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Grades 6–9
4 Sessions: 60-90 Minutes each
Poetry

Poets in Revolt!

Ola Faleti, 826CHI, with an introduction by Amanda Gorman, Inaugural U.S. Youth Poet Laureate of America
Presented by: Amplifier.org
The pen is mightier than the sword. In this lesson, students learn there's no better evidence of this than the poetry behind social movements.
Download Includes
Lesson instructions
Student writing samples
What Your Students Will Learn

Students will draw connections between poetry and social change. They’ll gain basic knowledge of the American Labor Movement, Feminist Movement, and Black Arts Movement, discussing mentor poems from each movement and writing their own poetry in response.

Common Core Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.10
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.5
With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.10
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.5
With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.10
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.5
With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.10
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.5
Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grades 9-10 here.)
What Your Students Will Produce

Students write three poems grounded in different social movements.

Student Writing Samples

Grade 8
Writing
What walking the red road means to me is

by Mariah Valenzuela, Minneapolis, MN

Poetry

From the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, this poet uses her voice to speak up for those who have been silenced in the indigenous community.

Grade 11
Writing
We are not alone

by Jeremy Hsiao, 826 National

Poetry

From the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, this poem reminds activists that "to change everything, we need everyone."

Grade 10
Writing
Matricide: Addressing Climate Change

by Maggie Munday Odom, Kailua, HI

Poetry

This poem personifies Earth as a mother coping with the brutalities of climate change.

Grade 10
Writing
What Is Freedom?

by Regina, 826LA

Poetry

From the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, this poem expresses the realization that a cage is not the only obstacle to a bird's freedom.

Grade 11
Writing
These Walls

by Augustus Griffith Jr., 826 National

Poetry

From the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, this poem explores the aftermath and lasting impacts of school shootings.

Grade 8
Writing
Voices

by Isabel, 826 Boston

Poetry

From the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, this poem features a student battling with the voices constricting her freedom.

Grade 8
Writing
I See

by Itzel Medina Luna, 826 Valencia

Poetry

In this poem from the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, a student walks through her neighborhood searching for hidden stories.

What You Will Do
Session 1
65 MInutes
Session 2
85 Minutes
Session 3
75 Minutes
Session 4
75 Minutes
Introduction :

Hello teachers in revolt!

I’m so incredibly excited for you to bring this phenomenal curriculum by 826CHI’s
Ola Faleti to life. In this lesson, you’ll be showing your students actual historical
examples on the power of the pen. What’s more, you’ll help reveal to them the power
within themselves as they write. There’s no literary movement more compelling than
a teacher demonstrating to students how the pen is mightier than the sword.

As the daughter of a 6th grade English teacher, I’ve learned this lesson
instinctively. Growing up, my mother would come home from a long day at school,
brimming stock-full with stories of So-and-So who read an advanced book today,
or So-and-So who knows the fastest rap in Hamilton. Every day, I got the sense that
I wasn’t just hearing academic updates on a myriad of students. I was receiving a
special window into the lives of students, many of whom were students of color,
immigrants themselves or in mixed-status families, and low-income. They
understood language in itself as a most potent resistance. In lifting their pens
they dared to defy poverty, presumption, and even poetry itself.

I often draw from this idea of poetry as an inherent revolt against the status quo.
It’s guided me as the Inaugural U.S. Youth Poet Laureate of America, where I’m
frequently told not to make my poetry “political.” I just smile, because all poetry is
political. Just look at how it’s been used by all three waves of feminism, as well as
the Black Arts Movement. If you need any more evidence, look at how poetry ignites
your classroom!

When teachers open students’ eyes to the social potential behind poetry, you aren’t
just teaching revolution. You aren’t just participating in it. You’re writing it into the
very pages of our world.

Here’s to happy writing,

Amanda Gorman
Inaugural U.S. Youth Poet Laureate of America

Session 1 :
You Will Need
Before You Start

Gather resources, pictures, and/or videos that introduce the Labor Movement to students. In the original workshop by 826CHI, the instructor identified 10 key events from the Labor Movement that provided an overview and timeline for students. We recommend checking out www.history.com to dive in.

