Live Your Epitaph

Length: Two 50-minute class periods.

The Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission engaged two internationally-known artists, Thornton Dial and Lonnie Holley, to create site-specific public art works for the newly revitalized Edmondson Park (overseen by the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency). This project honors William Edmondson, a native of Davidson County and a self-taught sculptor. Edmondson was the first African American artist to have a solo exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art (1937). Like Edmondson, Thornton Dial and Lonnie Holley are self-taught artists.

In this English Language Arts lesson, students will:

  • Students will be formatively assessed through discussion in whole group, small group, and Socratic seminar.
  • Students will be formatively assessed through pre-writing, peer feedback, and revision.
  • Students will be formatively assessed through discussion in small groups, whole groups, and Socratic Seminar.
  • Students will be summatively assessed through Socratic Seminar reflection handout.
  • Students will be summatively assessed through a rubric for their final draft.
  • Students will be summatively assessed through Socratic Seminar reflection handout and selfassessment rubric.

Standards & Objectives

Learning objectives: 

Clear Learning Targets 
Day One:

  • I can identify William Edmondson and his contribution to the art world.
  • I can closely read examples of epitaphs and identify tone and common themes.
  • I can participate in a Socratic Seminar and discuss questions related to the close reading.

Day Two:

  • I can develop my own epitaph through pre-writing, discussion, and revision
  • I can critique and offer helpful feedback to peers to guide their writing process

Task Objectives (steps to reach mastery of clear learning targets)
Day One:

  • Discuss William Edmondson and identify his contributions to the art world
  • Read examples of epitaphs and identify tone and common themes
  • Discuss, analyze, and respond to questions related to epitaphs during a Socratic seminar

Day Two:

  • Pre-write, discuss, and revise a personal epitaph

Anchor Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4 - Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4 - Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 - Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively
Essential and guiding questions: 

Questioning: Planning to Illuminate Student Thinking
Assessing questions:

  • Who was William Edmondson? What was his contribution to the art world? Give examples of how his work contributed to the art world.
  • What is an epitaph?
  • How can an epitaph be a life statement? Cite the Epitaph Examples in your answer.
  • What might William Edmondson’s life statement be?

Advancing questions:

  • How, and for what, do you want to be remembered?
  • What impact do you want to have on the world?
  • How can you live your epitaph?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Differentiation suggestions: 

Scaffolding (to address learning difficulties)

  • Model reading an epitaph while searching and identifying answers to the guiding questions: what words are important? What’s the tone?
  • Model how to participate in a Socratic Seminar. Do a “run-through” with the teacher taking on the role of a student.
  • Model the quicklist on the board or overhead along with the students.
  • Model how to provide feedback during revision by providing, “I like…”, “I wonder…” examples.

Opportunities to Differentiate Learning (explain how you address particular student needs by differentiating process, content, or product):

  • Vary the range of questioning to provide guidance or advancement depending on the students’ needs
  • Vary the depth of modeling depending on student need
  • Socratic Seminar could be changed to small group or whole group discussion
  • Pre-writing activity could be done as a small group or whole group activity
  • Pre-writing could be extended or eliminated to provide more or less guidance
  • One-on-one writing and revision guidance could be provided by the teacher depending on student needs
  • Writing of an epitaph for William Edmondson or other person could be added to provide depth of opportunities for advanced students
  • A visual image or symbol for their tombstone to represent their impact on their world could be an opportunity for extension

Helpful Hints

Materials and Resources:

  • Pictures of William Edmondson and his artwork (image search on google)
  • Excerpt from “Carousel of Time” on YouTube
  • Examples of epitaphs (see appendix 1)
  • Socratic Seminar handout (see appendix 2)
  • Rubric for epitaph (see appendix 3)
  • William Edmondson PPT (appendix 6)