Trayvon Martin Lesson (this is a timely lesson for March 2012)
AIM: I can define, identify, and create “mood” in poetry (note: I define mood as the
emotion a reader gets from reading a piece of literature. This is separate from
“tone”, which is the emotion a writer has toward a subject. Kind of two sides of the
“Song for the Little Man” by Tracy Chapman and lyrics
clip(s) of news stories regarding Trayvon Martin…I used this one but there are
infinite informative ones out there; figure out what will work for you and your
Necessary media equipment
1) What is the “mood” of a poem?
2) What is the mood of “Song for the Little Man” (lyrics here:
1. Discuss the definition of “mood” and what particular words create mood in the
Tracy Chapman song. Say that today we’re going to watch some clips about Trayvon
Martin and use his story to practice writing poems with a particular mood.
2. Ask students what they know about Trayvon Martin already to level the playing
field, although most news clips do a good job of giving background. Students should
go into the clip with a sense of the basic facts of the story.
3. Watch the news clip and ask students to think about what mood or emotions they
take from it (many of them will express their anger while the clip is still running!!)
4. Ask for a word to describe the mood they would want to use to write a poem
about. Write this word on the board and draw lines coming out from it in the shape
of a spider—this is called a Concept Map. You can merge moods that seem similar
(angry/frustrated/furious), (confused/surprised) to create multiple concept maps.
Tell them these words will be the mood of their poems.
5. Ask students to brainstorm details from the news story that connect to the mood.
Tell them this is where the actual lines of their poem will come from. Have students
specificy the word/phrase and which mood it connects with. For example, “racist
watchman” might connect to “anger”, while “the boy was unarmed” or “he had
skittles and ice tea” might connect to “confused/surprised”.
6. Once you have a healthy set of details connected to each mood, tell students to
pick one of the phrases to start their poem. So the poem’s first line might be “All he
was holding was ice tea and skittles”. Many students will be able to write from
7. For additional encouragement, you can tell students to write from the point of
view of someone in the story…Trayvon, George Zimmerman, the dispatcher, the 911
operator, a neighbor/witness, Trayvon’s girlfriend who called him seconds before
he died, the victim’s parents, Zimmerman’s parents. Obviously they can also use it
as a jump-off point to talk about their own experience with the police.
8. If a student is really stuck, you can write the word (eg, “anger”) vertically down
the page and have them write lines that begin with its letters, just to generate ideas
for an actual poem.
9. Students should have the option of sharing out if they want to! And kids are
always more inspired when you write too.