Theresa Munoz learning resource – exploring poetry about immigration and technology
Seeing poetry in a different way
Years 7-13 (Ages 12-18)
Resource created by Scottish Book Trust
About this resource
Thisresource is inspired by the work of Theresa Munoz. It has several aims:
- To help your pupils see poetry as an exciting, relevant and accessible form;
- To help pupils think about some of the key themes in Munoz’s poetry;
- To help them write their own poems and perform them.
Adapt and use as you see fit – it’s not intended to be prescriptive or authoritative and you’ll want to shape it and take what’s useful to engage your learners.
About Theresa Munoz
Theresa Munoz is an exciting new voice in the world of poetry. Her work often centres around two subjects that dominate the present day: migration and technology. Her work is accessible and funny and has the potential to help teenagers see poetry as something that chimes with their own lives. Canadian born but living in Edinburgh, Theresa’s experience as an immigrant colours her work, and her thoughtful explorations of what it means to travel and call somewhere home are sure to give rise to discussion in the classroom or library.
Why poetry? Getting pupils invested
Pupils often see poetry as a medium that describes obscure and irrelevant subjects in an elevated manner. Of course this isn’t the case, but in order to get that message across, it’s important for them to experience the power of poetry when it’s performed, and it’s also important to show them a range of different poets.
You’ll find some great performances to watch and discuss in our Authors live video with Jackie Kay, Jenny Lindsay and MiKo Berry: bit.ly/ALJackieK. There are also resources accompanying the video which will help you discuss the poems.
Our Authors Live Poetry Slam event is also a great resource to help change pupils’ perceptions of poetry: bit.ly/AuthLiveSlam
If you have access to YouTube, you’ll also find some great performances in our blog posts here bit.ly/7slampoetsand here bit.ly/6poetryperformances.
You can do the following activity using some of the resources above. Show pupils one of the performances of poetry, then talk about the performance. Did your pupils enjoy it? Did the fact that it was performed rather than written down add to their enjoyment? What kind of themes did they pick out? Did they have a favourite part?
Now, divide your pupils into groups, and ask each group to watch a different performance from the resources above. Then, ask them to discuss the same questions as they did for the first poem you showed them. They can make notes if you feel this will help for the next part.
After this, ask groups to split up and form new groups, making sure that each member of the new group has listened to a different poem. Ask each member of the group to tell the rest what their poem was about, if they enjoyed it, what the themes were, etc. For homework, ask your class or book group to listen to the poem they liked the sound of most from what their classmates have told them. At your next meeting, ask each pupil to vote for their favourite poem by writing down the name of the poem on a post it along with their favourite part and the reasons they liked it.
Why do we travel?
Introduction to Theresa Munoz and travel
Show pupils Theresa’s poem ‘Twenty Two’: bit.ly/MunozJetway
The poem describes the challenging experience of travelling and Theresa’s uncertainty about her decision to leave home. The poem can be a great basis for chatting about what the benefits of travel might be, despite its challenges.
Here are some questions you might want to explore with pupils:
Why do you think people migrate?
Is there anywhere in the world you’d like to go? What interests you about that place?
What do you think it would be like to go and live in another country? What would be the upsides and downsides?
In this poem, the speaker describes quite a challenging experience of travelling. In her position, would you go back home, or would you stay?
Meeting people and understanding them
Ask pupils to watch this video about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict:bit.ly/MidEastConflict. It’s not necessary to gain a deep understanding of the conflict; the first five minutes of the video should be enough to set the activity in context.
This video can also help your pupils understand the conflict and how it has affected the psyche of those living in Israel and Palestine: bit.ly/BiteSizeIsrael
Now show them this short video, where a tour guide explains how leaving home built his understanding of and empathy with the Israelis he was taught to hate:
Ask your pupils to research a country or group of people in the world which they’d like to find out more about. To help build their awareness of tensions in our world, you could ask them to identify a conflict happening at the moment and see if they can learn more about this and the people involved. Here are some suggestions and resources:
- Our Authors Live event with the creators of the graphic novel Alpha is a great introduction to the stories of refugees: bit.ly/AL-BessoraArdizzone
- The Scottish Refugee Council publishes first-hand accounts from refugees, which can help readers better understand the conflicts driving people from their homes: bit.ly/TornFromHome
- WiseGeek is an excellent site for relatively simple explanations of topics, and has a number of articles on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict among other current affairs. However, articles do not contain references, and there are comment boards on pages, so beware of this before you decide how suitable it is for pupils: wisegeek.org/
- There are many groups of people across the world whose lives may interest pupils. For instance, Norway was voted the world’s happiest country in 2017 – pupils could research the reasons for this, beginning with this article: bit.ly/HappyNorway
- Another interesting group to write about might be the islanders of Eigg:bit.ly/EnergEigg. The island has now come to rely completely on clean energy, leading the way in sustainable development, and the success of this has been down to the community pulling together to learn how to make use of the clean energy sources.
Introduce your pupils to Theresa’s poem ‘Junk Mail’: bit.ly/MunozJunkMail. The poem satirises a situation where someone receives a scam email and responds in good faith.
The poem provides a good context for exploring scam emails, internet use and persuasive language. Check out this blog post by teacher Alan Gillespie, who describes his lessons inspired by scam emails: bit.ly/persuasive-writing. Alan provides a powerpoint at the foot of the post to help you get started.
Hopefully, the activities in this resource so far have helped pupils to see that poetry can be a powerful and relevant medium to write and perform in.
For activities to help them get to grips with the style and structure of writing poetry, and also to help them develop performance skills, you’ll find lots of ideas from page 6 onwards in our Steven Camden resource: bit.ly/StevenCamdenRes
The following two activities are focused on helping your pupils come up with ideas for things to write about.
Write about technology
Theresa has written a number of poems about aspects of technology, particularly social media. Have a look at her poem ‘Be the First to Like This’ for an example: bit.ly/First2like. The poems ‘How’ and ‘Googling the other Theresas’ are also interesting and thought-provoking: bit.ly/MunozJetway.
Once you’ve had a discussion about your pupils’ impressions of these poems, you can ask them to talk about the pros and cons of technology. Here are some useful resources to get you started:
- 3 slam poets read poems about technology on BBC Authors Live: bit.ly/SlamTech
- This talk at a TEDx event focuses on the benefits of getting offline: bit.ly/GetOfflineTED
- This article talks about some potential benefits of social media:bit.ly/LikeSocMedia
The following questions may also be useful to explore:
- How do you think technology is affecting our relationships with other people? Is it bringing us closer together, or driving us farther apart?
- How do you think technology, particularly social media, is having an effect on how we see the world around us? In particular, are social media updates from celebrities affecting our view of the world and ourselves?
These discussions should provide a good starting point to help pupils think about their poems.
Write about a favourite place
Theresa’s work is often focused on place and what it means to us.
To get ideas for a poem about a meaningful place, you could try this resource on our website: bit.ly/WriteFavePlace. You could use some of the activities to help pupils come up with ideas, and then use the Steven Camden resource mentioned earlier to help them shape and perform their poems.
If you and your pupils loved Theresa’s poetry
Browsethrough the poetry book lists on our website:bit.ly/PoetBookList
For other fantastic cross-curricular resources visit scottishbooktrust.com/resources