A Poetic Finale
Lesson (printable) PDF version »
Student Handouts PDF version »
Loyola Academy, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
DAY 1: Introducing the lesson to my students
Where does the word ghetto come from?
After giving each student a copy of the form Lesson Introduction: A Poetic Finale (Student Handout 1), I begin the lesson by reviewing the etymology of the word ghetto.
The Online Etymology Dictionary (http://www.geocities.com/etymonline/g2etym.htm) offers this origin of the word ghetto:
1611, from It. ghetto ”part of a city to which Jews are restricted,” various theories of its origin include: Yiddish get ”deed of separation;” special use of Venetian getto “foundry” (there was one near the site of that city’s ghetto); Egitto, from L. Aegyptus “Egypt” (presumably in memory of the exile); or It. borghetto “small section of a town” (dim. of borgo “borough”). Extended 1892 to crowded urban quarters of other minority groups.
I tell students they will be using a form of expression born in the modern American ghetto, rap music, to inspire the conclusion of our Holocaust unit.
Introducing the assignment
Next I share the following quote from the Boogie Down Productions song “Poetry” to help put my students in the right frame of mind for what they will be doing:
Well now you’re forced to listen to the teacher and the lesson.
I tell the students I want them to use poetry to illustrate what they have learned during our Holocaust unit.
Class is in session so you can stop guessin'
If this is a tape or a written down memo.
See I am a professional, this is not a demo.
In fact, call it a lecture, a visual picture.
Providing a model: Remedy
I provide a model for this type of expression, a song by the Jewish rapper Remedy titled “Never Again.”
I preface the song with a quote from a profile of the artist published at www.hillel.org:
Remedy grows increasingly animated as he explains how the track came about—how he learned from his 95-year-old grandmother, before she died, that members of his own family had perished in the Holocaust. This was a way to memorialize them.
To add another layer to the original objective of using poetry to illustrate what has been learned about the Holocaust, I say, “Not only should your poem function as an illustration of what you’ve learned, but it should also act as a memorial or a tribute to the victims of the Holocaust. After studying the Holocaust, you are now a witness. How will you keep the victims alive in the minds of future generations?”
The last thing I share with the students before playing Remedy’s song is some wisdom from rapper KRS-ONE’s song, “Knowledge Reigns Supreme”:
Do your knowledge,
Students then listen to the Remedy song. I provide each student with a copy of the lyrics before asking the class to listen quietly while the song is played.
Do your knowledge,
Stop studying your knowledge,
And do your knowledge!
Reflecting on the song using study guides
After listening to the song twice, I give students some time to complete the two study guides. The first one is titled Remedy/Holocaust Connections. It focuses on connections that can be made between the song and Holocaust content. The second is titled Remedy’s Use of Poetic Techniques. (In teaching this lesson in your own classroom, you may find that you want to reverse the order of these two study guides or to have students complete them simultaneously.) Completing the guides can be done individually or with a partner. The study guides will prepare the students for our discussion of the song. I encourage students to share connections they have made between the song and texts (books, movies, etc.) we have read and to point out Remedy’s use of poetic techniques. Study guides are checked for completion but are not handed in. Students will need these notes as they work on their poems.
Before leaving class, each student writes a brief reflection on the song and the class discussion. By the end of class many are curious about Remedy. He is not a household hip-hop name like Tupac Shakur or Eminem. To satisfy this curiosity, I hand each student a copy of the Hillel.org profile of Remedy as class ends.
Homework: Due Day 2
Each student should reread his or her learning journal and any past Holocaust-related assignments and have a draft of a poem about the Holocaust to share with a peer revision group. I suggest experimenting with found poetry—borrowing words and phrases from the texts we have read. In the hip-hop realm, this is called sampling. All samples must be credited. (See Student Work Samples for an example of found poetry titled “Words That Hurt.”)
« RESOURCES AND HANDOUTS: MATERIALS USED (back)
DAY 2: Writing and Revision (next)