Poetry analysis: “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”

At TAMS and Ed Homeschool, we believe that every child should learn about the song, Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”  After all, poet James Weldon Johnson wrote Lift Every Voice and Sing in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It was performed for the first time  by 500 children in Jacksonville, Florida on February 12, 1900. 
In this blog, I have written two lessons, one for younger elementary students and one that can expand to include middle and high school as well. Students identify the parts of speech that Weldon uses to determine his intent and meaning of the poem. I also include simple terms such as free verse, hymn, and tone. 
Life voice
Weldon’s brother, John, set it to music and, shortly thereafter, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), adopted it as its official song. Today it is known as the Black National Anthem and is heralded as one of  the most cherished songs of the African American Civil Rights Movement.
Here are a few definitions that will help you better understand this poem:
  • free verse:  poetry that is free from specific patterns in meter or rhyme. The beauty of free verse is that although it does not follow specific patterns, it still allows the poet freedom to use whatever poetic devices are necessary to create the feeling that the poet wants to convey.  Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing is considered free verse because it does not follow a regular meter pattern.
  • hymn: a song or ode in praise or honor of God, a deity, a nation.
  • iamb a type of poetic “foot” made up of an unstressed and stressed syllable. Think of the way that you tap your feet to the beat of your favorite song.
  • iambic pentameter describes the particular rhythm that the words establish in a line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called “feet.” The word “iambic” describes the type of foot that is used (in English, an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable). The word “pentameter” indicates that a line has five of these “feet”.
  • imagery a poetic device used for language and description that appeals to our five senses including smell, sight, tough, taste, and sound.
  • meter is a stressed and unstressed syllabic pattern in a verse, or within the lines of a poem. 
  • stanza: a set amount of lines grouped by rhythmical pattern and meter. It usually has four or more lines and is can be referred to as a verse.

  • tone: the poet’s attitude, emotions, and feelings towards the topic. 
lift every voice children
Lift every voice and sing   
Till earth and heaven ring, 
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; 
Let our rejoicing rise 
High as the listening skies, 
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. 
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, 
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.   
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, 
Let us march on till victory is won. 
Stony the road we trod, 
Bitter the chastening rod, 
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;   
Yet with a steady beat, 
Have not our weary feet 
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed? 
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, 
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, 
Out from the gloomy past,   
Till now we stand at last 
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast. 
God of our weary years,   
God of our silent tears, 
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way; 
Thou who hast by Thy might   
Led us into the light, 
Keep us forever in the path, we pray. 
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee, 
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee; 
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,   
May we forever stand.   
True to our God, 
True to our native land.

Elementary analysis:

Read each stanza and identify the Parts of Speech that Weldon uses:

Use a red pen and write the following abbreviations over as many Parts that you can identify:

  • Noun n.
  • Verb v.
  • Adjective adj.
  • Adverb ad.
  • Pronoun pro.
  • Conjunction con.
  • Interjection int.
  • Articles art.

v.    adj.      n.     con.   v. 

Lift every voice and sing 

  Till earth and heaven ring, 

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; 

Let our rejoicing rise 

High as the listening skies, 

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. 

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, 

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.   

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, 

Let us march on till victory is won. 

 

2. hymn: a song or ode in praise or honor of God, a deity, a nation.

               Circle the words that Weldon uses that help you identify this poem as a hymn. 

3. imagery: a poetic device used for language and description that appeals to our five senses including smell, sight, tough, taste, and sound.

               Read the following Lines. Underline the words that help you see or feel something. Describe the images that you see or feel.  

  • Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
  • We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
  • We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
  • Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

Advanced Analysis (middle – high school):

The poem begins with an invitation for all voices to join as one and sing until heaven hears and responds rings out with the harmonies of Liberty (freedom). It goes on to encourage us to rejoice with loud singing, in the blessings of heaven.
 
He uses similes to convey these ideas.
L5 High as the listening skies, 
L6 Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
What additional similes or metaphors can you find? Please indicate the Line number and describe the comparisons.
Tone is the poet’s attitude, emotions, and feelings towards the topic.
I espouse a somber tone that is designed to remind African Americans of our dark past and the days when we were without hope. Yet, at the same time, he believes that we are facing a “rising sun” that represents a “new day” filled with new hope and a bright future.  Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not? Support your position with specific words and lines from the poem.
  1. Lift every voice and sing
  2. Till earth and heaven ring,
  3. Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
  4. Let our rejoicing rise
  5. High as the listening skies,
  6. Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
  7. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
  8. Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
  9. Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
  10. Let us march on till victory is won.
  11. Stony the road we trod,
  12. Bitter the chastening rod,
  13. Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
  14. Yet with a steady beat,
  15. Have not our weary feet
  16. Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
  17. We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
  18. We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
  19. Out from the gloomy past,
  20. Till now we stand at last
  21. Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
  22. God of our weary years,
  23. God of our silent tears,
  24. Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
  25. Thou who hast by Thy might
  26. Led us into the light,
  27. Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
  28. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
  29. Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
  30. Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
  31. May we forever stand.
  32. True to our God,
  33. True to our native land.

