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The Language of Literature, Grade 8
 
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Return to book index Unit 2 : Rising to the Challenge
Listening for Appreciation: Poetry on Tape

Mother to Son/Speech to the Young
Listening for Appreciation: Poetry on Tape (p. 196)

Tape-record a reading of "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes or "Speech to the Young" by Gwendolyn Brooks. Include background music or sound effects to help make the meaning clear. Play the tape for the class.

As you listen to your classmates' recordings, remember that listening to a poem is different from listening to a news report or to a math lesson. In appreciative listening, your purpose is not to remember directions or technical details, but simply to understand and enjoy the work. Try the following strategies as you listen to the poems.

  • Visualize while listening. Forming pictures in your mind of the people, scenes, and events being described can bring the work alive. For example, if someone is describing a school dance, imagine the clothes the people are wearing, the decorations, and the lighting.
  • Activate the senses. Listen for words that appeal to your five senses. A poem about a city may call to mind the sound of horns and traffic, while a story set in a bakery may evoke the smell of baking bread.
  • Make connections. Try to connect personally with what you are hearing. Do the images in the poem remind you of something you have seen? Have you ever experienced the feelings the poet describes?

The more you practice appreciative listening skills, the more natural they will become. Click on the links below to hear Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes read their own poetry.

Poetry Exhibit: Gwendolyn Brooks http://www.poets.org/ poet.php/ prmPID/ 165
The American Academy of Poets created this page about Gwendolyn Brooks, which includes biographical information, a bibliography, the text of selected poems, and an audio clip of the poet reading "We Real Cool."

Poetry Exhibit: Langston Hughes http://www.poets.org/ poet.php/ prmPID/ 83
The American Academy of Poets' Langston Hughes exhibit includes information about the poet's life and work, the text of many of his poems, and an audio clip of Hughes reading "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," one of his most famous poems.