This unit, which focuses on the poem "The Buttonhook" by Mary Jo Salter, was developed by the Academy of American Poets in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education and a small group of elementary school teachers who are creating social studies curricula aligned with the Common Core State Standards. These school teachers, our Poetry Leaders, teach in schools across the boroughs of New York City. They are Vanessa Rose Scionti, who teaches at Public School 217, Lindsey Dreyfus of P.S. 6, Jessica Egan of P.S. 195, Alexis Dixon of P.S. 414K, Annie Gallagher of P.S. 164K, Angelee Alarnick of P.S. 748, Alana Aaron of P.S. 48M, Allyce Ficigna of P.S. 163M, and Lindsay Williamson of P.S. 503.
ELA Reading Standards, Literature (grade 4)
Key Ideas and Details: 1
Craft and Structure: 4 and 5
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 7
ELA Writing Standards (grade 4)
Text Types and Purposes: 3d
Social Studies, English/ Language Arts
Before you start these activities ask your students to bring in an artifact from home that represents their heritage. You, the teacher, may want to bring in an artifact from your heritage, as well.
Activity I: Sharing Student Artifacts
Objective: To experience how objects with a personal connection can inspire further questions and learning.
When the students have brought their artifacts to class:
Activity II: Photograph that inspired “The Buttonhook”
Objective: To use close observation of a photo to inspire language, questions and connections that will help students engage with the poem.
Objective: To write a paragraph or poem about an object from your heritage that has special meaning for you using precise descriptive language.
Ask each person to write a brief paragraph (or short poem) about their object, using descriptive words they either knew or learned from their small group, connections they have to the object, and what it means to them. They should convey the feelings they have about the object through their descriptive writing. If they are writing a poem, they should think about how they want the words to look on the page. How will the lines look? What will be the spacing of the words?
Depending on time constraints, either do a whole group share, or ask for volunteers to read what they wrote. After peer and teacher editing, publish your students writing!
You may also want your students to conduct research on the questions they asked in the second activity in this unit. This is a further way to integrate the study of the poem into your ongoing curriculum.
Below is a list of some of the words your students might not know. Another way to do vocabulary is to have them generate a list from their own listening and reading.