A Lesson Plan from the CoBaLTT Project


Dialogue Poems

Submitted by Adapted from the POLIA Handbook

Cultural Theme or
Academic Content Area:

Cultural Contexts

Language:    Any




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Here are the standards targeted for this lesson.
You may want to print this lesson (frame) so that you can highlight the activities and assessments that indicate the standards targeted. Located at the end of this page is a discussion of why the CoBaLTT staff feels each standard has been targeted or not.


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Target Audience:

Traditional Middle School, 2

Proficiency Level:

Intermediate Mid


To demonstrate an understanding of different perspectives on cultural themes.


A dialogue poem (see sample provided) offers an excellent opportunity to assess students' understanding of different perspectives on cultural themes. A dialogue poem reflects a dialogue between two people who represent different perspectives on a particular theme, issue, or topic. For example, in the sample provided, two women, one representing the peasant or working class and one representing the elite, discuss their experiences after the election of Salvador Allende as president of Chile and after his murder during the military coup in 1973. Controversial themes such as the one portrayed in the sample poem work especially well, but dialogue poems also lend themselves well to any theme. For instance, a dialogue poem between a U.S. student and a target culture student discussing their birthday celebrations (or another holiday) provides a good way of getting students' understanding of the different cultural perspectives.

In order for students to have the background knowledge necessary for writing dialogue poems, the teacher needs to provide them with multiple resources for exploring the perspectives during the pre-writing stage or to carry out a unit on a particular theme, then assign the dialogue poem as a culminating project at the end of the unit. Here we offer some examples of themes that might be of interest and explain how a teacher might go about organizing pre-writing, writing, and post-writing activities.


Students will...

  • choose a topic of interest with two varying perspectives
  • demonstrate distinct perspectives between two cultures
  • demonstrate perspectives within a particular culture
  • create clear distinctions in perspectives based on information gathered

Students will...

  • use authentic materials from the target culture to support topic ideas or current issues
  • present distinct perspectives on a cultural theme

Language: Content Obligatory
Students will...

  • generate vocabulary lists relevant to his/her topic
  • use first-person singular forms of verb tenses
  • use pronouns appropriately within the text
  • accurately provide articles as relevant to the nouns
  • attend to punctuation to ensure that it is aligned with intended meaning
  • practice poems for fluency and pronunciation when reading aloud; use punctuation cues to guide intonation

Language: Content Compatible
Students will...

  • use phrases and idioms unique to the target culture

Learning Strategies / Skills Development / Social (optional):
Students will...

  • participate in feedback sessions throughout the writing process
  • integrate peer and teacher feedback for revisions
  • understand descriptions through attention to vocabulary and punctuation
  • use nonfiction resources to build background knowledge; keep a list of sources
  • work cooperatively with a partner to create a dialogue poem

Time Frame:

Two to five fifty minute class sessions

Materials Needed:

  • Example of a dialogue poem (See "Attachments")
  • Rubric for assessing poems (See "Attachments")

Description of Task:


During the pre-writing stage, the teacher needs to provide students with input about the different perspectives by using e-mail exchanges, videotapes, magazines, and other print material, web sites, etc. (The Gender Roles unit [in the POLIA Handbook] offers a detailed example of how to go about this exploration). This stage may last from one class session to several weeks depending upon the depth of the exploration. It is also important during the pre-writing stage to generate lists of potentially useful vocabulary and to review or introduce particular grammatical forms that will be necessary for creating the poems. The first-person singular forms of various verb tenses, for example, are likely to emerge in most dialogue poems. Subtle differences in language (and punctuation) should also be discussed. For example, in the sample poem, the elite woman says, "We had to eat rice," while the working class woman says, "We had rice." The teacher should discuss these differences with students' how might the subtle differences in language and punctuation cue differences in intonation when the poem is read?

Dialogues poems can take a variety of forms but should always be a reflection of different perspectives. These perspectives may be distinct due to cultural differences, social class differences (such as those demonstrated in the sample poem), gender or age differences, etc. They may be perspectives between two distinct cultures (e.g., U.S. and target culture, France and Canada, Spain and Mexico, etc.) or within a particular culture (e.g., Francophones and Anglophones in Quebec; Catalanes and Castillians in Barcelona, etc.). They can be reflective of modern times or historical times. The possibilities are endless! A variety of examples follow.

1. Distinct perspectives between two cultures: Cross-cultural perspectives in relationship to any number of themes could be explored by students through dialogue poems. Here are some examples that might work well:

  • U.S. and target culture teens dialogue about schools, drinking (legal ages; common behaviors among teens), leisure activities, tobacco use, drive, fashion, etc.
  • A target culture pet vs. a U.S. pet dialogue about their lives.
  • A French student and a Senegalese student discuss their daily activities.

2. Distinct perspectives within a particular culture:


  • A "Beur" (a child of a North African immigrant) adolescent and a French adolescent discuss conditions of their lives.
  • A Francophone and an Anglophone voice their views on the separatist movement in Quebec (or two Francophones with opposing views).


  • A "foreigner" born in Germany (but unable to gain citizenship) and a German citizen discuss reform of German citizenship laws.
  • A "West" German and an "East" German discuss government subsidies to former East Germany.


  • A "ladino" and an "indio" discuss land rights in Guatemala.
  • A Basque and a Spaniard discuss the separatist movement and terrorist actions in support of the movement.
  • An "illegal alien" and a representative of the Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS) discuss immigration law.
  • An avid fan of bullfights and an animal rights activist voice their opinions.

Any target language:

  • Teens show opposing viewpoints about a current debate in their school (e.g. a new dress code, random locker searches, a debate about removing a book from a required reading list in the school district).
  • Two opposing voices discuss the "English-only" movement.
  • A teen from a rural area and a teen from an urban area discuss daily activities.
  • Two opposing voices express their thoughts on beauty pageants or other controversial topics in society.

Pairs of students should be assigned to write the dialogue poem based on the themes that the class has explored during the pre-writing stage. The teacher may choose to require multiple drafts and peer review activities fundamental to the process approach to writing (see the task entitled "Lets go to Costa Rica!" in the section entitled rom presentation to Creation" for a detailed explanation of all the stages in the process approach to writing as found in the POLIA Handbook.)

The student pairs read or "perform" their dialogue poem for the class. They should practice prior to reading the poem aloud so that the intonation reflects the different perspectives in the poem. The teacher may want to audiotape the performances to facilitate assessment. Extension: Students could be paired via email with target culture keypals and write online dialogue poems.


The teacher may choose to assess students' poems with a multitrait rubric. While it is likely that the rubric will need to be fine-tuned to align more closely with the content of the poems, it may also be possible to use a more "generic " rubric such as the sample we provide.

Attachments:      NOTE: you will need Acrobat Reader to see most attachments (some are in WORD.doc format also).

Dialogue Poem
Dialogue Poem Rubric






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Here again are the standards targeted for this lesson.
From what you have read in the description of this lesson, do you agree?
Click the button below to read the discussion that details why (or why not) each standard is "targeted" by this lesson.


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