TAMS and ED stands for Technology, Language Arts, Math, Science, and Education.We provide a tough yet achievable home school for students who need personal attention in a safe home environment. We utilize a number of cross-curricular teaching tools including standard textbooks, computers and technology, academic excursions, and hands-on learning. Our qualified Board of directors consist of certified educators, parents, and administrators who are passionate about challenging every child to reach for the academic stars. Visit us online, click here.

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Poetry Analysis: Learning Parts of Speech With Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, or, What You Are You Are”

brooksGwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (June 17, 1917 – December 3, 2000) was an African American poet, author, and teacher. Her work often dealt with the personal celebrations and struggles of ordinary people in her community. Her poem, The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, or, What You Are You Are features all 9 Parts of Speech, making it not only the perfect poem to study the various Parts, but also enables students to enjoy the majesty of a prolific African American woman. 

Let’s review the 9 Parts of Speech: 

NOUN: A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea (ex. dog, school, television, freedom)

PRONOUN: A pronoun is word that takes the place of a noun (ex. he, she, her, they, them, it)

VERB: A verb describes action (ex. ran, sing, dance, talk)  or state of being (ex. is, were, be, are, was)

ADJECTIVE: An adjective is a word that describes  (modifies) a noun (ex. yellow, big, beautiful, saddened, fierce).

ADVERB: An adverb is a word that describes (modifies) a verb, an adjective, or another adverb (ex. loudly, carefully, under).

ARTICLE: An article is a word used to modify a noun, which is a person, place, object, or idea. Technically, an article is an adjective, which is any word that modifies a noun. Articles indicate general or generic (a, an) and specific (the). (ex. I want dog. vs.  I want the dog that I saw on t.v.). 

CONJUNCTION: A conjunction joins words, phrases, or clauses, and indicates the relationship between the elements joined. The acronym F.A.N.B.O.Y.S., which stands for For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So)  Coordinating conjunctions connect grammatically equal elements: and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet. Subordinating conjunctions connect clauses that are not equal: because, although, while, since, etc. There are other types of conjunctions as well.

INTERJECTION: An interjection is a word used to express emotion. It is often followed by an exclamation point (ex. Help!, Fire! Yaay!).

PREPOSITION: A preposition is a word placed before a noun or pronoun to form a phrase modifying another word in the sentence (ex. on, with, over, before, between).

First, read the poem. Write down as many of the Parts of Speech that you can identify. My examples follow.

 The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves,

or, What You Are You Are

By Gwendolyn Brooks

 

  1. There once was a tiger, terrible and tough,
  2. who said, “I don’t think tigers are stylish enough.
  3. They put on only orange and stripes of fierce black.
  4. Fine and fancy fashion is what they mostly lack.
  5. Even though they proudly
  6. speak most loudly,
  7. so that the jungle shakes
  8. and every eye awakes—
  9. Even though they slither
  10. hither and thither
  11. in such a wild way
  12. that few may care to stay—
  13. to be tough just isn’t enough.”
  14. These things the tiger said,
  15. And growled and tossed his head,
  16. and rushed to the jungle fair
  17. for something fine to wear.
  18. Then!—what a hoot and yell
  19. upon the jungle fell
  20. The rhinoceros rasped!
  21. The elephant gasped!
  22. “By all that’s sainted!”
  23. said wolf—and fainted.
  24. The crocodile cried.
  25. The lion sighed.
  26. The leopard sneered.
  27. The jaguar jeered.
  28. The antelope shouted.
  29. The panther pouted.
  30. Everyone screamed
  31. “We never dreamed
  32. that ever could be
  33. in history
  34. a tiger who loves
  35. to wear white gloves.
  36. White gloves are for girls
  37. with manners and curls
  38. and dresses and hats and bow-ribbons.
  39. That’s the way it always was
  40. and rightly so, because
  41. it’s nature’s nice decree
  42. that tiger folk should be
  43. not dainty, but daring,
  44. and wisely wearing
  45. what’s fierce as the face,
  46. not whiteness and lace!”
  47. They shamed him and shamed him—
  48. till none could have blamed him,
  49. when at last, with a sigh
  50. and a saddened eye,
  51. and in spite of his love,
  52. he took off each glove,
  53. and agreed this was meant
  54. all to prevail:
  55. each tiger content
  56. with his lashing tail
  57. and satisfied
  58. with his strong striped hide.

 

Here is a partial review of the Parts of Speech I found in this poem. What else can you find?

Line 2: who said, “I don’t think tigers are stylish enough.”

     The word tigers is a plural noun. 

Line 3: They put on only orange and stripes of fierce black

  The word they is a pronoun. It takes the place of the plural noun tigers. 

Line 4: Fine and Fancy fashion is what they mostly lack.

      The words fine and fancy are adjectives.  These adjectives describe the word fashion.

Lines 9 & 10:   L9 Even though they slither  L10  hither and thither

      The words hither and there are adverbs.  These adverbs describe the verb slither

 Lines 16 & 17 contain prepositions. The word to is a preposition. 

