I read so many wonderful reviews of J Patrick Lewis’ new book, The Underwear Salesman: And Other Jobs for Better or Verse I couldn’t wait to read it, and of course I loved it! As I read, the poems seemed perfect for teaching two very difficult literary elements, tone and mood. My middle school students frequently get them confused and have a hard time understanding the difference in the two so I try to review them several times each school year.
The poems in The Underwear Salesman work great because they’re short, fun to read, and each poem has a personality of its own. Middle school students love to role play so the unusual careers in the collection such as: “Bathroom Attendant” and “Cuckoo-Clock Repairman” gave them lots of room to get into character.
Here's what I did:
First, I modeled by reading the poem “Librarian” using a very uppity boastful tone of voice.
No one has more fun than I!
I’ve met Harriet the Spy,
Ferdinand the Bull, and Pooh.
(Eeyore says, “How do you do?”)
You can read the rest of the poem here: Poetry for Children.
After the laughter stopped, students identified the tone I used, and then they identified the mood they felt as they listened to the poem.
Next, pairs of students selected a poem from The Underwear Salesman and wrote it down in their journal. I gave each pair an index card with a “secret” tone word on it. After practicing reading their poem using the assigned tone, they read their poem aloud to the class.
I divided the class in half. One group focused on tone, the other focused on mood. Using a resource list of tone and mood words, the groups identified the tone and mood of the poem. When students began pointing out that someone speaking in a boastful tone could make listeners feel hurt or angry, I knew they got it!
We had a lot of fun with this lesson. Next time, I think I’ll try having students read the poem then choose the tone they think the person who does that job might use instead of assigning a tone.
If you’re looking for a fun way to teach tone and mood, give The Underwear Salesman a try!
Want to know more about J Patrick Lewis?
Read an interview with him over at The Miss Rumphius Effect.
Check out J Patrick Lewis' website here.