Close Reading of Modern Poetry: A Study in Form and Content

Author: Julie Mikolajewski


Penn Alexander School

Year: 2013

Seminar: Modern and Contemporary American Poetry

Grade Level: 5-8

Keywords: close reading, content, form, modern poetry, poetry

School Subject(s): Language Arts, English, Literature, Poetry

This unit is designed for middle school students studying Literacy, English, or Language Arts. Its purpose is to expose students to the method and pedagogy of a collaborative close reading as well as to expose students to poets and individuals who used words to make sense of their realities. Unlike close reading in other disciplines, the collaborative close reading that the students will participate in during this unit of study will be text-based as much as possible. It is not the intent of the course of study to learn the historical and contextual backgrounds of the poet or poems, but rather it is a study of the process and form of the poetry. The close reading activity in most cases will be a “cold reading” where the teacher does not provide background information on the poem or poet. Furthermore, students will be encouraged to produce works that are representative of their own identities and realities.

Close reading a text alongside the students allows for the text to be the expert and the teacher and the student to both participate in the conversation as learners. Collaborative close reading allows for the discussion in the room to become dialogic talk rather than monologic talk. Students and teachers alike are interacting with the text both as inkblots on the page and through “the interplay between particular signs and a particular reader at a particular time and place (Rosenblatt, x).” This helps relieve the teacher of the anxiety of being “an expert” on the piece and acknowledges the power of the written word and text, in this case the poem itself, and the students in the room.

Download Unit: Mikolajewski-Julie-Unit.pdf

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