Written by Dawn Jacobs Martin and Daryl Grabarek, this lesson plan is based on Marilyn Nelson’s poetry collection My Seneca Village (Namelos, 2015), in which she recreates Seneca Village, a multi-racial neighborhood that existed in 19th-century Manhattan. The book includes a foreword that describes the history of Seneca Village and a guide to the poetic forms Nelson uses in her poems.
This guide is aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Reading (Literature), Speaking and Listening, and Writing. As students answer each question please encourage them to support their claims with textual evidence.
Read the introduction section of the text, Welcome to My Seneca Village. Based on the information provided, what do you think the poems and stories will convey about Seneca Village? Why? Make 2-3 predictions that are supported by evidence from the text. (Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details: RL.6.1, R.L., 7.1)
Visit the New York Historical Society’s Website to examine the map of Seneca Village (http://historydetectives.nyhistory.org/2013/06/seneca-village-a-community-lost-to-central-park/). Think about how Nelson describes Seneca Village, “… there were 264 individuals living there. There were three churches. There was a school. There were several cemeteries. There were businesses. There were homes, with years and gardens. There was an apple orchard. There were families. There were friends. There was happiness. There was grief” (p. viii). Write a summary that addresses the following questions: Which parts of Seneca Village are evident on the map? In order to turn Seneca Village into Central Park, what needed to be built? What needed to be demolished? How did the change from Seneca Village to Central Park impact the residents? Your summary should include relevant facts, important details, quotations, or examples related to the text. (Writing: Text Types and Purposes: W.6.2, W. 7.2)
Read the book, The Park and the People: A History of Central Park by Roy Rosenzweig. Which details are the same as those shared in My Seneca Village? What new details do you learn in the historical account? After reading Rosenzweig’s book, create a written report that includes important facts, details, and examples about the events that occurred between 1825 and 1857 in Seneca Village. Your report should also include a derailed timeline that illustrates the events discussed in your report(Reading Literature: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: RL.6.9, R.L., 7.9)
Read the final section of the text, “About the Poems.” Based on Nelson’s explanations, list and define the types of poems included throughout the book. Next, create a new entry about one of the characters in the story that incorporates a poem and written paragraph. The poem should be aligned to one of the poetry styles described by the author. Your final piece should present new information about the character in two formats (i.e., written paragraph and poem). The poem should also incorporate sensory language, dialogue, transition language, events, and descriptions that develop the character. (Writing: Text Types and Purposes: W.6.3, W. 7.3)
The abolitionist movement is highlighted in the poem “Wild Night.” Research the abolitionist movement in New York. Why is the abolitionist movement significant to the members of the Seneca Village community? How did it impact all people living in New York? How may it have impacted people in Seneca Village? Create a ten-minute PowerPoint presentation that emphasizes the important events of the abolitionist movement in New York, key individuals, involvement of African Americans, successes, and challenges of the movement. (Speaking and Listening: Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas: W.6.5, W. 7.5)