Tag Archives: poetry

Ottava Rima

“Ottava Rima: In prosody a stanza of eight lines rhyming a-b-a-b-a-b-c-c. The form, which arose in Italy in the 14th century, was used by Boccaccio, Tasso, Ariosto, and many other Italian poets. In English is is usually written in iambic pentameters. It was used, for example, by Keats in ‘Isabella‘ (1820); in ‘Don Juan,’ Byron strikes the mock-heroic, almost burlesque note that has come to be associated with the form.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Cultural Literacy: Rhyme

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on rhyme. This is a half-page reading with a two-sentence reading and two comprehension questions. In other words, a simple yet clear introduction to the concept.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Russell Banks on Linton Kwesi Johnson

He is, of course, a top-notch poet, and his bittersweet poems can indeed make us weak, make us feel incomplete. In 2002 he became the second living and first black poet to have his selected poems published in England in the Penguin Classics series. He is Jamaican by birth, and though he has resided for most of his adult life in England, where he took a university degree in sociology, he writes in Jamaican Creole. Not a dialect, not strictly a ‘patois,’ either, and not a mere post-colonial version of Standard English, Jamaican Creole is a language created out of hard necessity by African slaves from 17th century British English and West African, mostly Ashanti, language groups, with a lexical admixture from the Caribe and Arawak natives of the island. It is a powerfully expressive, flexible, and, not surprisingly, musical vernacular, sustained and elaborated upon for over four hundred years by the descendants of those slaves, including those who, like LKJ, have migrated out of Jamaica in the second great diaspora for England, Canada, and the United States. Fortunately, its grammar and orthography like that of pre-18th century British English, have never been rigidly formalized or fixed by an academy of notables or any authoritative dictionary. It is, therefore, a living, organically evolving language intimately connected to the lived experience of its speakers.”

Excerpted from: Banks, Russell, “Introduction,” in Johnson, Linton Kwesi. Mi Revalueshenary Fren. Port Townshend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 2006.

The Weekly Text, Friday 30 December 2022: History of Hip-Hop Lesson 4, The Griot in African Culture

Moving right along with this big unit on Hip-Hop, here is the fourth lesson plan, on the West African griot tradition (which should not be confused with the Haitian dish of the same name). This is a key lesson in this process. I open this lesson with this context clues worksheet on the noun griot.

Because this lesson includes a viewing of the video for the song, here are lyrics to the Afropop song “Shaking the Tree,” a collaboration between British rock star Peter Gabriel and the Senegalese griot (he descends from a family of griots) Youssou N’Dour. Finally, at the center of this lesson is this reading and comprehension worksheet, which is also meant to spur discussion, on the griot tradition in Africa.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

The Weekly Text, Friday 23 December 2022: History of Hip-Hop Lesson 3, The Medieval Troubadour

If there is a lesson that can be omitted from this unit–and I realized this the minute I began its preparation–it is this third lesson, on the Medieval Troubadours. Yes they are part of the global oral tradition, but in a highly peculiar way. For instance, they used the Occitan language, which is now endangered. Their songs were born of the chivalric tradition and celebrate courtly love. This is a long way of saying that this material may not be of surpassing interest to teenagers.

In any event, I open this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the concept of a capella singing. Here is the reading and questions on the troubadours themselves, which is the principal work of this lesson.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Cultural Literacy: Lyric

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the lyric as a form in poetry–and by extension, then, lyrics in music. This is a half-page document with a reading of three short sentences followed by three comprehension questions. A short, symmetrical introduction to the lyric form and nothing more.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

The Weekly Text, Friday 16 December 2022: History of Hip-Hop Lesson 2, Homer–History’s First Hip-Hop Songwriter

Here is the second lesson plan from the History of Hip-Hop Unit. This lesson posits, proceeding from the previous two, that Home’s Odyssey and Iliad, composed to be read aloud and to glorify Greece, that these ancient epics are two of the world’s first Hip-Hop songs. I open this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Muses so that students understand the reference in the first stanza of the Iliad. Here is the worksheet with reading and comprehension questions that is the centerpiece of this lesson.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Character Sketch

“Character Sketch (noun): A brief descriptive portrait in writing of an individual, usually with close observation of his or her distinctive traits.

‘In 1928 a private press published her character sketch of the Sapphic poetess Renee Vivien, born Pauline Tern, in London, of an English father and an American mother, a fragile neurotic figure who spent most of her short, self-destructive life in Paris, maintained in mysterious semi-Oriental elegance and living on spiced foods and alcohol in a garden apartment by chance next to Colette’s, near the Bois de Boulogne.’ Janet Flanner, Janet Flanner’s World”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

The Weekly Text, Friday 9 December 2022: History of Hip-Hop Lesson 1, Oral Tradition

OK, here is the first lesson plan proper of the History of Hip-Hop Unit. I begin this lesson with this context clues worksheet on the noun prose. You’ll need this reading and worksheet on the global oral tradition to execute this lesson. I guess that’s enough said here–I think these documents tell their own story.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

The Weekly Text, Friday 2 December 2022: History of Hip-Hop Prelude Lesson

During the pandemic lockdown, on 27 August 2020, I posted a trove of documents under the title A Tentative Start to a Unit on the History of Hip-Hop. Basically, it was a longish essay larded with documents with which I’d been struggling for years to synthesize into a real unit. Last year, the impetus and time such an endeavor requires came together; I was able to assemble a seventeen-lesson, reasonably cogent unit out of the materials, augmented with newer material that I published in that original post in the late summer of 2020.

My aim in this unit is to situate Hip-Hop in the broader global oral tradition. I began this unit initially, and begin it now, with these two apercus from Chuck D (Carlton Douglas Ridenhour) from the seminal Hip-Hop group Public Enemy:“We’re almost like headline news…. Rap music is the invisible TV station that Black America never had….”; “Rap is the CNN of young Black people.” So, to start off this unit, here is the prelude lesson to the History of Hip-Hop Unit along with the worksheet for prompting discussion of the statements above from Chuck D.

From the planning materials folder for this unit, here is the unit planthe lesson-plan template, and the worksheet template so that you can add lessons or alter them to fit the needs of your classroom. When I passed this unit by some colleagues, they all asked questions along the lines of “No Bob Dylan?” A fair question, since there is abundant evidence of Dylan’s influence on Hip-Hop. Another possible lesson would call upon students to make the connection between Dub music and Hip-Hop; there is, I think, a reason beyond fashion cool that Jay-Z was seen in a t-shirt bearing the Tuff Gong Recording Studios logo. So, as I assembled the materials for this unit, I did so with the idea that ultimately I might add lessons, or, indeed, break this into two units.

I also cached some Cultural Literacy and context clues worksheets in this unit’s planning materials folder for future use. Here they are if you want them:

Cultural Literacy: active voice; aka; aphorism; blank verse; circumlocution; comedy; complex sentence; complex-compound sentence; compound sentence; conjunctions; contraction; couplet; cultural imperialism; demagogue; denotation; double entendre, and four-letter word.

Context Clues: ad hominem; charisma-charismatic; infer, and oppress.

Finally, as I have mentioned to the point of tedium on this blog, all but one of the documents in this sixteen-lesson unit are formatted in Microsoft Word. That means you can adapt, alter, revise, edit, and generally manipulate them to suit the needs of your classroom.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.