Poetry for World Literature

My Mother Pieced Quilts,” by Teresa Palomo Acosta

  • A first-person testimonial of a Chicano woman who connects her mother’s practical art of quilt making with her personal family and cultural histories
  • It’s a “plain literal translation” so it has no rhyme.
  • Historically and culturally, quilts represent a visual narrative that link the universal experiences of women
  • the narrator discovers the significance of the quilts in her understanding of herself
  • quilt became a portrait of family and self, of life and death, of labor and love
  • daughter inherits the stories in the quilts her mother pieced—preserves history and culture; serves as a historical document of the family
  • Acosta personifies the quilts as living things
  • mother’s piecing involves linking the past, present and future


Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes

  • free verse; enjambment;
  • Set in 1920’s Harlem Renaissance (an African-American art and cultural movement in the early 20th century.)
  • the black speaker of the poem reflects on his presence in an all-white English class, and how this experience is representative of a larger American experience.
  • For the first half of the poem, the speaker emphasizes the ways in which his ethnicity separates him, physically and figuratively, from his white classmates and professor.
  • speaker suggests that even though he is of a different race than his classmates and professor, he is not drastically unlike them
  • Hughes uses a different rhythm in the third stanza when the speaker explains the things that he likes (similar to jazz music)
  • his classmates and instructor are all a part of what the speaker might suggest is a larger American identity.
  • Black and white — both descriptors of race and the typing on a page
  • “Will my page be colored that I write?” i.e. will I be able to complete the assignment?

Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon

  • The list form is simple and familiar, and the question of where you are from reaches deep
  • Write your own “Where I’m From” poem:
    • places
    • food, a description of a table setting
    • scenes from your memories
    • an important event
    • helping your parents’ work; tools they used
    • description of important people in your life
    • music
    • phrases you’ve said/lyrics you’ve sung
    • what you wanted to say but never did
    • a significant object—felt/sounded/looked/smelled like, your memory of it, a message connected with it.
  • Video of the original poem and a student example
  • Examples of video poems: video 1, video 2, video 3, video 4,
  • emphasizes creating powerful images in poetry





“Think as I Think” by Stephen Crane

“The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats


“Gift of the Magi” and Context Clues

Purpose: Using context clues for unknown vocabulary words; expanding vocabulary; making inferences. Last day – Discussion of themes and ironies.


Context Clues

For middle school:

For High School:


Discuss the different types of context clues and work through only the first three examples on the activity and quiz worksheet. Discuss all answers.

Next, pair students up to practice with the remaining questions on the worksheet (pairs will either be assigned to complete odds or evens). After 10 minutes, students share their answers. Encourage questioning and/or respectful disagreement from the classmates as each pair shares an answer.


Using Context Clues in “The Gift of the Magi”

Explain to students they will practice using context clues with this short story.

Listen to an audio version of the story in class. Students follow along with their own copies. (Have them first number each paragraph chronologically).

Show the context clues chart on the board, and practice as a class using the first two answers provided. Students return to their pairs and are assigned two different consecutive words on the chart. After 10 minutes, have students complete the rest of the chart independently.

Formative Assessment

Choose only one entry (the same word) on each student’s chart to assess. As you assess, make a running list of common chart errors. The next day, have each student choose one word to share to the class, explaining how they arrived at that definition.


Students list and explain at least three different types of context clues.

Summative Assessment

Students will choose four words from the vocabulary list and construct four original sentences with each sentence using one of the chosen words and each sentence using one of the four context clue types. Students will label the type of context clue he or she used at the end of the sentence with the code previously identified during the Quiz & Activity. Students will write an additional sentence explaining how their sentence is an example of that context clue.


“The Gift of the Magi” Discussion

Story board, plot diagram, activities, and graphic organizers.

Vocab and study guide. More vocabulary practice.

What is The American Dream?


Brainstorm what comes to mind with the word “success.” Write the words and phrases on the board. Then have students complete the anticipation guide.


