Tuesday, March 19, 2013

lesson plan: muhammed ali and voice

the fourth graders i adore and am lucky enough to teach creative writing to each friday are heading into mandated testing season. i feel for them AND their tireless teachers. so much rides on their performances. so much rides on how they score on a test written by imperfect, anonymous test writers. they've been working on instilling their own voices into the required writing exercises and asked if there were any way for me to help AND give them their much needed creative break.

tall order, right?

the thing about ten year olds is that they like to identify with things. you. famous people. justin bieber. video games.

i also knew that they all probably had an idea of who muhammed ali was. AND i knew there was an audio/video clip out there i watch when i need to get motivated about something. (the jiu jitsu video i love to watch is located here. the plain, non-jiu jitsu version of his speech can be found here. the "poem" part of the speech starts at the 0:58 second mark.)

the clip is ali before the rumble in the jungle in 1974 against a younger, faster george forman. the kids loved this. they love underdogs and they LOVE how poetically ali can wax about himself and his abilities.

after having a few of the kids read the "poem" aloud (it's great to hear their different takes on it), i have the teacher play the shortened version clip so they can hear the man themselves. it's pretty powerful.

and then? i set them free to write their own version of a poem touting their skills.

i emphasized exaggeration, hyperbole, metaphor, and simile.

i emphasized voice and that this is NOT about putting someone else down, but about building yourself up. this piece of writing wasn't about anybody but themselves.

some chose sports. some chose their voracious reading abilities. fashion design, dancing, and rhyming all found their way in there, too.

there's an endless amount of writing ali's voice can inspire...see what it unleashes in your students!

I’ll Show You 
by Muhammad Ali

I have wrestled with an alligator.
I’ve done tussled with a whale.
I done handcuffed lightning,
thrown thunder in jail.
That’s bad!
 Only last week I murdered a rock,
injured a stone,
hospitalised a brick!

I’m so mean
I make medicine sick!
Bad, fast! Fast! Fast!
Last night I cut the light off
in my bedroom,
hit the switch
and was in the bed
before the room was dark.

You and George Foreman,
all you chumps
are gonna bow
when I whoop him,
all of you,
I know you got him, I know you've got him picked,
but the mans in trouble,
Ima show you how great I am.  
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