     Line 16 and rushed to the jungle fair

     Line 17 for something fine to wear.

Line 18  Then!—what a hoot and yell

     The word Then! is an interjection. 

Lines 24 – 29 all end with powerful verbs that describes what each animal did. Each line begins with the word the, which is an article. 

  • The crocodile cried.
  • The lion sighed.
  • The leopard sneered.
  • The jaguar jeered.
  • The antelope shouted.
  • The panther pouted.

Lines 37 & 38 use conjunctions to connect individual words. The word and is a conjunction.

     Line 37 with manners and curls

     Line 38 and dresses and hats and bow-ribbons.

 

Feel free to copy and paste this lesson and use it as a supplement to your lessons on the Parts of Speech and/or African American Poetry. For more lessons that emphasize African Americans, follow my blog. Also, like us on Facebook, TAMS and ED Homeschool. Visit our website at http://www.tamsanded.com 

Poetry analysis: Imagery & Onomatopoeia

For this lesson, I used the book, I Got the Rhythm, by Connie Schofield-Morrison who uses imagery and onomatopoeia to help us experience the beats that makes our bodies rock. Before I jump into that, however, I want to send a shout out to illustrator, Frank Morrison, whose art captures the essence of finding the rhythm within ourselves!

“To find the rhythm in yourself, all you’ve got to do is look around.” 

rhythm
I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison

imagery: the literary term used for language and description that appeals to our five senses. smell, sight, taste, touch, and hearing. 

onomatopoeia a word, which imitates the natural sounds of a thing. A few examples: “Honk honk,” says the car or “Ssssssss,” says the snake. 

Although I Got the Rhythm is not a book of poetry, per se, it is, nonetheless, a great resource that breaks down the elements of imagery and onomatopoeia, which are two prominent poetic devices. 

About the book: On a simple trip to the park, the joy of music overtakes a mother and daughter. The little girl hears a rhythm coming from the world around her- from butterflies, to street performers, to ice cream sellers everything is musical! She sniffs, snaps, and shakes her way into the heart of the beat, finally busting out in an impromptu dance, which all the kids join in on! Award-winning illustrator Frank Morrison and Connie Schofield-Morrison, capture the beat of the street, to create a rollicking read that will get any kid in the mood to boogie.Related image

Teachers, instruct your students to close their eyes and listen as you read the book. Tell them to point to the body part (eyes, nose, mouth, hands, and ears) that describes the images as you read them. Remind them of the definition of imagery and encourage them to feel the experience. 

Image result for frank morrison illustrator I got the rhythm

I’ve Got the Rhythm

By Connie Schofield-Morrison

I thought of a rhythm in my mind think think

I heard the rhythm with my ears beat beat

I looked at the rhythm with my eyes beat beat

I smelled the rhythm with my nose sniff sniff

I sang the rhythm with my mouth ooh la la

I caught the rhythm with my hands clap clap

I kept the rhythm with my fingers snap snap

I shook a rhythm with my hips shake shake

I felt the rhythm with my knees knock knock

I walked the rhythm with my feet stomp stomp

I tapped the rhythm with my toes tip tap

I danced to the rhythm of a drum beat bop

Related image

 

I clapped and snapped

I tipped and tapped

I popped and locked

I hipped and hopped

 

Analysis: Refer to my blog on Poetic Devices for definitions of the following as needed:

  • How many times does the author use the word “rhythm”?  Why do you think she repeats the word so many times?
  • What is the theme of this poem? 
  • What is the mood of this poem? 
  • How do the illustrations complement the words? 
  • Underline the verbs. Write a synonym for each one. 
  • Write two examples of imagery used.
  • “snap snap,” “clap clap,” “beat bop,” “bing bang” and “boom boom” are examples of onomatopoeia. Write what each sound is describing. For example, “snap snap” is the sound of fingers snapping. 

About the author: Connie Schofield-Morrison has been writing since she was a young girl and is inspired every day by the big sounds and bright colors of the world around her. I Got the Rhythm is her first picture book.

About the illustrator: Growing up in New Jersey, Frank Morrison began developing his own style through ‘R.I.P’ art scenes that brought him considerable street recognition and local acclaim. But it wasn’t until he visited the Louvre Museum in Paris with his dancing group, that he realized painting was his true creative path. His talent and hard work paid off with over 20 illustrated children’s books, including the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award winner, Jazzy Miz Mozetta and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book, Little Melba and her Big Trombone.

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TAMS and ED stands for Technology, Language Arts, Math, Science, and Education. We provide a tough yet achievable home school for students who need personal attention in a safe home environment. We utilize a number of cross-curricular teaching tools including standard textbooks, computers and technology, academic excursions, and hands-on learning. Our qualified Board of directors consist of certified educators, parents, and administrators who are passionate about challenging every child to reach for the academic stars. Visit us online, click here.

We promote diversity and tolerance in a safe learning environment. For TAMS and ED students, the world is their classroom. Come and join us!