Back in high school, my English teacher assigned us a paper analyzing Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” I was looking at the poem one morning when my homeroom teacher, Mr. Miller—who was also my French teacher—appeared at my desk with a box of colored pencils.
“Let me show you something, Mademoiselle Dignan,” he said. (Just for the record: My last name is not French, but Mr. Miller had a way of saying it that made it sound that way—deen-YAWn—that I very much enjoyed.) The next thing I knew, I was underlining references to light in one color, references to darkness in another, and drawing arrows and circles all over the place. Marking the poem this way pulled me deeply into it and illuminated much that I hadn’t previously noticed. I found the experience rather thrilling—it was almost as though Mr. Miller had shown me a magic trick.
I would describe what Mr. Miller showed me as a way of excavating a poem—a way of digging in and discovering what might not be visible on a poem’s “surface,” of examining both what the poet did and how he or she did it. A successful excavation may lead to insights about the poet’s use of imagery and allusion, of sound and rhythm—but its true reward is a deeper and more profound experience of the poem.
It is to that kind of meaningful experience with poetry that today, as the creator of Scope’s poetry activities, I aim to lead your students. You will notice that in the activity sheet that supports John Townsend Trowbridge’s delightful “Darius Green and His Flying Machine,” students are asked to circle and bracket sections of the poem as a way of seeing the poem’s basic structure.
Students then move on to a series of questions that will help with comprehension and also lead to a greater appreciation of the poet’s craft—how his word choices affect the sound and meaning of the poem, for example.
Want to take your class’s excavation of “Darius Green” even further? Here are three ideas:
- Have students clap the poem’s rhythm and discuss their experience. You might ask: Was it easy to clap the rhythm? Were there any challenging parts? (Personally, I had a little trouble finding the right rhythm from line 6 to line 7—but I did find something that works.) How would you describe the rhythm? How does it change in the last line? How do poets create rhythm? Why does it matter?
- Have students read the full-length version of the poem. (You can find it here.) Divide the poem into sections and assign each section to a group who will then prepare a short presentation about it for the class. Students can summarize what it says, point out anything that they noticed or found particularly interesting, and share any questions that came up.
- Have students write their own poems using “Darius Green” as a model. Students’ poems, like Trowbridge’s, should be structured as conditional statements (this is explained in question 1 of the poetry activity) and should end with the phrase “never would do for a hero of mine."
I’d love to hear your feedback on the “Darius Green” activity or any other Scope poetry activity—or simply hear how you approach poetry in your classroom. I’ll look for your comments below!
Jenny Dignan is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and spent nearly 20 years living in New York City working as an editor at Scholastic, a dancer, and a yoga teacher. She now lives in Portland, Maine, where she works on Scope with a view of the ocean.
Audio articles are a powerful classroom tool. They can be used for differentiation, fluency, listening comprehension, engagement, and so much more. Every issue of Scope comes with audio versions of several articles, along with the vocabulary words and definitions.
Here are three teacher-vetted ways to incorporate audio into your teaching:
1. To unlock a challenging text for a struggling reader or ELL student
First, have students listen to the audio article once through—either in class or at home the day before you plan to use the article. Then have them listen again, this time following along in their print magazines. Now students should be prepared to read the article independently, without the audio.
2. To prepare students for listening passages on assessments
Pass out a close-reading and critical-thinking activity sheet (like this one) for students to preview, so they will know in advance what they will be discussing and can be “strategic” listeners. Then play the audio recording and work through the questions together. Repeat the same process with another Scope text, but this time, have students listen to the audio independently and complete one close-reading question and one critical-thinking question on their own.
3. To model speaking
The ability to speak well is an important skill—not just for class presentations but also in life. Use our audio recordings to model speaking articulately and with a sense of rhythm and style. Encourage students to infuse their own presentations with this sense.
Explore all of our audio articles at Scope Online.