How To Begin

10 Minutes

Start by finding some common ground with Community Agreements. We sometimes call these Writers’ Promises; promises that writers make to each other so they feel safe, supported, free to be curious, free to take creative risks, and free to proudly share their work. Brainstorm these collaboratively and write them on a gigantic sheet of paper, which you’ll hang on the wall during each session.

STEP 1

10 Minutes

M&M Icebreaker

Depending on when you lead this lesson, this M&M icebreaker will get students to know each other and get them thinking about their identity in relationship to the topics at hand: poetry and social change. Ask students to randomly pick one (or two) M&Ms from a bag then answer the question that goes with corresponding color:

  • Red – Do you think poetry has a role in today’s world?
  • Blue – Do you consider yourself a poet?
  • Yellow – Do you know what a revolt is? How would you define a revolt?
  • Brown – Do you read poetry? What kind of poems do you like?
  • Green – What are some ways you can revolt?
  • Orange – Do you think a revolt/revolution has a role in today’s world? Why/why not?

STEP 2

Give students an overview of the lesson: they will learn about three different social movements and look at the poetry behind them, then write their own poems.

STEP 3

10 Minutes

Spark 

Start with examining the language of revolt by sharing a quote from Adrienne Rich. Ask students to discuss their response Rich’s words. What do they agree, disagree, or otherwise connect with? Is there anything that surprised them? Review the bolded key terms.

“Yes, where poetry is liberative language, connecting the fragments within us, connecting us to others like and unlike ourselves, replenishing our desire…In poetry words can say more than they mean and mean more than they say. In a time of frontal assaults both on language and on human solidarity, poetry can remind us of all we are in danger of losing – disturb us, embolden us out of resignation.” – Adrienne Rich

STEP 4

15 Minutes

Labor Movement: Mini Lesson #1 

Next, present the Labor Movement overview in 10 key events. Ask students what they know, or think they know, about the Labor Movement before starting. Afterward, check student understanding of the overall scope of the movement by asking: who was revolting? What were they fighting for? What, or who, were they up against? How do we, or workers and employees, benefit from the Labor Movement?

STEP 5

30 Minutes

Poem Share 

Pass out copies of two poems from the Labor Movement. As a class, look over two poems, Langston Hughes’ “God to a Hungry Child” and “Statistics” by Jim Waters (located on page 21 of linked PDF).  Starting with “God to a Hungry Child”, have students read the poem aloud as a class and then individually.

After reading, discuss the poem as a class. Feel free to provide a list of common poetic devices to your students to help facilitate dialogue.

Read “Statistics” by Jim Waters first as a class and then individually.

Discuss the poem like you did with the first one as a class. Connect both poems back to the Adrienne Rich quote that presented poetry as liberative or liberating. Pose the question to the class:

  • What is “liberative” about the language being used in these poems?

STEP 6

15 Minutes

Exquisite Corpse 

Using either the first or second line from the poem, “Statistics”, tell students they will be writing a poem as a class, where each student writes one line. Once they have written one line, tell them to fold the paper so only the line they have just written can be seen by the next writer. You may choose to start a few different “chains” to allow for greater engagement among students. Once the entire class has completed the activity, read the poem aloud to close.

Session 2 :
You Will Need
Before You Start

Gather resources, pictures, and/or videos that introduce the Black Arts Movement to students. In the original workshop by 826CHI, the instructor identified 10 key events from the movement that provided an overview and timeline for students. We recommend checking out www.poets.org to dive in.

STEP 1

5 Minutes

Spark 

Set the stage for transitioning to the Black Arts Movement by projecting two quotes, one by Roger Baldwin and one by Steven Biko:

“Silence never won rights. They are not handed down from above; they are forced by pressures from below.”—Roger Baldwin

“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”— Steven Biko

Ask students to choose one quote to respond to in their notebook or journal. What does the quote make them think of? What stands out? After a few minutes, students can share their reactions with a partner and class.

STEP 2

20 Minutes

Mini Lesson #1

Start with a quick recap of the Labor Movement. Ask students to remember what we covered. Then, read (first individually, then aloud) and discuss Louis Untermeyer’s “Caliban in the Coal Mine”. In discussion, focus on repetition and rhyme scheme of the poem.

STEP 3

20 Minutes

The Modern Worker 

Ask students: What struggles do you think the modern worker, or student, faces? What’s changed and has not changed, according to what you know?

