We are just beginning our unit on movements and justice, and I want to begin by having students
consider their role in justice. Are they a bystander? Ally? Victim? Bully? By pairing Gwendolyn
Brooks’s poem “The Boy Died in My Alley” with an article about how North Omaha was proven to
have the highest murder rate of young, black males in the country, I will invite students to look at
their community and their role in the injustices of their community. This pairing allows students to
practice empathy and activate self-knowledge to create a solution to the issue presented in the
article. It is important to bring in the events of the community (and this article followed the death of
a young girl just a few blocks away from the school) and let students know that literature can
provide a lens through which to read their world.
Essential Question:
What is our role in preserving justice?
Objectives: SWBAT
1. Analyze a poem and article through specific reading techniques
2. Connect a poem to an article relevant to their community/lives (apply self-knowledge to the
reading of the poem and article)
3. Empathize with the poem’s narrator and apply this to productive solutions to avoid being
bystanders to injustice
[15 minutes] Journal – write of a time you were a bystander in an unjust situation. How did you
react? How did you feel?
[2 minutes] Introduce activity of reading “The Boy Died in My Alley” by Gwendolyn Brooks
[3 minutes] Read poem silently one time
[2 minutes] Listen to the poem performed -
[5 minutes] Write what you think the poem may be about or write your reactions to the poem
[4 minutes] Read the poem silently again
This time, write down words or phrases that stand out to you
[4 minutes] Determine two lines/words from the poem and mark them on the poem
One line should be a word or phrase you like
The other line should be one that confuses you
You do not need to say which is which
[4 minutes] Quaker Reading (**Everyone must read twice )
Read your line when you feel it’s necessary/appropriate
If someone shares your line/word, you would follow them
[5 minutes] Write what you think the poem means now
Turn to your table partner to discuss
[10 minutes] Debrief
What words were particularly powerful?
What led you to your conclusion?
What does the poem have to do with justice?
[5 minutes] Pass out the article and read it aloud
[5 minutes] Write you initial reactions
[5 minutes] Share what you wrote with your table partner
[20 minutes] Large group discussion
Share highlights from small group discussion
Which text do you identify with most?
What connections do you see between the texts?
Gwendolyn Brooks, "The Boy Died in My Alley"
to Running Boy
The Boy died in my alley
without my Having Known.
Policeman said, next morning,
"Apparently died Alone."
"You heard a shot?" Policeman
Shots I hear and Shots I hear.
I never see the Dead.
The Shot that killed him yes I
as I heard the Thousand shots
careening tinnily down the
across my years and arteries.
I have always heard him deal
with death.
I have always heard the shout,
the volley.
I have closed my heart-ears late
and early.
And I have killed him ever.
I joined the Wild and killed him
with knowledgeable unknowing.
I saw where he was going.
I saw him Crossed. And seeing,
I did not take him down.
He cried not only "Father!"
but "Mother!
Policeman pounded on my door. The cry climbed up the alley.
"Who is it?" "POLICE!" Policeman It went up to the wind.
It hung upon the heaven
"A Boy was dying in your alley.
for a long
A Boy is dead, and in your alley.
stretch-strain of Moment.
And have you known this Boy
The red floor of my alley
is a special speech to me.
I have known this Boy before.
I have known this boy before,
who ornaments my alley.
I never saw his face at all.
I never saw his futurefall.
But I have known this Boy.
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