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TITLE: PHOTOGRAPH LESSON AUTHOR: Marcia LaViolette/Ombudsman GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT: 6-Adult; Writing OVERVIEW: This lesson can be used with grades six and up. I have used it with sixth graders as well as adults. The lesson assumes the Writing Project is being used in the classroom, ie. students have writing folders, write everyday, and are accustomed to the teacher writing with them. I have used this as an isolated lesson to illustrate how poetry can be taught within the confines of the writing project. ACTIVITIES AND PROCEDURES: The day before the lesson I ask students to bring in a favorite photograph. Many of the students forget, however a few examples are enough. Another way to begin the lesson is to bring in a number of photographs of your own from all stages of your life. I talk about how photographs sometimes tell us more about people by what they don't show than what they show. I pass a number of photographs around the room in the cooperative tables. Partners, or tables, look at the photos and comment on what they see as well as what they don't see. (Example: A photo of a family gathering where everyone pictured is a good distance from one another, and unsmiling.) Students brainstorm, with the teacher writing responses on the overhead. Written down on the overhead is a record of things seen as well as unseen. Next the teacher puts the following poem on the overhead. Students will listen to the poem and brainstorm what is being directly shown in the poem and what is not. Photograph 1969 by Katy Barber This is my mother lifting her hair long like a low whistle off her neck These are her fingers caught in the tangles of brown and gold caught in silver earrings This is my father reaching through the lens to touch the edge of a new family to touch her opening belly under her full dress This is existing before I exist This is me growing up against their lives him watching for a sharp breath from her looking out onto the border of birth this is bumping us into three Generally, students point out that the mother is about to have a baby, her hair is long and streaked, she has silver earrings, and the father is taking a picture of her. What can't be seen is the new life, the girl and all her hopes, the family about to be created, the love that is present. Next the teacher writes a poem on the overhead. The teacher tells students that the poem could be about a photo she has that she treasures, or one that she wishes she had. Here is a poem I wrote with students about a photo I have of my mother: Like the Wings of an Angel by Marcia LaViolette I have a photograph of my mother standing on a hill, San Francisco lying beneath her. She is facing the sun. Her white suit coat is open and flaps in the wind, filling the space between her raised arms and her body like the wings of an angel. Her hair is shimmering, one blond hunk of it flying skyward. Her thin hand is a shadowed awning above her eyes and she stands straight: a tall golden stalk in a growing field. Today she called from Florida voice slurred, spilling commands that I tell her about my separation, my job, my life. Threatening, between bouts of coughing, to fly here in just two hours. And I could see her, hunched over the phone, dried up and shrinking like a root torn from earth and long forgotten. And when I said "No" and then "Good bye", I knew that I would look for her photograph to remind me to be gentle to this person who once stood on the edge of life and soared ahead faithfully to meet it. It is not important how well you write in front of the students. What is important is that you are honest about yourself and that you write from your heart. Next students write their own poem about a photograph they treasure or one they wish they had. Students need 15-20 minutes to write. When done they share with the class if they wish. Below are two poems generated from this lesson. Dad by Greg Tolston Dear father, I wish I had a few pictures of you. So I wouldn't forget when you got shot by a wild man but I was only two years old. But now since I've grown up I still remember you. My Brother by Nitkorn Cha I wish I had a picture of my brother when we were in Thailand. Because when I was a baby and when I started to cry he would hit me on the head. If I was still there and I was big I would of beat him up. Because I was supposed to have four brothers but he died when we came to the United States. COMMENTS: I credit Linda Christensen, a teacher at Jefferson High, for this idea. Over the years I have added other components, but the essential idea was hers.