by Solmaz Sharif
Workshop Title: Americans
Have your students watch the embedded video. Then ask them why these people think of Americans the way that they do. Give your students time to discuss.
Read “He, Too” by Solmaz Sharif. Then discuss the way she feels about Americans and how they came to that conclusion.
Give your students time to come up with an encounter, observation, etc. that they feel exemplifies the way that they view Americans. For instance, Sharif’s encounter with the Customs agent, to her, reflected the way all – or a majority of -Americans behave. Have them try to think of a personal experience that, they feel, sums up what Americans are like.
Give your students time to write a poem like “He, Too” in which they recount an experience that they feel exemplifies the way that Americans behave, in their opinion.
When the students are done, have them share their responses with one another.
Area of Focus: Various
This lesson allows students to analyze various concepts and skills, so it is recommended that you have covered several of the “standalone” lessons before assigning this one. The prominent literary devices & techniques that this particular poem includes are: diction, selection of detail, structure (syntax), tone, and imagery.
Watch the following clip of a stand-up performance from comedian Patrice O’Neal. Then discuss the different ways Americans exemplify or exude their arrogance, according to O’Neal.
Read “He, Too” by Solmaz Sharif. As they’re reading, have them pay particular attention to any of the parallels between the poem and the content of the comedic clip. Then discuss.
Have your students open up the following document and go over the instructions with them. In this assignment, your students will have to create a hypothetical “text message conversation” in which they relay the holistic message of the poem, the different ways she feels toward Americans as expressed through the encounter depicted in the poem. Make sure that they use “specific” textual evidence from the poem in their conversation to discuss the encounter, how the speaker felt, and what the interaction says about typical “American exceptionalism or arrogance,” etc.
Have your students share a bit of what they created. Realistically speaking, the conversations may be a bit too long to share in their entireties, so have them quickly summarize how the conversation went down.
Share the following “exemplar” texting story so the students can see if they picked up on some similar insights.
- Education Formal / Informal
- Home / Homelessness
- Police Brutality / Profiling
- Race / Ethnicity / Racism
- Social Movements / Protest
- Selection of Detail
- Structure (Syntax)