Poetry analysis: “Equipment” by Edgar A. Guest

I am constantly seeking ways to help my students develop a love for poetry. I strongly believe that poetry helps children develop not only an interest in reading but also a love for writing. Unlike books and essays, poems are short and many of the same devices used in poetry are used in prose. A line in poetry is similar to a sentence in prose. A stanza is similar to a paragraph. A simile is used in both poetry and prose. Like prose, poems are often written from a certain point of view, follow a certain genre, and tell memorable stories. 

I use a variety of tools including graphic organizers, P.L.O.R.E., read aloud, read silently, reader’s theater, memorization, and even costumes to help my students develop a love for poetry.  

The poem, Equipment, by Edgar A. Guest is a student favorite because of the positive message. It’s also universal, although Guest addresses the “lad,” which is mostly thought of as a young male, the poem actually has universal appeal that both male and female can embrace. 

Edgar Albert Guest was born in 1881 in Birmingham, England. He moved to American when he was 10 and became a naturalized citizen soon after. He became known as the “People’s Poet” because of the optimistic nature of his life’s work and his popularity.  His poem, Equipment, was Dr.  George Washington Carver’s favorite poem. The reading below is of Dr. Carver who  read this poem it at an audio station at the George Washington Carver Museum.

Equipment

By Edgar A. Guest

Figure it out for yourself, my lad,
You’ve all that the greatest of men have had,
Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes,
And a brain to use if you would be wise.
With this equipment they all began,
So start for the top and say ‘I can.’

Look them over, the wise and great,
They take their food from a common plate
And similar knives and forks they use,
With similar laces they tie their shoes,
The world considers them brave and smart.
But you’ve all they had when they made their start.

You can triumph and come to skill,
You can be great if only you will,
You’re well equipped for what fight you choose,
You have legs and arms and a brain to use,
And the man who has risen, great deeds to do
Began his life with no more than you.

You are the handicap you must face,
You are the one who must choose your place,
You must say where you want to go.
How much you will study the truth to know,
God has equipped you for life, But He
Lets you decide what you want to be.

Courage must come from the soul within,
The man must furnish the will to win,
So figure it out for yourself, my lad,
You were born with all that the great have had,
With your equipment they all began.
Get hold of yourself, and say: ‘I can.’ 

Analysis: In this poem, Edgar A. Guest speaks to young people. He challenges them to look within and believe in themselves. He explains that God has given them all that they need to succeed. He explains that they are no different than the “greatest of men.” All that they is needed is the will to dig deep, use what God has given them, and achieve great heights. 

STANZA 1:

  • This poem is written in couplets (a pair of lines of the same length that rhyme and complete one thought). In stanza 1, there are three couplets that challenge the “lad” to figure it out by realizing that he/she has all of the same “equipment” to succeed, just like the “greatest of men.”
  • The tone (poet’s attitude) of this poem is one of determined optimism. In the first stanza, he optimistically insists that you, we, the “lad” is quite capable. She must figure it out, use her brain, and and begin with two words: “I can.”

Figure it out for yourself, my lad,
You’ve all that the greatest of men have had,
Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes,
And a brain to use if you would be wise.
With this equipment they all began,
So start for the top and say ‘I can.’

STANZA 2:

  • He begins by telling the lad to “Look them over” and he uses an appositive (clarifying information that’s set off with a comma) to explain who “them” are.  
  • He uses everyday examples to draw parallels between “them” and the “lad” and he uses the word “similar” twice to emphasize his point.
  • He also uses the conjunction “but” to to bring the “brave and smart” back to the beginning when they made their start, when they weren’t great, when they were students in school, just like the “lad.”  

Look them over, the wise and great,
They take their food from a common plate
And similar knives and forks they use,
With similar laces they tie their shoes,
The world considers them brave and smart.
But you’ve all they had when they made their start.

STANZAS 3 & 4:

  • “You are the handicap you face” is a metaphor that tells the student that she creates her own obstacles. She must face her own doubts and overcome her fears. 
  • He uses anaphora (repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive lines) to shift the focus to “you.” His goal is to get the individual to see herself as one who can do it. In Stanza 1, he instructed her to say it. Now, he is drilling the point that she is equipped, she is able, and she absolutely can. 
  • In Stanza 4, he instructs the student to get out of her own way, speak truth over her life, study hard, and believe that God has equipped her to succeed.

