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Poetic Teachable Moment-Obama Inauguration

A few weeks ago, I posted some great ideas I found online that secondary teachers might like to commemorate this very historic month.  I received a lot of positive feedback and questions on how to incorporate the Inaugural Poem into lesson plans, etc.  Here is my original lesson plan based on the great activity found at http://www.teachervision.fen.com/poetry/lesson-plan/4414.html?detoured=1


If you don't plan on viewing the Presidential Inauguration with your students, here is an idea to incorporate perhaps the most notable inauguration in US History with a current/most recent study of poetry.

Elizabeth Alexander will be reciting an original piece of poetry for today's inauguration.  When interviewed on Friday by CNN, she quoted some verses from her poem, "Ars Poetica #100: I Believe"€ that may demonstrate her vision of the poem she will read today.


Below are some discussion questions, etc. that can anchor students to this inauguration to any current (or recent) investigations in poetic verse.  PLEASE feel free to embellish discussion and SHARE your ideas! :-)



From "Ars Poetica #100: I Believe"

by Elizabeth Alexander
2009 Presidential Inaugural Poet

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I"m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

Teachable Moment - Obama Inauguration
Inaugural Poet spotlight
Elizabeth Alexander

Possible Discussion questions:

Literal analysis:

1. What images does Ms. Alexander evoke in verses 1-3?
2. What does she say that poetry is NOT?
3. What form of poetry is this?

Inferential analysis:

1. What purpose, do you think, does Ms. Alexander have in using basic, everyday images in the beginning of the poem? 
2. Why do you think she emphasize that her "...voice is rising" in line 6 and is the "...loudest in line 9?
3. Ars poetica is Latin for the art of poetry.  Explain why or why not the title for Ms. Alexander's poem (from which this excerpt was taken) "fits" or not.
4. From just this brief example of Ms. Alexander's poetry, what theme or tone do you predict her Inaugural Poem to have?
5. What recent political/ cultural/ human events do you think she may discuss in her poem? Why?

Follow up with structured viewing of televised events of the 44th Presidential Inauguration:

TV Programming note:
The oath of office will be administered to the President-elect and the Vice President-elect on the steps of the United States Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2009 beginning at 11:30 a.m. EST. The ceremony should last just more than one hour and will be televised in its entirety on news networks (CNN, MSNBC, etc.) The Presidential Inauguration Committee lists the official program for the inaugural swearing-in ceremony as follows:

The red denoted portions below denote what will be televised beginning at 12:00 EST/9:00 a.m. PST and can be viewed with students during peak morning instructional time:

Musical Selections
The United States Marine Band
The San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus
Call to Order and Welcoming Remarks - Approximate time 11:30 a.m. EST
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein

Dr. Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA

Musical Selection
Aretha Franklin

Oath of Office Administered to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. - Approximate time 11:46 a.m. EST
By Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, The Honorable John Paul Stevens

Musical Selection, John Williams, composer/arranger
Itzhak Perlman (Violin), Yo-Yo Ma (Cello), Gabriela Montero (Piano), Anthony McGill (Clarinet)

Oath of Office Administered to President-elect Barack H. Obama - Approximate time 11:56 a.m. EST
By the Chief Justice of the United States, The Honorable John G. Roberts, Jr.

Inaugural Address - Approximate Time 12:01 p.m. (9:01 PST)
The President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama

Elizabeth Alexander

The Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery

The National Anthem
The United States Navy Band "Sea Chanters"


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