I teach seventh graders. Every year my coworker and I decide to read "The Names" by Billy Collins with students. They read it on their own, stop and jot down which words from the poem make them think (and what they think), and then we read it again, aloud, doing the same. They turn and talk about their notes, then share with the class. As they're sharing, some of their confusion is alleviated, some experience "aha" moments, and others still don't really get the gist of the poem.
Here are some quips I heard this year at this point in the lesson:
- I don't get the names. What are they for?
- Are they for people who died?
- Does he know these people, since he grew up in New York?
- Why are names "written in the sky"? Where?
- Why does he count 26 willows?
- I think it's for the alphabet - he follows the alphabet!
- But didn't a lot more people die?
- He sees them everywhere - because of the memorials?
- It sounds kind of sad in some spots.
- I'm not sad about it. It didn't affect me or my family.
Then we share this video:
- I thought the sounds at the beginning were funny, until I realized what was happening.
- That was so sad.
- When they added that girl talking about her father, that had a big impact.
- The music itself was sad.
- I saw my grandpa's picture and his name in the video.
- I'm still not sad about it, but I am sad for the people who lost someone.
- Did the people in the planes know what was happening?
- They must have planned a lot for this.
- Were the terrorists the pilots?
- I saw a big list of firefighters.
- My family had a tough time because they had to defend themselves against people who thought it was Muslims who attacked. People who follow Islam reject terrorism. My grandparents and parents had to teach others about Islam.