Lily Craig  |  2022 Carmen R. Gillespie Fellow

My name is Lily Craig (she/her) and I am honored to be this year's Carmen R. Gillespie Fellow! 

About My Work

While an avid fan of poetry, I have always found myself on the side of analysis rather than writing. I’ve tried my hand at creating, but feel much more at home delving into the wonderful world that is literary examination. I love using poems as doors, windows, and mirrors to deepen my understanding of myself and others. I am also passionate about teaching others to do the same! However, the poems that are most commonly taught in classrooms fall under the “standard literary canon,” a group of commonly taught “classic” works that exclude many authors, particularly women and authors of color. 

Under the guidance of one of my education professors, Dr. Melanie Shoffner, I will be working to use Furious Flower’s resources to craft a set of poems, close readings, and a lesson plan or two, geared towards upper middle school/lower high school students, in an effort to close the gap between the vast amount of beautiful Black poetry that exists and the egregious lack of it found in the classroom. 





Unit Plan, Exploring Identity Through Black Poetry

Written by Lily Craig, 2022 Carmen R. Gillespie Fellow

11th Grade ELA

75 Minute Lessons

Lesson 1: "Barbershop Ritual" by Sharan Strange

Guiding Concept: Symbolism, Identity/Culture

SOLs: 11.2e, 11.4e-h

  • Entrance Ticket: Journal Prompt (5 min)
    • How is poetry relevant to my life? If not, who is poetry relevant to?
  • Journal Discussion (10 min)
    • How do you define poetry? Do you consider a song a poem?
    • Do you feel like poetry helps you understand yourself?
    • What are your favorite poems? Do you have favorite poems? Why are they your favorite?
    • Do you like poetry? Why or Why not?
  • Introduction (5 min)
    • Direct instruction with guided notes
    • Review ideas of symbolism, ritual, identity, and culture
  • Barbershop Ritual (8 min)
  • Hair is Identity Video (5 min)
  • Hair is Identity Discussion (15 min)
    • Students will divide into 5 groups and be assigned a topic of research.
      • Value of hair in early Africa
      • Treatment of Black hair by slave traders
      • Tignon Law
      • Beverly Johnson, Vogue cover
      • Crown Act
    • Each group will take 10 minutes to gather information, and then share their findings with the class.
  • Symbolism Discussion (5 min)
    • Direct instruction on uses of symbolism to convey identities
    • Examples in poetry/literature
    • Symbolism can connect us to identities we do not possess.
  • Close Reading of Barbershop Ritual (17 min)
    • Further exploration of the concept "ritual"
    • Line-by-line breakdown of the poem
      • Discuss how research enhanced reading of the poem
    • Note figurative language practices
  • Exit Ticket: Journal Reflection (5 min)
    • Students will respond to the prompt:
      • What is a symbol? What is a ritual you share with your family, culture, or friends? Why is it important to you?
Lesson 2: "A Simple Poem: It Is Spring" by Carmen Gillespie

Guiding Concept: Grammar, Writing

SOLs: 11.7

  • Entrance Ticket: Journal Prompt (5 min)
    • Do you think that having "proper" grammar is important in poetry? Why or why not? Do you think it is important to teach grammar?
  • Journal Prompt Discussion (5 min)
    • How can correct or incorrect grammar change the tone of a work? Does the audience of poetry matter?
  • Vocabulary Review (10 min)
    • Tense, Clauses, Possessives
  • Grammar in Poetry Article (15 min)
  • Article Discussion (5 min)
    • Guided conversation about the last part of the article, and discuss how choosing to break rules can add to the meaning of certain poems
  • A Simple Poem Discussion (5 min)
    • Discuss how/if acknowledging grammar contributes to the meaning of Gillespie's poem
  • Practice (15 min)
    • Students will rewrite the poem in the form of a creative short story with the freedom (and encouragement) to complicate the poem. They must identify where they add in grammatical elements such as clauses, possessives, and tenses.
  • Exit Ticket (5 min)
    • Write a sentence on the board that uses incorrect grammar and have them correct it on an index card for SOL review.
Lesson 3: "A Haiku Love Letter to Gabby Douglas" by Yalie Kamara

Guiding Concept: Imagery, Descriptive Language

SOLs: 11.2d, 11.4d-e

  • Entrance Ticket: Journal Prompt (5 min)
    • Do you think images are important when telling a story? Do you prefer to create the image in your head (reading, listening) or see it constructed by someone else (movies/TV)? Why?
  • Direct Instruction: The Haiku (10 min)
  • Haiku Practice (15 min)
    • Students will be given three index cards each. They will choose three of ten classroom objects lined up across the room. They will write the object at the top, and a haiku describing the object below. They will write their names on the other side of the card for formative assessment.
    • Haikus will be shared anonymously with the class for discussion.
  • Direct Instruction: Gabby Douglas Background (5 min)
  • Whole Poem Reading (10 min)
    • Pass out copies of the poem and read out loud.
    • Identify descriptive language, discuss tone and mood.
  • Haiku Breakdown (15 min)
    • After creating their images, students will group up and present their work and see how it compares to the images students created from the same stanzas.
  • Exit Ticket
    • Why is descriptive language important in writing?
Lesson 4: "Self Portrait With No Flag" by Safia Elhillo

Guiding Concept: Community, Identity

SOLs: 11.4

  • Entrance Ticket: Journal Prompt (5 min)
    • Where is your family from? Where are you from? What does it mean to be 'from' somewhere?
    • Where do you consider 'home'?
  • Meet Safia Elhillo (10 min)
  • Self Portrait With No Flag (10 min)
    • Pass out copy of "Self Portrait With No Flag" by Safia Elhillo
    • Instruct them to mark lines they like or have questions about during the reading.
    • Watch Safia Elhillo's Reading:
  • Direct Instruction: Stanza Three (5 minutes)
    • Historical context of Sudanese Identity, Berlin Conference
    • Some people do not feel inherently connected to their ethnicity or nationality.
  • Discussion: Identity and Belonging (15 min)
    • Pose questions to the class about what it means to be "allegiant." Explore as a group how they define their identities – nationalities, friends, family traditions, etc.
    • Create a group definition of what it means to "pledge allegiance." This definition will serve as a point of reference to students who migh need further help understanding the next activity.
    • At the conclusion of the discussion, students will create a list of things
  • Apprentice Poetry Activity (30 min)
    • Direct instruction to explain apprentice poetry
    • Students will create their own "Self Portrait" poem
Lesson 5: Research Poet and Create Broadside

Guiding Concept: Research, Creation

SOLs: 11.1, 11.4a

  • Entrance Ticket: Journal Prompt (5 min) 
    • How do you think poetry helps poets explore their identity? How do you think readers can use other peoples' poetry to find theirs? How do identity and poetry connect to you?
  • Project Introduction and Direct Instruction (5 min)
    • Students will select a poet from after looking through the library of poets.
    • Students will create a Poet Profile.
    • Included in Poet Profile
      • Poet name and date of birth
      • Photo of poet
      • Poet's background
      • Common themes in their poetry
      • Common poetic styles
    • Poem and Response Poem
      • For the last part of the project, students will select one poem and do a close reading. They will then create a poem in response to or inspired by their poet's work.
  • Surf Website, Pick Poet (10 min)
    • Make sure each student has their own poet.
  • Independent Work on Project (55 min)
    • Students will use in-class time to build their Poet Profile and complete the close reading.

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