You can triumph and come to skill,
You can be great if only you will,
You’re well equipped for what fight you choose,
You have legs and arms and a brain to use,
And the man who has risen, great deeds to do
Began his life with no more than you.

You are the handicap you must face,
You are the one who must choose your place,
You must say where you want to go.
How much you will study the truth to know,
God has equipped you for life, But He
Lets you decide what you want to be.

STANZA 5

  • He uses strong words like “courage” and “soul” and “will” to spark determination within the lad. 
  • He repeats his opening line, “figure it out for yourself, my lad,” to remind the lad that, ultimately, she must put in the work in order to succeed. 
  • He closes by repeating another line that places emphasis on the importance of speaking positive words to and about ourselves. 

Courage must come from the soul within,
The man must furnish the will to win,
So figure it out for yourself, my lad,
You were born with all that the great have had,
With your equipment they all began.
Get hold of yourself, and say: ‘I can.’ 

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African-American Poets: Milestones in History (grades 3rd – 8th)

What is African-American poetry?  Poetry in general is  like regular writing with a few tweaks. Instead of sentences, poems consist of lines. Instead of paragraphs, poems consist of stanzas. Poetry uses a lot of “sensory” language, or imagery, which consists of words that help us see, hear, taste, touch, and smell the experience.  

African American poetry is a type of writing that’s seeped in history, culture, and rich family traditions. It details things like oxtails, greens, and candied yams served up on Sundays after church and  old folk’s stories about growing up black in America. African-American poetry helps us feel the hot sun during a long day of picking cotton, the belting of whips beating down on a slave’s back, and it reminds us of the days when blacks could not drink from the same water fountain as whites. 

I could go on and on describing the beauty of African American poetry, but I think Lucy, Jupiter, Phillis, and George, can explain better than I can.

You see…

  • Lucy Terry’s Bars Fight (1746), is the first poem that we know of that was written by an African American.
  • Jupiter Hammond, a religious poet who led many slaves to Jesus Christ, is the first African American who published a poem.
  • Phillis Wheatley the first African American woman who published an entire book of poetry.
  • George Moses Horton, the slave from North Carolina who became the first African American to use verse to argue against slavery.

Take a look:

Image result for Lucy terry image
Lucy Terry Prince (c. 1730–1821) is the author of the earliest known work of literature by an African American. She was stolen from Africa and sold into slavery as an infant, and became a free woman in Massachusetts, 1756.

The first known poem written by an African-American was Bars Fight, by Lucy Terry. Bars Fight is a ballad. A ballad is a type of poem that tells a story. Bars Fight is about an attack on two white families by Native Americans. The title of the poem comes from the area where the attack took place, The Bars , which is an area in Deerfield. 

Her poem is also written in formal couplets. In poetry, a couplet is a pair of lines in a verse. Usually they rhyme and have the same , meter (rhythm). Each couplet makes up a unit or complete thought. 

Bars Fight (1746)

by Lucy Terry 

August ’twas the twenty-fifth,
Seventeen hundred forty-six;
The Indians did in ambush lay,
Some very valiant men to slay,
The names of whom I’ll not leave out.
Samuel Allen like a hero fout,
And though he was so brave and bold,
His face no more shalt we behold
Eteazer Hawks was killed outright,
Before he had time to fight, –
Before he did the Indians see,
Was shot and killed immediately.
Oliver Amsden he was slain,
Which caused his friends much grief and pain.
Simeon Amsden they found dead,
Not many rods distant from his head.
Adonijah Gillett we do hear
Did lose his life which was so dear.
John Sadler fled across the water,
And thus escaped the dreadful slaughter.
Eunice Allen see the Indians coming,
And hopes to save herself by running,
And had not her petticoats stopped her,
The awful creatures had not catched her,
Nor tommy hawked her on the head,
And left her on the ground for dead.
Young Samuel Allen, Oh lack-a-day!
Was taken and carried to Canada.

Image result for jupiter hammon images
Jupiter Hammon was the first African American poet to be published in the United States. He was born a slave Lloyd Harbor, New York, on October 17, 1711. The Lloyd family encouraged Hammon to attend school, where he learned to read and write. In his early years, Hammon was heavily influenced by a major religious movement called, “The Great Awakening.” His poems reflected his love for Jesus Christ and encouraged slaves to accept Christ as well. 

As you read this poem, consider the author’s message. What message do you think Hammond is trying to convey? 

