University of Wisconsin–Madison

Pedagogical Suggestions Using the Poetry During the Ratification of the Constitution Page

Click here to view the Poetry During the Ratification of the Constitution Page


Making a Pinwheel Poem

  • Divide the class into working groups of 3-5 students.
  • Select a poem for the entire class and assign the groups individual stanzas from the selected poem.
  • Have the groups read their stanzas in their working groups.
  • After reading their stanzas, have them brainstorm, discuss, and reach a consensus as to what single word is the most important word in their assigned stanza. In their considerations they should consider a key word that can be used within several other sentences or phrases in the stanza. Their key word should be placed in the center of a piece of paper and the other phrases will radiate from the center of the paper. Students should feel free to edit or modify the words or phrase in their stanza to coordinate with their key word. For example, if you have selected “The New Constitution” from the Virginia Herald, 10 January 1788, the pinwheel might look like the illustration below.

Pinwheel

  • After each group has constructed their pinwheel, have them transfer it to a large piece of bulletin board paper (butcher paper) making sure their work is large enough to be seen throughout the classroom.
  • Have each student group present their stanza “pinwheel” to the entire class. You may want the class to have the original poem in front of them to check the accuracy and/or creativity of the group and possibly have them offer suggestions.
  • If a longer poem has been selected, you may want to assign groups several stanzas or assign stanzas to individual students rather than groups of students.

The “Found Haiku Poem”– It is suggested that students already be familiar with the Haiku form of poetry.

  • Divide the class into working groups of 3-5 students. If the poem is particularly long you may want to assign each student a stanza.
  • Assign each working group a section or a couple of stanzas of a selected poem.
  • Have the group read through their sections/stanzas.
  • After reading through their sections/stanzas, they should select words that can be used in the creation of a whole new poem in the Haiku form. Students could use the exact words or they could use synonyms for the words in the poem.
  • If students are not familiar with Haiku, it might be appropriate to spend a brief amount of time covering the essentials of Haiku. Basically, in Haiku there are three lines. The first line has five syllables. The second line has seven syllables. The last line has five. There is no need for a rhyming pattern in Haiku. An example of using this approach utilizing the first stanza of “The New Constitution” from the Virginia Herald, 10 January 1788, might be:

Saran sat alone
Minions fearful and confused
Expected chaos

  • After each group or individual student has completed “finding” and writing their Haiku, have them read their Haiku for the class. It might be appropriate to have the class follow along with a copy of the original poem as the groups read their Haiku.

The “Found Cinquain Poem”- It is suggested that students already be familiar with the cinquain form of poetry.

  • Divide the class into working groups of 3-5 students. If the poem is particularly long you may want to assign a stanza to each student.
  • Assign each working group a section or a couple of stanzas of a selected poem.
  • Have the group read through their sections/stanzas.
  • After reading through their sections/stanzas, they should select words that can be used in the creation of a whole new poem in Cinquain form. Student could use the exact words or they could use synonyms for the words in the poem.
  • If students are not familiar with Cinquain, it might be appropriate to spend some time covering the essentials of Cinquain. Basically, there are five lines. Here are three different cinquain formats.

Cinquain

  • An example of using this approach utilizing a variation of these formats using the first stanza of “The New Constitution” from the Virginia Herald, 10 January 1788, might be:

Saran
in hell alone
Sitting, calling, consulting
I doth not want my presence there
Devil

  • After each group or individual student has completed “finding” and writing their Cinquain, have them read their poem to the class. It might be appropriate to have the class follow along with a copy of the original poem as the groups read their Cinquain.

The “Telepathy Poem”

  • Divide the class into groups of four. Have the group subdivide into pairs; a “reading pair” (senders) and a “listening pair” (receivers).
  • Assign each group several stanzas of a poem. You will need to copy the stanzas and edit out some words or phrases in these stanzas before you give the poems to each of the student groupings.
  • Have the “reading pair” read the first set of lines stopping short of completing a full set of rhyming patterns. The listening pair then must complete the section of the stanza making sure they continue the rhyming pattern established in the first set of lines. An example of using this approach utilizing the first stanza of “The New Constitution” from the Virginia Herald, 10 January 1788, might be:

Sending pair reads-
The kingdom of Hell
As historians tell
Being once in great tribulation
From the South to the North
All its subjects call’d forth
To consult for the …….Receiving pair responds by filling in the gap left at the end of the line by possibly adding….

…good of the nation. (completion, rhyming and matched- receivers would get +3 points)
or
…sake of creation. (completion and rhyming- receivers would get +2 points)
or
…heck of it. (completion- receivers would get +1 point)

  • After groups have completed their stanzas have them look at the original poem to compare how they fared.
  • Award and record the scores for each of the pairs as they work through the stanzas of the poem. Remind the students that the decisions of the judge are final. A tally sheet could be used for each group and it might look like the illustration below.

Group A

Stanza 1
Senders Score-  X (the senders are sending the lines thus they cannot score this stanza)
Receivers Score _____

Stanza 2
Senders Score _____
Receivers Score – X (the receivers are sending the lines thus they cannot score this stanza)

Stanza 3
Senders Score – X (the senders are sending the lines thus they cannot score this stanza)
Receivers Score _____

Stanza 4
Senders Score _____
Receivers Score – X (the receivers are sending the lines thus they cannot score this stanza)

  • You might want to alternate the sending and receiving roles every other stanza as shown by the illustration above.
  • You can conclude by having the students consider if they would stick with the original version or whether they would prefer their rhyming patterns.
  • As students get adept at this you may want to increase the amount of missing words in the stanza that is being “sent” to the receiving pair.

*A variation on this “telepathy poem” approach would be to have all groups in competition with each other. If a class had 30 students there could be 6 groups. The teacher could list the groups and keep a running total of the scoring after each stanza. The groups would record their completions of the stanzas on an answer sheet. Answers would be checked after each stanza (round). As the teacher would “send” (read) the poem, each group would work together to complete the missing words in each stanza. You could award points progressively in a similar fashion as outlined above.

Finding the Bad Guy

  • Divide the class into working groups of 3-5 students.
  • Assign the poems listed below to the all groups. All have negative wordings and phrasings describing those who opposed the new Constitution.
  • Have each group make five T-charts They should look something like:

T Chart

  • Have the groups read through and record their findings as they look for the negative ways in which those in favor of the Constitution attacked those that opposed the Constitution.
  • After groups have read through the poems, have them report their findings to the entire class.

* You may want to reverse this approach by having students look for the “Good Guy.” For this, use the following poems:

A.B. (Francis Hopkinson): The Raising, Pennsylvania Gazette, 6 December 1788 (pdf)

Our Liberty Tree: A Federal Song, Massachusetts Centinel, 29 December 1787 (pdf)

The “Good Guy” spectrum would then look something like:

Good Guy