Lessons & Units :: Keeping the Night Watch and Chess Rumble 6th Grade Unit

Lesson 1: Poetic Word Choice

Lesson Plan

Keeping the Night Watch

Keeping the Night Watch
Learning Goal
Identify and explain poetic word choice.
Approximately 2 Days (40-45 minutes for each class)
Necessary Materials
Provided: Poetic Helping Handout, Poetic Language Chart, Visualizing Poetic Language Chart, Figurative Language Finder (Student Packet, pages 10-11)
Not Provided: Paper bags with small, common objects; stapler; magazine photographs of common objects – optional; chart paper; markers; Keeping the Night Watch by Hope Anita Smith
  • Before the Lesson

    Read Keeping the Night Watch: Part 1, “Fall;” Complete Student Packet Worksheets for Keeping the Night Watch: Part 1, “Fall”

  • Activation & Motivation

    Before beginning the lesson, prepare paper bags filled with random objects for pairs or small groups of students in the class. Each bag should contain common objects, such as a stapler or journal. Note: You can distribute magazine photographs of common objects instead. Distribute the bags to pairs or small groups of students. Have students take a minute to look over the objects. Explain that each student now has a chance to rename one of the objects in their bag based on the object’s attributes or function. For example, “I have a stapler. I am going to rename this stapler a paper cobra, because a cobra has a long body and two fangs that pierce, just like this stapler. I am calling it the paper cobra, because it ‘bites’ paper leaving two holes.” The pairs or groups of students will choose one object from their bag to rename. The name must somehow capture an aspect of the object’s look or function. We will present our objects to the class, using the new name that we created.

  • Teacher Modeling

    will explain that just like we gave common objects new names to illustrate an aspect or trait of the object, poets and writers use poetic language to enhance and bring out aspects of the world (objects, places, etc.) to express its qualities. For example, my stapler was a cobra because a stapler speedily inserts staples into a piece of paper, like a cobra might bite its prey with its fangs. I was bringing out the quality of violence in the stapler, similar to a cobra.

    I will explain that I am going to identify poetic language in our verse novel, Keeping the Night Watch. I will distribute the Poetic Helping Handout. I will explain that I am going to look for words or phrases in the novel that take a common object, person, or place, and make it seem special or unfamiliar, or that bring out a quality I never thought of by comparing it to something else (like my paper cobra). Specifically, I am going to look for poetic devices such as similes, metaphors, alliteration, and personification. The definitions of these terms and examples can be found on the Poetic Helping Handout. After I identify poetic language in the novel, I will visualize the image “painted” by the author, and use that visualization to help me explain what the author means.

    I will reread the first poem of Keeping the Night Watch (“We Are Family”) and think aloud about the poetic language and what it means. I found the phrase, “Our eyes fixed on our plates like we’re watching a really good TV show.” I will close my eyes and visualize staring at a really great television show (share with your students a show you love to watch TV and why you are riveted by it). I will describe the image aloud, "I would be glued, unable to look at anything else. I might not even blink." Note: Examples have been provided on the Poetic Language Chart.

    Then, I will think about what the narrator is saying. Plates are not entertaining, like my favorite television show. By thinking about this image, I can see that the author is using poetic language to make the reader understand that the kids were scared to look away from their plates, fearful to see anything else in the room. A plate is not entertaining, so the author wants to emphasize how nervous they were to notice that their father was at the table.

    As I continue to read, I see that C.J. says, “My throat is so tight, not even Mama’s candied yams can squeeze through.” I will visualize this example, imagining how a throat might close up and prevent food from passing through. I will conclude that this is poetic language, as he probably can swallow yams in reality (not being able to swallow seems like a medical emergency). I think the author is using hyperbole, or exaggeration, because his throat is not so tight as to prevent the passage of food. In fact, food hasn’t even been served in the poem.

    I will then think about what the poetic phrase means. When your throat tightens, you feel tense or anxious and you can’t speak. I think the character is trying to highlight how much tension he his feeling at the dinner table by exaggerating the tightening of his throat. The character might also be showing how it is difficult to say anything to his father at the dinner table. I will continue modeling identifying and explaining additional poetic language in the poems through page 15, “Family Tales.” Note: Examples have been provided on the Poetic Language Chart.

  • Think Check

    Ask: "How do I identify and explain poetic language in a text?" Students should answer that you look for words or phrases that seem special or unfamiliar. Then, you visualize the image by painting a picture in your mind. You can use that visualization to explain what the author means and why the author chose this way of saying it.

  • Guided Practice

    will identify poetic language from “If You Can’t Stand the Heat” through “The Night Watchman,” in Keeping the Night Watch, recording the information on our chart started during Direct Teaching. Each time we identify a special or unfamiliar word or phrase (poetic word choice), we will stop reading and add it to the chart. Note: Several examples have been provided on the Visualizing Poetic Language Chart. You should not work through all of these examples, but use them to choose a few examples of poetic language in the text. After each poem is read, we will take turns leading the class in a think aloud about its meaning. Note: Students can use visualization, context clues, or prior knowledge to help them explain its meaning.

    After the student-led think aloud, we will discuss what the poetic imagery brought out in the object or experience and why the author chose to describe it this way. For example, in “If You Can’t Stand the Heat . . . ,” the author says that, “I’m a pot with the lid on . . . I just let it stew.” The author is trying to explain the main character’s feelings, and how he holding his pain towards his father inside himself. We will continue to add to our Visualizing Poetic Language Chart, explain what each poetic word or phrase means, and why the author chose to say it this way. Note: Additional Examples can be found on the Visualizing Poetic Language Chart.

  • Independent Practice

    will identify examples of poetic language from the section “Fall” of Keeping the Night Watch. You will write examples of poetic language you find in the first column of the Figurative Language Finder in your Student Packet. (See pages 10-11 in the Student Packet.) In the second column, you will write a description or visualization of each example of poetic language that you have identified. In the third column, you will explain why the author chose this way of describing each example of figurative language. 

  • Reflective Practice

    will come together and share the examples of poetic language that we found in Keeping the Night Watch and discuss what we think the examples mean. If time permits, we will create a “Poetic Word Wall” by writing our poetic phrases on sentence strips and creating a poetic bulletin board of the similes, metaphors, and images found in Keeping the Night Watch.

Build Student Vocabulary clenched

Tier 2 Word: clenched
Contextualize the word as it is used in the story When C.J.’s daddy comes home, he says, “My teeth are clenched.”
Explain the meaning student-friendly definition) Clenched means tightly shut or closed. When C.J. said that his teeth were clenched, he meant that his mouth was closed tightly shut.
Students repeat the word Say the word clenched with me: clenched.
Teacher gives examples of the word in other contexts I clenched my fists when I was angry. I clenched my teeth as the doctor gave me a shot. I was so nervous that my stomach clenched.
Students provide examples What is something that can be clenched? Start by saying, “Something that can be clenched is ________________.” Share a time when you clenched something.
Students repeat the word again. What word are we talking about? clenched
Additional Vocabulary Words chauffeur, salvage, radiating, routine, subject, wobbly, reliable, fond, misplaced

Texts & Materials

Standards Alignment

(To see all of the ReadWorks lessons aligned to your standards, click here.)

User Comments

Really thoughtful informative lesson plans. Teachers have access to good quality resources.

Love this lesson. I had no idea all these resources were packed into the articles. I now have so many optional strategies I can use to employ the skill.

I really like these lessons. I like the way it is taught I Do We Do You Do and I really like the Reflexive Practice. I only wish that you had 7th and 8th grade lessons. I also like the fact that you show the skills taught from each lesson.