a brief meditation on breath
by Yesenia Montilla
Workshop Title: Motifs
Ask your students to look at the word on the screen: “Breath.” Then have them talk about the different ways it is used, both in the literal and figurative sense, e.g. “She took my breath away.”
Read “a brief meditation on breath” by Yesenia Montilla. Then talk about the different ways she utilizes the term and the different meanings they have in the poem.
Have them, as a group, come up with a list of words that are particularly connotative, words that hold a variety of associations and meanings. You can write these words on the board or create a Google Jamboard if you’re working virtually.
Tell your students to choose one of those words. Then give them time to write down all of the associations and implications that their chosen word carries.
Have your students write a poem in which they utilize the same word or concept in a variety of ways throughout the piece. The subject matter of their poem is up to them, as long as they are able to incorporate that word or concept throughout the poem.
When the students are done, have them share their responses with one another.
Area of Focus: Various
This lesson allows students to analyze various concepts and skills, so it is recommended that you have covered several of the “standalone” lessons before assigning this one. The prominent literary devices & techniques that this particular poem includes are: diction, selection of detail, figurative language, tone, imagery, and structure (line breaks).
Read the poem aloud to the students, but don’t reveal the title to them quite yet. When you’re done reading the poem, ask them what they thought the driving concept or motif was throughout the poem. Your students should, hypothetically, come up with some iteration of “breath” or “breathing.”
Reveal the title. Then introduce the concept of a motif by showing the following clip.
Ask your students what they think her “meditations on one’s breath” are, the different meanings she attributes to the “breath” motif.
Have your students open the following presentation and go over the introductory information with them. In short, the students will need to go through the poem and identify the poet’s different iterations of the concept of one’s breath/breathing and discuss how those variations contribute to the poem’s holistic message. Then give your students time to work on the assignment.
When the students are done, have them share their responses with one another. Then share the exemplar essay with them.
- Community / Culture
- Criminal Justice
- Death / Grief
- Health / Health Care / Illness
- Police Brutality / Profiling
- Race / Ethnicity / Racism
- Social Movements / Protest
- Figurative Language
- Selection of Detail
- Structure (Line Breaks)