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Knock, Knock: Turning Pain into Power

To move students to write the poem, I asked students to look at these three parts of the poem, "Read back over each part and write in the margin what the poet is writing about, how you connect to that part, and why you think it changes his writing style in each section." With a little nudging, students picked up on the story, the direct address and the letter format of the poem. I didn't labor over this part of the lesson. I wanted to call attention to it, so students could build their poems in a similar style.

I gave them the following assignment: "Taking a page from Daniel Beaty, write a letter poem to yourself, giving yourself the advice you need to hear. Notice how Beaty begins with a story, then moves into the letter part of the poem that he writes to heal himself. In his letter, he lists advice to himself: 'Shave in one direction, dribble the page with your brilliance.'"

"What advice do you need to hear? What do you need to do differently to succeed in school? In life? Beaty writes of the obstacles that need to be knocked down in his life: Racism, lack of opportunity. Are there obstacles in your life? Perhaps you have your school-, friend-, and home life together, then think of someone else who might need to hear a few words of advice.

"As an adult, there are things I wish my mother would have told me. This is not an indictment against her. Sometimes, children aren't ready to hear their parents. Also, we grow up in different times, different social periods."

Then I shared the beginnings of my poem and showed how I started with the apology, then moved from the negative to the positive in the second stanza. I also highlighted Beaty's lines to use as a frame for the poem:

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