Next, watch the following video. Students are required to take notes from the video, which they will turn in at the end of class (they must have at least four major points).

Discuss key points.

Read “American Dream Faces Harsh New Reality.”


Come up with several discussion questions for the article. List each question on the board for all students to see. In small groups, students discuss each question with their peers. (You may need to point students to certain parts of the article that will help students to answer the question.) Then, each group is assigned one question to answer in writing. Finally, as an entire class, each group shares their written paragraph. Discuss.

Extension Activity

Make connections about what the class has just discussed about the American Dream to literature.


Take a look at the anticipation guide again. Would the students now make any changes to their original answers?




Logical Fallacies

Short story: “Love is a Fallacy” by Max Shulman (written in the 1950’s)

Short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

Key Vocabulary terms

  • Argument: A conclusion together with the premises that support it.
  • Premise: A reason offered as support for another claim.
  • Conclusion: A claim that is supported by a premise.
  • Valid: An argument whose premises genuinely support its conclusion.
  • Unsound: An argument that has at least one false premise.
  • Fallacy: An argument that relies upon faulty reasoning.
  • Booby-trap: An argument that, while not a fallacy itself, might lead an inattentive reader to commit a fallacy.


Handout 1

Sample Fallacies and Teacher’s Answer Guide












Playlist of logical fallacies

West Wing scene – After it, therefore, because of it – don’t simply assume that because one thing follows another, the first thing caused the second thing to happen. A classic scene from the second episode of The West Wing, where Jed Bartlett implies that the reason he lost Texas was because he believed Texans would never elect a president who spoke latin.

Dodge Charger Ad – Slippery slope. It’s not logical to assume that self-parking cars will lead to robots harvesting our bodies.

South Park “You Hate Children” – False choice

Friend’s – Joey’s Fridge – Post Hoc

South Park – the Chewbacca Defense – Red herring (*language)

“Seven” campaign ad for Barak Obama – Red herring. It starts by claiming Mccain doesn’t understand the fundamentals of the economy. But then it diverts attention from the economy to how many houses he owns.

2:53-4:07 SNL’s “You Lie” – the bandwagon fallacy

0:39-0:46 Tom Cruise on Psychiatry –  false authority. he claims to have done research, but he is not an authority on the subject.

Sony Commercial – appeal to false authority

Big Bang Theory’s Superman Argument

Big Bang Theory – post hoc ergo propter hoc

Direct TV commercials – slippery slope

Mean Girls – Hasty generalization?

Big Bang Theory – reductio ad absurdum




As a group activity, have students “sell” a product* using as many fallacies as they can. Encourage students to go overboard here to make the fallacies as outrageous and therefore transparent as possible.   While (or after) each group presents, the other class members should try to identify the fallacies. An option is to keep score and award a prize to the “team” naming the most fallacies or naming them the fastest.



Great Animations – Film as Lit

These are writing and discussion activities based off short animated films:

Geri’s Game – Pixar Short, 1997

  • Great for teaching dialogue or POV.
  • Write a description of Geri. How can you change the description to make it seem like there are two different players?
  • Write a dialogue between the “two” players.
  • Experiment with 3rd and 1st person narrative.  One of the players could be described by 3rd person narrative whilst the 2nd player uses 1st person narrative.
  • What makes this an interesting short film to watch? Why do you think there are no words?


Book of Butterflies – Michael Leunig

  • Great for teaching description and imagery. 
  • Watch once as a class. Have students make a T-chart with one side labeled “before the book comes to life” and the other labeled “after the book comes to life.”
  • Watch a second time. Give students time to list descriptive words and phrases that could go in each side of the chart.
  • Have students write their own descriptions of books come to life… a book of lions/fish/other animals, a cookbook, a favorite childhood book (Dr. Suess, etc.). Focus on using strong adjectives and vivid descriptions. What does it look like? What happens? What is the “reader’s” reaction? Do the escaped “items” ever get back into the book?


