Using Personal Narratives to Connect to Students' Lives
Materials for Studying "A Lower East Side Poem"
Here are some materials that I used to teach a personal narrative poem:
- “A Lower East Side Poem” by Miguel Pinero
- A biography of Miguel Pinero
- Examples of other personal narrative poems or songs (e.g., Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up in Blue")
- Images of your students' neighborhoods
- Assessment on personal narrative and assessment on the poem in the form of a multiple choice quiz
- Outline graphic organizer of a personal narrative poem
Additionally, I spent some time teaching students how to evaluate a text and how to organize their notes. Furthermore, students needed to have a good working definition of personal narrative before tackling the writing task, so it was important for them to learn the elements of a personal narrative poem before responding to the writing task. As pointed out above, I used Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up in Blue" as a model of a personal narrative. Below are some of the specifics on how I approached the instruction of personal narratives.
An Exploration of Personal Narrative
Background I shared with students:
- Relationships: Teacher will describe a relationship with a family member or friend in her life.
- Neighborhoods: Teacher describes the neighborhood s/he grew up in and the activities of the residents to the class. Then provides images of students' neighborhood and Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1970s in order to compare and contrast. Images of Manhattan’s Lower East Side in present time are introduced.
- Students discuss how their own city has many different neighborhoods and how different students and types of people come from different parts of a single city.
- Vocabulary: Teacher introduces new vocabulary from “A Lower East Side Poem.”
- Parts of a personal narrative: Teach what details and parts are incorporated in the text into a personal narrative.
- Literary elements: Teach literary elements and techniques that writers incorporate in the text.
Scaffolding prior to final writing task:
- Listen to songs that are personal narratives (e.g., Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up in Blue") and list the details in the songs that make them narratives.
- Read a biography about Miguel Pinero’s life and take notes on the various time periods and events that occurred in his life.
- Make predictions about the topics/subjects his writing will be about.
- Describe your neighborhood in 3 sentences. Include the types of people who live there, what the buildings look like, and the kinds of sounds that you hear.
- Group students according to their neighborhoods and build on the characteristics and descriptions of their neighborhoods.
- Map new vocabulary words.
- Compare and contrast your neighborhood to Miguel Pinero’s neighborhood on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1970s in a Venn diagram.