ALEX Learning Activity

What It Means to Be an American Found Poem

A Learning Activity is a strategy a teacher chooses to actively engage students in learning a concept or skill using a digital tool/resource.

  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Charissa Lambert
System:Calhoun County
School:Wellborn High School
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 2248
What It Means to Be an American Found Poem
Digital Tool/Resource:
Web Address – URL:
Not Applicable

This learning activity should be used after students have analyzed and examined three informational texts in order to answer the Big Question, "What does it mean to be an American?" Students will then use textual evidence from one text in order to produce a found poem as a whole class. This activity provides students the ability to approach poetry in a non-threatening manner, while also asking students to look past only explicit meaning in texts. Found poetry is the literary equivalent to a collage, so students respond to this activity positively because of its creative nature.    

This activity was created as a result of the ALEX Resource Development Summit.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 11
10 ) Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain. [RI.11-12.1]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.11.10- Answer who, what, when, where, and why questions to analyze informational text, using textual evidence and inferences as support.

English Language Arts
ELA2021 (2021)
Grade: 11
R5. Utilize a writing process which includes planning, revising, editing/peer-editing, and rewriting to create a focused, organized, and coherent piece of writing for a specific purpose and audience.
Learning Objectives:

The students will produce poetry using textual evidence from informational texts.  

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

Hand out the texts for students to have all three documents in hand. Instruct your students to select one text that stood out to them the most. They should then select and highlight one phrase and one word that they annotated from the previous class periods.  This phrase and the word should be something that spoke to the student. Working in pairs or small groups, have them share their word and their phrase, explaining why they selected each. Instruct students to write their phrase and their word on separate strips of paper. Sentence strips work best for this activity. They should write in markers and large print. Next, form a circle. Explain that you will be creating a “Found Poem” -- a literary equivalent of a collage -- using the words and phrases from the texts they have read.  Next, form a circle in the classroom with empty floor space in the middle of the circle.  Each student will have three turns to produce a poem on the floor. On the first two rounds, each student can place or move a word/phrase strip in the center of the circle on the floor. On the final round, they can place, move, or pass. After you have gone around the circle three times, your poem will be complete.  This activity not only allows students to analyze several texts, but it also asks them to think critically and creatively to construct a class poem. Ask for a volunteer to read the poem out loud to the class. Tape the poem to chart paper and hang it up so the whole class can read it.

Ask questions for further reflection considering the rationale behind what it means to be an American:

  • What themes from the texts does the poem draw attention to?
  • Does it give us any new insight into the texts?
  • Is there anything in the texts that are missing from our found poem?
  • Do you see those themes in any experiences you have had or in stories you hear in the news today? Encourage students to share personal stories if they feel comfortable doing so.
Assessment Strategies:

This activity can be used to measure the students' ability to annotate and analyze informational texts. Teachers can measure mastery of annotation and analysis using the hard copies of annotated texts of students.  

This activity can be used to measure the students' ability to produce clear and coherent writing through the task of creating a poem and reflection questions.

Advanced Preparation:

Teachers should make sure to watch the video provided in order to see this activity performed in a classroom:

Before completing this activity, students will have read and annotated the following texts in several class periods:

John McCain's Farewell Address

Red Jacket's Speech defending Native American Religion

Oral Histories of Frank Yamasaki and Mary Jenkins

Teachers should be asking students to annotate texts for connotative diction, patriotic imagery, and strong figurative language. These devices will allow students to have much to pull from in order to construct their class poem.  

Variation Tips (optional):

This activity can be completed as a whole group or the class could be divided into groups based upon the texts the students have chosen. Also, the reflection questions could be completed as a whole class discussion or as a written assignment.  

Notes or Recommendations (optional):
  Keywords and Search Tags  
Keywords and Search Tags: American, annotation, civics, discussion, history, informational text, poetry, textual evidence, writing