The Happy Duckling

  • Great for teaching twist endings or fables.
  • Pause throughout the video to let students make predictions about the story. Why is the boy trying to get rid of the duck?
  • Have kids write stories about other ducks the boy may have saved and how he saved them…
  • Write a story from the duck’s point of view.


A Shadow of Blue – Carlos Lascano

  • Great for teaching drawing inferences, creating mood in stories, and using vivid imagery.
  • Note: This beautiful animation mixes together models and real life to create a stunning visual effect! This might work best as something taught over 2-3 lessons.
  • 2:48 – Who is the girl? Why is she all alone in the park? What do you think she is like? Why does she seem so thoughtful/sad? What do you think she is thinking?
  • 3:06 – What has just happened? What do you think will happen next?
  • 5:21-5:40 – What is the music like? How does it make you feel? Have students write descriptions of the scene here with rich imagery. Can students capture the tension of the music in their writing? (Discuss how using a pattern of several long, descriptive sentences followed by short, snappy ones could help build tension like the music.)
  • 7:42-8:46 – What are the range of emotions she is feeling?
  • 8:45 – Who is this lady watching? What can we tell from her dress? Her expression? What is she doing?
  • 9:30 – Why is she carrying the girl like that? Do we have any more ideas about who this lady is?
  • 9:34 – NOW what have we just learned? How does this change your perspective of everything that’s just happened? Why does her shadow have to have the adventure?
  • What does the butterfly do at the end? (Maybe spreading the girl’s passion for life around the hospital/orphanage?)
  • Activity: write a journal entry from the girl’s point of view about the day she had in this film.
  • Activity: write the story about what happened to the girl before what we see in the film (why she is in a wheelchair).


Don’t Go

  • Great for teaching antonyms and action verbs.
  • Compare the cat and the pink visitor using antonyms.
  • Write sentences using strong action verbs to describe several things that happen in the film.
  • Create a world for the pink visitor. Where is he from? What is it like?
  • Devise a set of instructions to avoid being caught by the cat.


The Rocketeer

  • Great for teaching newspaper journalism and character sketching/development.
  • Write a newspaper report for the events in this film.
  • Design an enemy for The Rocketeer to defeat, write a wanted poster for the bad guy.
  • Write your own adventure of the Rocketeer.
  • Write The Rocketeer’s back story, how did he become a hero?  Why does he risk his own life?  Why does he fight crime rather than get rich with his powers?  Use drama techniques to draw these ideas from the children.



Day and Night

  • Compare/contrast essay



The Meaning of Life

  • Exestentialism


  • Discrimination

The Maker

  • Life is short – it is what you make of it.


  • Spooky!

French Roast

  • Wealth/giving/appearances


  • Time

The Blue and the Beyond

  • Conformity




Idioms – Middle School ELA


This video is a good example of how we use idioms.


Idioms are phrases that do not mean exactly what they say. Discuss this example: “The homework for today is a piece of cake!”

  • What does this phrase mean?
  • Is the homework easy or hard? Why?

Give several more examples of idioms and discuss their meanings.


Students choose 10 idioms off of the list you’re displaying in class. They each write 10 sentences, one sentence using an idiom. Then, partner students together and have them share their sentences with each other.

Look up idioms is the Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms (Marvin Terban), if available. Discuss the explanations with a partner.

Write a story using as many idioms as possible.


Why do we use idioms? How do we use idioms?

Extension Activity

Draw pictures to represent idioms.

The Giver – Middle School Unit Plan

Anticipation Guide:

  1. Ignorance is bliss.
  2. Memories can be transferred from one person to another.
  3. It is best to forget painful memories.
  4. Individuals must make sacrifices for the larger good of the community.
  5. Pain must exist in order for creativity and imagination to exist.
  6. Without memories, knowledge is meaningless.
  7. Good memories can only be enjoyed if they are shared with someone else.
  8. It is better to have the option to make a wrong choice than not to have any choices at all.
  9. It is better to have security than freedom.
  10. Absolute peace is only possible when people are not allowed to make wrong decisions.
  11. Less pain equals more happiness.
  12. The family is the foundation of society.
  13. People should be absolutely equal.