Then, share this poem prompt: Looking at “Caliban in the Coal Mine”, write about the modern worker—or student’s—struggle. Think of it as a letter, using the person’s name that you’re writing to to serve as repetition. Use the AB rhyme scheme that Untermeyer uses (aim for 2 stanzas).

Ask students to share out in pairs or small groups. Students may choose to share both stanzas, one stanza, or one line.

STEP 4

20 Minutes

Play the song, “The Corner” by Common, featuring Kanye West and the Last Poets.

Ask the class why this song is relevant to the lesson. After the song/video, transition to talking about the Black Arts movement. Summarize the movement in under 10 major events. Ask students what they know, or think they know, about the Black Arts Movement before starting. Afterward, check student understanding of the overall scope of the movement by asking: who was revolting? What were they fighting for? What, or who, were they up against?

STEP 5

20 Minutes

Poetry Share 

Distribute copies of “Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why” by Nikki Giovanni. Read the poem aloud as a class then individually. There are also beautiful audio versions of this poem, read by Giovanni, available online that you may choose to play. Afterwards, discuss the use of afrocentric imagery, history, and tone of the poem. Ask how it connects to the Adrienne Rich quote from session one.

Pose the question to the class:

  • What is liberative about the language in this poem?

Point out that many poems from this era were spoken and performed. Ask students to consider how a poem sounds when they begin writing it next class.

Session 3 :
You Will Need
Before You Start

Gather resources, pictures, and/or videos that introduce the Third-Wave Feminism to students. In the original workshop by 826CHI, the instructor identified 10 key events from the movement that provided an overview and timeline for students.

STEP 1

10 Minutes

Spark 

Project the below quote from Gwendolyn Brooks. Ask students to brainstorm what is happening in their life or the world right now that is exciting, disturbing, or otherwise worthy to write about:

“Look at what’s happening in this world. Every day there’s something exciting or disturbing to write about. With all that’s going on, how could I stop?” — Gwendolyn Brooks.

Students should pick one or two things from their list to write about. Students will have five minutes to free write on their topic(s). Once students are done writing, open up the class to share what they wrote about or one line from their piece.

STEP 2

20 Minutes

Mini Lesson #1 (20 Minutes)

Read Sonia Sanchez’s poem “9 Haiku” individually then together as a class. Afterwards, have the class discuss the purpose of the haiku, how the author changes it, and then her word choice.

STEP 3

15 Minutes

Power People Haikus 

It’s time to write! Pose the prompt to the class: Sanchez’s haiku are written about people in power who she admires. Who do you admire? Write 3-5 haikus inspired by them. It can be 1 haiku per person or 3-5 haikus all about 1 person.

Once students are done writing, ask them to share who they wrote about and one line or one haiku with a partner or in small groups.

STEP 4

15 Minutes

Mini Lesson #2 

Next, transition into the Third-Wave (or modern) Feminism Movement. Summarize the movement in 10-15 main events. If possible, you could show a relevant clip pertaining to the movement.

STEP 5

15 Minutes

Poetry Share

Read “For Teenage Girls” by Clementine von Radics individually, then as a class. After, play the video of the poet performing the piece, then discuss the poem as a class. What is liberative about the language in this piece? About the way it is performed?

Session 4 :
You Will Need
STEP 1

10 Minutes

Spark

This last session starts with students taking a look inward. Start with a simple “who are you” exercise. Give students 1-2 minutes to list or map all of their identities, or parts of their identity, that they can get down on paper. Then, ask students: Are the identities you listed identities that you think of often? Do you ever feel limited by these identities? Do you face special issues with them? Reflect and write about the liberating and limiting aspects of their identities.

STEP 2

15 Minutes

Mini Lesson #1
Quickly recap the last class by asking students what they remember about Third-Wave Feminism. Mention how all poems are focused on some aspect of each poet’s identity. Think of how identity affects the way you speak/are heard.

Move on to discussion of a second feminist poem, “Saturdays” by Ana Castillo. Read the poem aloud and discuss: What are the aspects of identity can you glean from this? What makes this a feminist poem? Is this liberative?

STEP 3

20 Minutes

I Revolt! (20 Minutes)

Transition into writing time! Students will write their final poem addressing feminism or the identity they chose to write about for the Spark activity. Based on your group, you may consider adding a writing challenge for poets. This could be anything from adding a secret or lie in their poem to incorporating strong, liberative verbs throughout.

