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Sunday, December 8, 2013

"Forgotten Language" by Shel Silverstein

My students took their first curriculum assessment of the year a few weeks ago. I intentionally set the test aside and saved it for our fall semester exam review. I am also hoping that the kids will have forgotten most of their thinking from before Thanksgiving, and we can look the reading passages with a fresh perspective..

Review for me is not just looking at answer choices. I will teach the passages from the test in an effort to model how they should be thinking about any reading, not just to answer test questions, but to gain something from the reading. Hefty goal on my part, I know. To them, it is simply a test with stuff to read.

The first passage we are going to look at is Shel Silverstein's "Forgotten Language." There were only three questions on the test regarding this poem, but my students struggle with poetry, and three questions failed are three questions failed. 

To teach this poem, I have incorporated a number of strategies:

  • From Notice and Note, I will be using the Again & Again signpost to focus on the meaning of Once and the significance of the repeated last line in connection to the rest of the poem. 
  • From Kelly Gallagher's Deeper Reading, I am using two strategies. For the second reading, we will focus on answering three questions: What does it say? What does it mean? What does it matter? I have also added the reflective question, What is the most valuable idea that you can take from this poem?
  • I am going to be using Nearpod for students to respond to all questions in the lesson. Because this review is also helping them prepare for their fall final exam, I need all students thinking and showing their thinking. I do not want them being passive and allowing others to answer questions for them. By being able to see their responses (thinking), I will be able to determine who is understanding or not understanding what. (Plus I just got Chromebooks and the kids are anxious to start using them.)
The only thing that makes this a test-related lesson is the incorporation of the test questions. I loathe multiple-choice questions, but such is the mandate of federal regulations; therefore, they must be taught at some point in time. More importantly, though, I hope they discover that Shel Silverstein is much more than a goofy poem writer. 


  1. Do you have the three test questions somewhere? I'm curious what they would be asking about this poem. Also what grade level is this for? I teach 6th. Thank you!

  2. Two of the questions were in the presentation. One question was over tone. My eighth graders struggle with differentiation tone and mood, and even though they can use a dictionary on their exams, they never look this up. Another question was about the meaning of the last two lines. A third question was a text-to-text connection question. I did not include that, as I was only going over the poem and not the connected short story.