Introduction Activities

Memories: As a class, come up with a list of common emotions—anger, fear, joy, excitement, embarrassment etc. Ask students to compile personal memories they associate with each emotion in a journal. Students might choose to include photos or drawings along with their written memories. Have each student choose a memory to “transfer” to the class, paralleling how the Giver transfers memories to Jonas. Discuss as a group whether there are any memories they might choose to forget, if it meant they would also forgo the emotions associated with the event (shame or trauma, for example).

Utopia: Have students create the “perfect” community — Name, system of government, physical descriptions, roles of community members, family life, education, jobs, how people interact with each other, religion(s), how people spend their leisure time, etc.

Themes to Discuss Throughout the Reading

  • Diversity
  • Equality
  • Euthanasia
  • Feelings
  • Family
  • Individual vs. Society
  • Pain
  • Freedom

During the Unit Activities

Envelopes: As students come into the classroom one day during the unit, hand each of them an envelope. Tell them not to open the envelope. Build up the anticipation and suspense during the beginning of class, then explain that you are having a ceremony to announce what each student will be doing with the rest of their lives. They will be given one of the jobs members of the Community are assigned at the Ceremony of Twelve. Just like in the novel, the students have no say as to their future roles in society. Ask each student to complete a job application for the position they received, including the traits and qualities they feel the ideal candidate would possess.

Memoirs: Write a “snapshot” memory using action verbs, sensory detail, and figurative language. Bring the memory to life by writing in the present tense, as if you are in the moment. Possible categories:

  • Name stories (How you got your name, why your name is significant.)
  • Stories about where you grew up
  • Pain stories (someone who hurt you, argument with best friend/family, etc.)  First day of school stories
  • Rites of passage/realizing you are growing up stories
  • Weather stories (tornadoes, hurricanes, thunderstorms, etc.)
  • Holiday stories (traditions, memorable holidays)
  • Physical hurt stories (broken bones, stitches, surgeries, bee stings, etc.)
  • First-time-I… stories
  • Funny family stories
  • Important people stories (events that show the influence someone had on you)

End of the Unit

Have students discuss the last chapter in small groups. What does it mean? Where did he go? This would be a great opportunity for differentiation. Artists in your classroom may want to draw or paint the last scene. Music lovers might want to compile a soundtrack for the novel using various genres of music. Kinesthetic learners may prefer to block and act out an important scene from the novel. There are many ways to celebrate the reading of a great book!

Additional texts:

“Lois Lowry’s Newberry Acceptance Speech, June 1994”

Select one of the memories Lois Lowry shares in her acceptance speech. Summarize how the memory is portrayed in The Giver. Then explain how Lois Lowry uses and alters her memories to create a section of The Giver. Provide details from both texts to support your response.

Interdisciplinary and Extension Activities
Science of color: Research and report on the following subjects: the nature of color and of the spectrum, how the human eye perceives color, what causes color blindness, what causes the body to react to any stimulus. Is it possible to train the human eye so that it does not perceive color?
Utopian communities: A number of utopian communities were established in the U.S., such as the Shakers in the eighteenth century, or Fruitlands, led by Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May Alcott) in the mid-nineteenth century. Choose one of these communities and list the principles that guided it, as well as the assumptions behind those principles. What generalizations might be made about why such a community may not last?
Sociology: Choose a group in the U.S. today that actively seeks to maintain an identity outside of the mainstream culture: the Amish or Mennonites, a Native American tribe, the Hasidic Jewish community, or another group. Have students research and report on the answers to questions such as the following: What benefits does this group expect from defining itself as “other”? What are the disadvantages? How does the mainstream culture put pressure on such a group?
Alternate Ending: Many students are discontent with the ending of “The Giver.” If this is the case in your class, a good last activity before putting aside the novel is having them write an alternative ending that they think would be more satisfactory.