Poetry for Home: Homelessness (High School)

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Activities will help students:

  • Read and interpret a poem
  • Identify and explain imagery used in a poem
  • Understand how much income is really required to make ends meet for the average American
  • Empathize with families who lose their homes

Objectives

Activities will help students:

  • Read and interpret a poem
  • Identify and explain imagery used in a poem
  • Understand how much income is really required to make ends meet for the average American
  • Empathize with families who lose their homes

Essential Questions

  • Do you think that everyone is entitled to a nice place to call home? Why or why not?
  • Have you ever been dissatisfied about how much space you have to live in? Why or why not?
  • What does it mean to get evicted? What is a foreclosure?
  • What do you think it would feel like to be uncertain about where you were going to sleep each night? Or to have your family move in with another family?

Materials

Reading and Language Arts/Civics/Economics

  1. There are at least two ways to lose your home today. One is to be evicted and the other is through foreclosure. What do you already know about this topic? What is the purpose for studying this topic? Share your opinions with your classmates.
  2. One reason people get evicted is because they can’t pay their rent. With a partner, discuss the question: Whose fault do you think it is when people can’t pay their rent? Then silently read the poem by Robert Flanagan and answer the questions at the bottom of the handout.
  3. Answers aren’t always as simple as they appear. Using the “Calculating the Poverty Line” complete the worksheet to see how much income is really needed to make ends meet for the average family in your community.
  4. After completing “Calculating the Poverty Line,” go back and reread Flanagan’s poem. What new insight do you have about the poem now that you know the numbers? Does this activity influence you in any way? How so? How does knowing the numbers motivate you?
  5. With your partner, jot down any facts or details that you have either observed or heard  relating to homelessness in your area. What else would you like to know about homelessness in your community? Use your questions to guide your own exploration. Explore the problems, decisions and solutions. Document the process and report your discoveries to the class.

APPLYING WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED

Effective learners connect what they learn to their own lives. Think about what you have learned in this lesson. Discuss the following questions with a classmate or answer them in a journal.

  • Are homeless people lazy and that’s why they lose their homes? 
  • Why do you think the general stereotype of homelessness is so negative?  
  • What are reasons people lose their homes? Are any of these reasons out of their control? Are any of these reasons unfair? 
  • When you think about your own home now, what thoughts do you have?

Standards

Activities and embedded assessments address the following standards (McREL 4th  edition)

Civics

Standard 3. Understands the sources, purposes, and functions of law, and the importance of the rule of law for the protection of individual rights and the common good.

Economics

Standard 5. Understands unemployment, income and income distribution in a market economy.

Historical Understanding

Standard 2. Understands the historical perspective.

Language Arts

Standard 5. Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process.

Standard 6. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of literary texts.

United States History

Standard 31. Understands economic, social and cultural developments in the contemporary United States.