STEP 4

20 Minutes

Review and Revise 

Bring out all poems that have been written over the course of the lesson. Have students pick their favorite to revise and share. You may choose to create a classroom chapbook comprised of their chosen poems, or plan to host a poetry reading to cap off the lesson.

STEP 5

10 Minutes

Conclusion 

Ask students questions such as: What did they learn? Anything you think you’ll look at more? What do you think poetry is capable of? How do you think modern poetry will be affected by the current political climate, and how do you think the current political climate will be affected by poetry and other revolting artists?

Download the Materials
Poets in Revolt! Preview

From This Publication

Whether it’s the March For Our Lives, the Youth Climate Strike, or Black Lives Matter, young people are at the frontlines of combating injustice and changing the world. Poets in Revolt! brings together a diversity of student voices from communities across the country as they write to claim a brighter future.

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Narrative
Poetry

In this lesson, students explore the genres of historical and speculative fiction before they reimagine a time they felt powerless and write a different outcome.

Grades 4–10
Lessons
Comedy Writing Inspired by Monty Python

by Gem Carmella, Ministry of Stories and BBC History

Media

In this Lesson, students will learn how to write comedy sketches inspired by "Monty Python’s Flying Circus."

Grades 6–8
Lessons
Be a Maker: Hashtag Activism and the Instagram Essay

by Laura Lisabeth, Ph.D, 826NYC

Media
Persuasive

In this lesson, students experiment with the multimodal composition of Instagram and use this social media platform to promote a social justice issue.

Grades 8–12
Lessons
You Can’t Mix Oil and Water

by Erin Ruane, 826 New Orleans

Informational
STEM

In this lesson, students are challenged to reevaluate the way water and land are represented on a map.

Grades 5–6
Lessons
Miracle Elixir: Inventing Potions to Cure Baldness and Other Things the World Needs Right Now

by Paris Hyun, 826LA

Informational
Persuasive

Students play the role of benevolent inventor. They identify and think critically about real world problems, and create an ingredients list and usage instructions for an elixir that fixes the problem.

Grades 7–12
Lessons
Write with Pride

by Molly Sprayregen, 826CHI

Informational
Memoir
Narrative
Poetry

Over the course of this lesson, students produce memoirs, poems, and essays that explore what it means to be a member of the LGBTQIA community in America today.

Grades 6–9
Lessons
Dramarama!

by Debra Mitchell, 826CHI

Media
Memoir
Narrative

Students become script detectives in this lesson, searching for the underlying structure of every play. Student then draw from memories to inspire original plays.

Grades 6–8
Lessons
LA Confidential

by Robert Paterno, 826LA

Informational
Narrative

A mock crime scene kick-starts this lesson, getting students to hone their inferencing skills and serving as inspiration for crime stories.

Grades 3–6
Lessons
Doors to the Future

by Dr. Bunny McFadden, 826 Valencia

Fantasy/SciFi
Narrative

Imagination opens doors to new possibilities. This lesson allows students to exercise their imaginations by describing an imaginary door to the future and picturing what is beyond it.

Grades 7–8
Lessons
Rewriting the Zombie Apocalypse

by Julius Diaz Panoriñgan, 826LA

Fantasy/SciFi
Informational
Narrative
STEM

Students explore multiple STEM disciplines and the importance of scientific modeling, all in context of an upcoming zombie apocalypse. They'll write technical notes and create an ongoing narrative.

Grades 8–12
Lessons
Low Down Dirty Maps

by Saiya Miller, 826 New Orleans

Informational
Media
Narrative

Students will collect dirt, map their neighborhood, and listen to music that explores low sound, depth of soil, and the psychological landscape of New Orleans.

Grades 6–7
Lessons
#SaveOurSlogans

by Meredith Goldberg-Morse, 826LA

Media
Persuasive

In this lesson, students write about a cause that they are passionate about, imagine how they can create change, and come up with slogans to convince other people to take action.

Grades 3–9
Lessons
Beyond the Page: Writing Graphic Novels

by Klariza Alvaran, 826CHI

Media
Narrative

In this lesson, students explore the graphic novel genre with a focus on plot and character development, scripting dialogue, and visual composition.