Crossing Borders Through Poetry
In this lesson, students read and discuss poems about crossing borders before creating their own border-crossing poem. Using a Readers'/Writers' Workshop format, students and teachers explore what it means to cross borders, either literal or figurative, and what we can learn about ourselves and others in a border-crossing experience.
Everybody has crossed a literal or figurative border at one time or another. These crossings take us from a place "where we feel at home" to a new place and culture. In this lesson, students will consider what it means to cross borders and read poems about border crossings. As a culminating activity, students will use the poems they have read as a model to create their own border crossing poem.
This lesson meets the following North Carolina English Language Arts standards.
ELA RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text
ELA RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text
ELA W.9-10.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences
ELA RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain
ELA RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text
ELA W.11-12.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences
Teachers will need to review and select appropriate border-crossing poems for their students. Below are some possibilities.
Possible Border Crossing Poems
"The City" by A.E. Stallings (Syrian refugees in Greece)
"Crossing the Border": Collected Poems, e-book by Daniel Olivas (caution: mature themes)
Poems about Borders by poemhunter.com (playlist of 100 poems from around the world about borders, robot-read in videos--teachers will need to review to find good examples)
15 Moving Immigration Poems by Bookriot.com (another playlist of poems from around the world--teachers will need to review for appropriate examples of crossing borders)
"Border Crossing" by Carmen Murguia (recording by the poet)
"You Crossed the Border" by Reza Mohammadi (Afghanistan)
"Borderbus" by Juan Felipe Herrera (code switching poem)
Lesson Essential Questions: What does it mean to "cross a border"? When and where in life do we cross borders? What do we learn from crossing borders?
1) To launch the lesson, students complete a journal entry or a quick write to reflect on the following questions:
- What is a border?
- Where can borders be found?
- Are borders always literal?
- What does it mean "to cross a border"?
- What borders have you crossed?
- How does crossing a border impact your life?
Students share their writings, and the teacher facilitates a discussion about the difference between literal and figurative borders. To further build background about border crossing and activate student thinking, the teacher can show videos from news programs about immigrants. The Pulitzer Center has a variety of current videos for educators to use.
2) Students read and discuss a variety of border crossing poems. To scaffold the reading, students may be grouped in pairs or trios. Before discussing the poems, students reflect in journal entries about what the poem is saying about border crossings and what themes about border crossings are emerging. The teacher then facilitates a Socratic discussion of the interpretations of each poem and the themes students find about crossing borders.
3) After reading and discussing poems about crossing borders, students will think of a time they crossed a border, either literal or figurative, and write their own border-crossing poem. Students will create their poem in a writers' workshop, taking time to draft, confer with the teacher, and revise their work. To conclude the lesson, students will publish their border-crossing poems in a class poetry collection. This may be either a digital or print publication.