A Poem for Children with Thoughts on Death (1792)

by Jupiter Hammond

O Ye young and thoughtless youth,

Come seek the living God,

The scriptures are a sacred truth,

Ye must believe the word.

Tis God alone can make you wise,

His wisdom’s from above,

He fills the soul with sweet supplies

By his redeeming love.

Remember youth the time is short,

Improve the present day

And pray that God may guide your thoughts,

And teach your lips to pray.

To pray unto the most high God,

And beg restraining grace,

Then by the power of his word

You’ll see the Saviour’s face.

Little children they may die,

Turn to their native dust,

Their souls shall leap beyond the skies,

And live among the just.

Like little worms they turn and crawl,

And gasp for every breath.

The blessed Jesus sends his call,

And takes them to his rest.

Thus the youth are born to die,

The time is hastening on,

The Blessed Jesus rends the sky,

And makes his power known.

Then ye shall hear the angels sing

The trumpet give a sound,

Glory, glory to our King,

The Saviour’s coming down.

Start ye saints from dusty beds,

And hear a Saviour call,

Twas a Jesus Chirst that died and bled,

And thus preserv’d thy soul.

This the portion of the just,

Who lov’d to serve the Lord,

Their bodies starting from the dust,

Shall rest upon their God.

They shall join that holy word,

That angels constant sing,

Glory, glory to the Lord,

Hallelujahs to our King.

Thus the Saviour will appear,

With guards of heavenly host,

Those blessed Saints, shall then declare,

Tis Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Then shall ye hear the trumpet sound,

The graves give up their dead,

Those blessed saints shall quick awake,

And leave their dusty beds.

Then shall you hear the trumpet sound,

And rend the native sky,

Those bodies starting from the ground,

In the twinkling of an eye.

There to sing the praise of God,

And join the angelic train,

And by the power of his word,

Unite together again.

Where angels stand for to admit

Their souls at the first word,

Cast sceptres down at Jesus feet

Crying holy holy Lord.

Now glory be unto our God

All praise be justly given,

Ye humble souls that love the Lord

Come seek the joys of Heaven.

 

Image result for phillis wheatley images
Phillis Wheatley was born inGambia, West Africa. No one knows for sure when she was born. However, when she was kidnapped and shipped to America, experts guessed she was around seven years old, because of her missing front teeth.  She was sold into slavery and purchased by the prominent Wheatley family of Boston. Although it was illegal to educate slaves, the Wheatleys taught Phillis how to read and write. She is the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry. 

Vocabulary

  • mercy – compassion shown towards someone
  • pagan – ungodly
  • benighted – in a state of moral ignorance
  • redemption – the act of being saved from sin
  • diabolic – connected to evil, the devil
  • angelic – like angels

How does Wheatley feel about  Africa?

On Being Brought from Africa to America

by Phillis Wheatley
‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, ChristiansNegros, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.

 

Image result for george moses horton images
George Moses Horton (1797? – 1884) was born a slave in North Carolina. He was the first African American to use poetry to promote antislavery messages. He earned money writing love poems for men who wanted to woo the ladies.

Horton’s poem is written in formal couplets. In poetry, a couplet is a pair of lines in a verse. Usually they rhyme and have the same , meter (rhythm). Each couplet makes up a unit or complete thought.

mood and tone help the reader find meaning in a poem. We can identify both by looking at the setting, characters, details, and word choices. 

mood – is the atmosphere of the story.

tone – the author’s attitude towards the topic. 

What is the tone of the poem, “Weep”? 

Support your answer with words from the poem and their meanings.

 

Weep

By George Moses Horton

Weep for the country in its present state,

And of the gloom which still the future waits;

The proud confederate eagle heard the sound,

And with her flight fell prostrate to the ground!

Weep for the loss the country has sustained,

By which her now dependent is in jail;

The grief of him who now the war survived,

The conscript husbands and the weeping wives!

Weep for the seas of blood the battle cost,

And souls that ever hope forever lost!

The ravage of the field with no recruit,

Trees by the vengeance blasted to the root!

Weep for the downfall o’er your heads and chief,

Who sunk without a medium of relief;

Who fell beneath the hatchet of their pride,

Then like the serpent bit themselves and died!

Weep for the downfall of your president,

Who far too late his folly must repent;

Who like the dragon did all heaven assail,

And dragged his friends to limbo with his tail!

Weep o’er peculiar swelling coffers void,

Our treasures left, and all their banks destroyed;

Their foundless notes replete with shame to all,

Expecting every day their final fall,

In quest of profit never to be won,

Then sadly fallen and forever down!

