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Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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the expanding canon teaching multicultural literature
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Session 8 Critical Pedagogy: Abiodun Oyewole and Lawson Fusao Inada - Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan 1
Lesson Plan 2


REFLECTION - Interactive Forum

Explore two poems using four approaches.


Share your views on the discussion

Download the Session 8 Guide

The Last Poets
Works: "On the Subway" and "Jones Comin' Down" from The Last Poets' self-titled CD (1970).

Cathie Wright-Lewis uses critical pedagogy to help students understand the political underpinnings of Abiodun Oyewole's spoken word poetry, and to learn how to express their own political beliefs. Her lesson teaches students how poetic language can create emotional and rational arguments.

To prepare for the lesson, view The Expanding Canon video program 8, Part I. Online, review the Session 8 theory overview, strategies, information about the authors and literature, resources, and the downloadable print guide. Review "On the Subway" and "Jones Comin' Down" from The Last Poets' self-titled CD (1970) -- "On the Subway" transcript available in the print guide.

Teachers will need the following supplies:
  • board and/or chart paper
  • CD player
  • a screen or monitor on which to show a clip featuring Abiodun Oyewole from the The Expanding Canon video program 8, Part I (optional)
  • The Last Poets' self-titled CD (1970)
Standards for the English Language Arts


Day 1
1. After Cathie Wright-Lewis writes the word "griot" on the board, she and her students discuss the West African griot tradition, that includes questions such as:
  • What is a griot?
  • What is the correct pronunciation of "griot?"
  • What does a griot do?
2. Wright-Lewis explains that "spoken word" poetry, which is performed and usually has a political message, has roots in the West African griot tradition. The students and Wright-Lewis discuss how spoken word artists, writers, rap artists, teachers, and students play the role of griots in society today.

3. Wright-Lewis urges the students to become griots by observing and writing poetry about their own environment. She asks them to be descriptive in their observations of their surroundings. The students discuss how clothing and style can define a particular time, answering questions such as:
  • How do teenagers dress?
  • What do these details mean?
  • What does the fashion/style say about the time period?
4. Wright-Lewis plays "On the Subway," a track from The Last Poets' self-titled CD. She asks students to pay special attention to the language of the spoken word poem. Wright-Lewis guides a discussion of the poem with questions such as:
  • Which words reveal the time period in which the poem was written?
  • Why are they stopping at 125th Street?
  • What words did you hear in the poem?
  • Who is "the man" in the poem? What's happening?
  • What is the poem really about?
  • Why did they choose to use drums as the instrumental underscore of the poem? How does the music support the message?
5. Wright-Lewis plays "Jones Comin' Down," another track from The Last Poets' CD. She asks students again to listen for words that reveal the time period.

6. Wright-Lewis tells the students that they will have an opportunity to write a poem similar to the poems they have just heard. She divides students into three groups and asks students to imagine themselves in a different place in their neighborhoods -- on the bus, in the hallway, on the street. Using The Last Poets' work as a model, the students craft poems -- either individually or collectively in their small groups -- that reflect the politics of the times.

7. After students share these poems aloud, others in the class comment on the language that they hear in the poems.

8. Wright-Lewis tells students that they will have a chance, at a local poetry workshop, to speak with poet Abiodun Oyewole. She asks the students to prepare questions and to bring any poem they might like to share.

1. Wright-Lewis introduces poet Abiodun Oyewole to the students attending the poetry workshop. Oyewole performs his poem "Jones Comin' Down" and answers students' questions. (Teachers may want to show students a clip from The Expanding Canon video program 8, Part I, featuring Abiodun Oyewole and/or a video of other spoken word artists.)

2. The students read their poetry to Abiodun Oyewole, who then provides feedback.

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