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Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for the Middle Grades

Teaching Strategy Workbook

Explore two poems using strategies from the workshops.

This activity offers you an opportunity to read two poems and reflect on the teaching strategies featured throughout the workshop. Use the poems below as a springboard for creating your own activities. Choose strategies you would like to explore and consider how you might adapt them for these poems and for your students.

Step One: Choose a poem from one of these two writers. See the accordions below. 

“Grandmother” by Paula Gunn Allen

“In Response to Executive Order 9066: All Americans of Japanese Descent Must Report to Relocation Centers” by Dwight Okita

Step Two: Choose a strategy.

Use the links in the accordion below to review a strategy, and then return.

Step Three: Answer the following questions.

1. What appeals to you about this strategy?

2. How might you adapt this strategy for this poem?

3. What resources (fiction, nonfiction, media, historical documents, experts, community members) could you use to provide context for the poem?

Review Strategies

Workshop 1
Peer facilitation circle
Talk show
Identity stories

Workshop 2
Making connections with texts
Creating visual representations and symbols
Open microphone

Workshop 3
K/W/L chart

Workshop 4
Text sets
“Where I’m From” poems

Workshop 5
Frozen tableau
Radio play
Literature circles

Workshop 6
Connecting history and poetry
Field trips

Workshop 7
Writing letters for social action

Workshop 8
Double-entry journal
Two rounds
Photography project

About Paula Gunn Allen

Paula Gunn Allen

Photo by Tama Rothchild

New Mexico native Paula Gunn Allen, of Laguna, Sioux, and Lebanese ancestry, is a poet, novelist, critic, and influential scholar of Native American literature. Her honors include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers’ Circle of the Americas. Much of her poetry is inspired by the Pueblo culture.

"Grandmother" by Paula Gunn Allen

by Paula Gunn Allen

Out of her own body she pushed
silver thread, light, air
and carried it carefully on the dark, flying
where nothing moved.

Out of her body she extruded
shining wire, life, and wove the light
on the void.

From beyond time,
beyond oak trees and bright clear water flow,
she was given the work of weaving the strands
of her body, her pain, her vision
into creation, and the gift of having created,
to disappear.

After her,
the women and the men weave blankets into tales of life,
memories of light and ladders,
infinity-eyes, and rain.
After her I sit on my laddered rain-bearing rug
and mend the tear with string.

About Dwite Okita

Dwite Okita

Photo by Dwight Okita

Dwight Holden Okita is a prominent poet, playwright, and screenwriter from Chicago. His much-anthologized poem, “In Response to Executive Order 9066,” was inspired by the experience of his mother, who was interned in a relocation camp during World War II.

"In Response to Executive Order 9066: All Americans of Japanese Descent Must Report to Relocation Centers" by Dwight Okita

“In Response to Executive Order 9066: All Americans of Japanese Descent Must Report to Relocation Centers”
by Dwight Okita

Dear Sirs:
Of course I’ll come. I’ve packed my galoshes
and three packets of tomato seeds. Denise calls them
love apples. My father says where we’re going
they won’t grow.

I am a fourteen-year-old girl with bad spelling
and a messy room. If it helps any, I will tell you
I have always felt funny using chopsticks
and my favorite food is hot dogs.
My best friend is a white girl named Denise —
we look at boys together. She sat in front of me
all through grade school because of our names:
O’Connor, Ozawa. I know the back of Denise’s head very well.

I tell her she’s going bald. She tells me I copy on tests.
We’re best friends.

I saw Denise today in Geography class.
She was sitting on the other side of the room.
“You’re trying to start a war,” she said, “giving secrets away
to the Enemy. Why can’t you keep your big mouth shut?”

I didn’t know what to say.
I gave her a packet of tomato seeds
and asked her to plant them for me, told her
when the first tomato ripened
she’d miss me.