Lee. I teach struggling middle school readers and poems (like yours) work so well with them. Well done!

  19. Great job, Mary Lee!

  20. So much to love about this lesson, Mary Lee! First, the poem! :) The "small patch of grass", the "power lines" the "dirty snow and trash." But also the way you used that poem to help your students see the big picture, even bigger than the standard, that artists, like Rumpelstiltskin, can spin gold from straw.

    So, here's a poem of mine that yours inspired. More about the alchemy of art, I guess, about these everyday acts of transubstantiation...and their ambivalent beauty.


    It sliced low between the houses
    from the backyard
    to the front, past
    the bird feeder,
    sleek missile, blur
    of perfect form.

    A Cooper’s hawk in flight
    takes your breath away.

    In the basswood, his hooked
    beak breaks the body
    of a male cardinal apart,
    entrails mingle
    with brilliant feathers
    under the blood-red sun.

  21. Hawks are beautiful to watch but they are carnivores and scary.
    I love how you took apart the standard before giving them the lesson. I must try this.

  22. Finding the lovely in the mundane and unlovely . . . and inspiring your students at the same time. You rock!


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