Additional Resources

Dream in Color, a collaborative effort for elementary-aged children. 

Please visit our website http://www.tamsanded.com

 

Teaching reading and spelling with vowel sounds

Maybe you’ve seen it. You begin reading with your child and the tears begin to flow. Your frustrated child can’t put the sounds together; can’t pronounce the words. It’s understandable. Out of the 26 letters in the alphabet, 5 of them are vowels. Those 5 vowels create 19 different sounds depending on the letter combination used in a given word.

Here are a few things to consider when teaching the short vowel sound:

  1. Introduce each vowel sound. Here is a video with short vowel sounds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQwQ7FWL4MM
  • short /a/ as in bat
  • short /e/ as in bet
  • short /i/ as in bit
  • short /o/ as in bot
  • short /u/ as in but
  1. For each short vowel sound teach a gesture or hand movement to go with it.
  • Short A – put your hand under your chin. Remind your student that when you say /ă/ your chin drops. Say, “Short a says, /ă/.”
  • Short E – Hold three fingers out horizontally. Say, “Short e says, /ĕ/.”
  • Short I – Touch your finger to your nose like you are dotting an i. Say, “Short i says, /ĭ/”.
  • Short O – Form your mouth in the shape of an o. Say, “Short o says, /ŏ/”.
  • Short U – /ŏ/”.Put your hands together and use your thumbs to form a u. Say, “Short u says /ŭ/”.

Remind students to do these gestures each day when they say the short vowel sounds.

You can also use these gestures when segmenting words for accurate spelling. For example, after you dictate the word rat, the student can say each sound in isolation. /r/ / ă / /t/.

 spell trek3. The game, Spell Trek, uses visuals for the vowels and reinforces vowel recognition, phonics, and spelling. During this game, players draw vowel tiles and use them to complete words. Scoring is based on the length of the word spelled, with a bonus point for more complex words.

Here is a video tutorial that parent can watch and receive additional tips on how to play Spell Trek as well as how the game can reinforce spelling and phonics.

I became a SimplyFun Playologist because I truly believe in providing children with multiple ways to learn and succeed in school. Academic game play is fun and effective. Please browse my SimplyFun web page for games and toys designed to help your child play, grow, and learn.

Please visit my SimplyFun web page today https://www.simplyfun.com/pws/gamestogrow/tabs/playologist-home.aspx

Panda Bear, what do you see? I see an adjective looking at me…

20150626_191542

This week, my homeschoolers and I recreated the animals in the book, Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? and used them to discuss nouns  (person, place, thing, or idea) and adjectives (word or words that modify a noun). 

Sea Lion
Sea Lion

The animals in the book are colorful and easy to trace. The students used googly eyes for the eyes, yarn for the whiskers, construction paper for the body parts, and crayons to color in the accents. As we made each animal, we identified the noun first. Afterwards, the kiddos identified the adjectives. They are as follows (adjective is in italics):

20150626_191639

  • Panda bear 
  • bald eagle
  • water buffalo
  • spider monkey
  • green sea turtle
  • macaroni penguin
  • sea lion
  • red wolf
  • Whooping crane

20150626_191612

  • black panther
  • dreaming child

To help them identify and remember the two parts of speech, the children wrote across the body of each animal. They wrote every adective in blue and every noun in black.

20150626_132702They strung their animals together and created a colorful window hanging.

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Reading strategies: P.L.O.R.E.

Although P.L.O.R.E  (Predict, Locate, Organize, Read, and Evaluate) is introduced to students in the 2nd grade, I encourage my ACT/SAT students to employ these strategies as well. These strategies work for all reading levels.

P stands for PREDICT. 20150525_194208Read the title and predict what the text will be about. Jot down a few ideas.

20150525_194229 Next, LOCATE and circle key words, names, and dates. Underline significant ideas and important passages.

20150525_194259

ORGANIZE  yourthoughts. Use the space space in the margins to jot down thoughts and ideas that you develop as you read.

NOTE Recently, one of my SAT students said that she is sure she would have scored much higher on the SAT reading had she been able to go back and quickly find the main ideas. She remembers skimming over them and regrets not writing key thoughts as she read.

20150525_194316 READ AND RE-READ the questions, the answer choices, and the text. Remember, several of the answers could be correct. You, however, are in search of the  best answer.

20150525_194244 Carefully EVALUATE your answers. Be able to justify your answer choices.

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