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A Poetic Look at Contrasting Views of Innovators

by Eva Sullivan, McKinley Elementary School

Lesson Plan

Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune

Concept / Topic To Teach:

People create change in society. Innovative thinkers may use different philosophies and strategies to achieve the same or similar ideas.

Grade Level:


Standards Addressed:

Make critical comparisons (including similarities and differences) across texts … while making the critical comparisons. Summarize the information in texts, and recognize important ideas and supporting details, as well as note gaps or contradictions in the text. Select, create and use graphic organizers to interpret textual information.(prewriting). Answer literal, inferential, evaluative and synthesizing questions to demonstrate my understanding of print texts and electronic and visual media.
Write narratives that maintain a clear focus and point of view and use sensory details and dialogue to develop plot, characters, and a specific setting. Write responses to novels, stories, poems and plays that provide an interpretation, critique or reflection and that support judgments with specific references to the text.
Identify appropriate sources, and gather relevant information from multiple sources (for example: library catalogs, online databases, electronic resources and Internet-based resources). Identify elements of validity in sources, including publication date, topic coverage, language or word choice, authors’ points of view, and discuss primary and secondary sources.
Deliver informational presentations (for example: expository, research) that:
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the topic and present events or ideas in a logical sequence;
  • Support the controlling idea or thesis with relevant facts, details, examples, quotations, statistics, stories and anecdotes;
Deliver formal and informal descriptive presentations that convey relevant information and descriptive details.


One week during a five-week unit.

General Goal(s):

Students will work collaboratively to research two innovators, gather primary and secondary sources, and compose a poetic dialogue between the two chosen people.

Specific Objectives:

  • Critical comparison
  • Summary
  • Research primary and secondary sources
  • Identify validity of sources
  • Narrative and poetic writing
  • Formal presentation of document
  • Collaboration

Required Materials:

Biographical texts (books, encyclopedias, Internet sites)
Primary sources (Newspaper articles)
Computers with Internet access and word processing program

Primary Sources Used:

To be determined as subjects are chosen.


Working with a partner, research two people (a list of research pairs will be created by teacher), record information in a Venn diagram, use the information to create a dialogue, and finally turn the written dialogue into a poem for two voices which will be orally performed for the class.
1. As a whole group, the class will read background information on Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and quotes from each man. (See "Classroom Materials" above.)
2. As a whole group, students will discuss the writings, and then use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the two leaders and their philosophies for gaining equal rights for African Americans.
3. As a whole group, students will write a fictional dialogue (debate) between the two men. This dialogue will provide a rough draft for a poem for two voices to be written as the final product of this lesson. (See Joyful Noise, Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleishman in "Classroom Materials" above.)

Step-By-Step Procedures:

1. Working with a partner, students will research a pair of innovators. (Ex. Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington, Mary McLeod Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt, George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington, Andrew Carnegie and Clarence Darrow.)
2. Working with a partner, students will discuss the writings, and then use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the two leaders and their philosophies and or inventions.
3. Working with a partner, students will write a fictional dialogue (debate) between the two innovators. This dialogue will provide a rough draft for a poem for two voices to be written as the final product of this lesson. (See Joyful Noise, Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleishman).

Homework and Practice:

  • Students will gather Internet sources and biographical books, record information on note cards and determine powerful words that concisely represent the philosophical ideas associated with the people and their goals.
  • Students will rehearse “Poems for Two Voices” by reading aloud the poems by Paul Fleishman and then create their own poems following that model.

Closure (Reteach):

Following conference with student pairs, teacher will determine strong exemplars, and with students’ permission, teacher will ask one or two pairs to share their work with the class.


Assessment Based On Objectives:

1. Students will publish their poem using a word processing program.
2. Students will perform the poem for classmates.

Adaptations (For Students With Learning Disabilities):

  • Texts at various reading levels will be available in the classroom.
  • Teacher will encourage pairs of mixed ability.
  • Teacher will conference with pairs throughout project, monitoring for understanding and provide support as needed.

Extensions (For Gifted Students):

Gifted students may elect to work individually, rather than with a partner.

Possible Connections To Other Subjects:

Social Studies
1. Obtaining Information:
Use multiple sources to define essential vocabulary and obtain information for a research project including:
  • Almanacs;
  • Gazetteers;
  • Trade books;
  • Periodicals;
  • Video tapes;
  • Electronic sources
2. Thinking and Organizing:
  • Analyze information from primary and secondary sources in order to summarize, make generalizations and draw conclusions.
  • Organize information using outlines and graphic organizers.
  • Read and interpret pictographs, bar graphs, line graphs, circle graphs, tables and flow charts.
3. Communicating Information:
  • Complete a research project that includes a bibliography.
  • Communicate a position on a topic orally or in writing and support the position with evidence.
4. Problem Solving:
  • Work effectively to achieve group goals:
  • Engage in active listening;
  • Provide feedback in a constructive manner;
  • Help establish group goals;
  • Take various roles within the group;
  • Recognize contributions of others.