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The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School

Critical Pedagogy: Abiodun Oyewole and Lawson Fusao Inada Lesson Plans

This section includes summaries of the lessons featured in the video programs. The lessons explore the literature through through a critical pedagogy approach.

Lesson Plans

Session 8: Critical Pedagogy: Abiodun Oyewole
Cathie Wright-Lewis uses critical pedagogy to help students understand the political underpinnings of Abiodun Oyewole’s spoken word poetry, and to learn how to express their own political beliefs. Her lesson teaches students how poetic language can create emotional and rational arguments.

Session 8: Critical Pedagogy: Lawson Fusao Inada
Sandra Childs uses critical pedagogy to help students understand the victimization of Japanese Americans during World War II, the focus of Lawson Fusao Inada’s collection of poems Legends From Camp. Students visit the Nikkei Legacy Center, where they see an exhibit of artifacts, documents, and photographs, and hear first-person accounts of the internment camp experience from Lawson Fusao Inada and Center volunteers.

Lesson 1

Overview
Cathie Wright-Lewis uses critical pedagogy to help students understand the political underpinnings of Abiodun Oyewole’s spoken word poetry, and to learn how to express their own political beliefs. Her lesson teaches students how poetic language can create emotional and rational arguments.

Preparation
To prepare for the lesson, view The Expanding Canon video program 8, Part I. Online, review the Session 8 theory overview, strategies, information about the authors and literature, resources, and the downloadable print guide. Review “On the Subway” and “Jones Comin’ Down” from The Last Poets’ self-titled CD (1970) — “On the Subway” transcript available in the print guide.

Materials
Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • board and/or chart paper
  • CD player
  • a screen or monitor on which to show a clip featuring Abiodun Oyewole from the The Expanding Canon video program 8, Part I (optional)
  • The Last Poets’ self-titled CD (1970)

Standards
Standards for the English Language Arts

Summary
Day 1
1. After Cathie Wright-Lewis writes the word “griot” on the board, she and her students discuss the West African griot tradition, that includes questions such as:

  • What is a griot?
  • What is the correct pronunciation of “griot?”
  • What does a griot do?

2. Wright-Lewis explains that “spoken word” poetry, which is performed and usually has a political message, has roots in the West African griot tradition. The students and Wright-Lewis discuss how spoken word artists, writers, rap artists, teachers, and students play the role of griots in society today.

3. Wright-Lewis urges the students to become griots by observing and writing poetry about their own environment. She asks them to be descriptive in their observations of their surroundings. The students discuss how clothing and style can define a particular time, answering questions such as:

  • How do teenagers dress?
  • What do these details mean?
  • What does the fashion/style say about the time period?

4. Wright-Lewis plays “On the Subway,” a track from The Last Poets’ self-titled CD. She asks students to pay special attention to the language of the spoken word poem. Wright-Lewis guides a discussion of the poem with questions such as:

  • Which words reveal the time period in which the poem was written?
  • Why are they stopping at 125th Street?
  • What words did you hear in the poem?
  • Who is “the man” in the poem? What’s happening?
  • What is the poem really about?
  • Why did they choose to use drums as the instrumental underscore of the poem? How does the music support the message?

5. Wright-Lewis plays “Jones Comin’ Down,” another track from The Last Poets’ CD. She asks students again to listen for words that reveal the time period.

6. Wright-Lewis tells the students that they will have an opportunity to write a poem similar to the poems they have just heard. She divides students into three groups and asks students to imagine themselves in a different place in their neighborhoods — on the bus, in the hallway, on the street. Using The Last Poets’ work as a model, the students craft poems — either individually or collectively in their small groups — that reflect the politics of the times.

7. After students share these poems aloud, others in the class comment on the language that they hear in the poems.

8. Wright-Lewis tells students that they will have a chance, at a local poetry workshop, to speak with poet Abiodun Oyewole. She asks the students to prepare questions and to bring any poem they might like to share.

Day 2
1. Wright-Lewis introduces poet Abiodun Oyewole to the students attending the poetry workshop. Oyewole performs his poem “Jones Comin’ Down” and answers students’ questions. (Teachers may want to show students a clip from The Expanding Canon video program 8, Part I, featuring Abiodun Oyewole and/or a video of other spoken word artists.)

2. The students read their poetry to Abiodun Oyewole, who then provides feedback.

Lesson 2

Overview
Sandra Childs uses critical pedagogy to help students understand the victimization of Japanese Americans during World War II, the focus of Lawson Fusao Inada’s collection of poems Legends From Camp. Students visit the Nikkei Legacy Center, where they see an exhibit of artifacts, documents, and photographs, and hear first-person accounts of the internment camp experience from Lawson Fusao Inada and Center volunteers. Inada reads a poem from his collection Drawing the Line. Using Inada’s poetry and the texts from the exhibit, students write and share their “found poems.”

Preparation
To prepare for the lesson, view The Expanding Canon video program 8, Part I. Online, review the Session 8 theory overview, strategies, information about the authors and literature, resources, and the downloadable print guide. Read Legends From Camp and Drawing the Line — excerpts available in the print guide. Read Executive Order 9066 (Japanese Relocation Order – 1942 ) — available online at http://ipr.ues.gseis. ucla.edu/images/Evacuation_Poster.pdf. Gather photographs and historical documents to create a classroom exhibit about the internment camp experience. Selected poems available in print guide.

Materials
Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • board and/or chart paper
  • a screen or monitor on which to show a clip from the video program 8, Part II, either on a vhs tape or from the Web (optional)
  • photographs and reproductions of historical documents
  • copies of Legends From Camp
  • copies of Drawing the Line (optional)
  • copies of Executive Order 9066

Standards
Standards for the English Language Arts

Summary
1. Sandra Childs begins by reading the poem “Instructions to All Persons,” and the “Prologue” of the title work from Lawson Fusao Inada’s Legends From Camp.

2. Childs then explains specific terms to her class. She also provides some information about the history of discrimination against Japanese Americans in the U.S.

3. The class then engages in a ten-minute roundtable discussion where each student must have an opportunity to speak once before anyone can speak for a second time. Childs gives each student a copy of the executive order issued to Japanese Americans during World War II. She asks the students to imagine themselves in the position of the Japanese Americans who were told to enter internment camps. Students discuss how they would respond to the complex situation. They structure their discussion so that one student acts as a facilitator and one acts as a recorder. Childs asks students if there are any justifications for the governmental order.

4. The class goes to the Nikkei Legacy Center in downtown Portland, where they see an exhibit of artifacts, photos and historical documents documenting the Japanese American internment camp experience. Childs encourages students to note images or text lines that grab their attention. (Teachers can create an exhibit in the classroom by finding photos and historical texts on the Web; teachers may also show students a clip featuring the Nikkei Legacy Center from The Expanding Canon video program 8, Part II.)

5. Childs introduces the students to poet Lawson Fusao Inada, who shares with them his childhood memories of life in the internment camp. He reads aloud the title work from his collection of poetry, Drawing the Line.

6. Childs asks students to walk around the museum, picking out meaningful lines of text from the exhibit, and/or words from Inada’s poetry to create their own “found poems” — similar to the way in which Inada used words from Executive Order 9066 in his poem, “Instructions to All Persons.” Students also talk to Nikkei Legacy Center volunteers about their experiences in internment camps.

7. Students share their “found poems” with Inada and the group before returning to school.

Series Directory

The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School

Credits

Produced by Thirteen/WNET. 2003.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-676-6