William Edmondson and the Impact of Legacy: How Can One Life Affect Others?

Length: 90 minute class period (with homework/assignment to be completed outside of class)

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 complete a Venn Diagram graphic organizer analyzing the differences in portrayal of William Edmondson in his biography and in the poetry of Elizabeth Spires.
  • Students will prepare for a Socratic Seminar through close reading of the text and personal reflection and response to guiding questions.
  • Students will participate in a Socratic Seminar, or student driven discussion, about the idea of a “legacy” and how our actions and work can affect others’.
  • Students will craft a first person narrative poem that represents the legacy they wish to establish.

Standards & Objectives

Learning objectives: 

Learning Targets: 

  • I can compare and contrast the different portrayals of William Edmondson based on his biography and the fictional poetry of Elizabeth Spires.
  • I can participate in a class discussion by presenting my ideas and using accountable language when responding to my peers’ ideas and thoughts.
  • I can write a narrative poem that presents the legacy I would like to leave.

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

  • Build background about William Edmondson and legacy
  • Read biography of William Edmondson
  • Read poetry by Elizabeth Spires
  • Work with partner to compare and contrast portrayals and characteristics of Edmondson using Venn Diagram
  • Reflect on discussion questions and prepare for Socratic seminar
  • Participate in Socratic seminar, taking notes and adding to the discussion
  • Reflect on the discussion, write final thoughts on discussion questions in notes
  • Review elements of poetry, brainstorm topic for legacy poem
  • Craft a narrative poem that represents desired legacy
Essential and guiding questions: 

Questioning: Planning to Illuminate Student
Assessing questions:

  • How is Edmondson portrayed differently in his biography and in the fictional poetry of Elizabeth Spires?
  • What is a legacy?
  • How has Edmondson’s life continued to influence others’, even after it has ended?

Advancing questions:

  • Is establishing/leaving a legacy important?
  • Can you influence your own legacy? If so, how?
  • What factors contribute to Edmondson’s legacy? What evidence makes you think that?
  • How do you think Edmondson would feel reading Spire’s poetry? What makes you think that?
  • Is Spires influencing history and/or Edmondson’s legacy with her poems? Support your claim with evidence.

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Differentiation suggestions: 

Scaffolding (to address learning difficulties):

  • Teacher will model each task as it is introduced to show students how to successfully complete each part of the lesson.
  • Teacher will provide first example of similarities and/or differences for the Venn Diagram activity.
  • Teacher can host a “practice” Socratic seminar with a few students if class has not engaged in this type of discussion prior to this lesson.

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

  • Students needing additional learning supports will be paired with strong students in partner work.
  • Teacher will provide additional supports to students in need by providing directions in different formats, accepting shortened responses, providing access to a computer or dictionary for help with challenging vocabulary, answering questions and giving extended time to complete tasks as feasible.

Helpful Hints

Materials and Resources:

  • Biographies of Edmondson:
    • Edmondson, William (c.1870–1951)- Johnson, Stephanie Anne for blackpast.org
    • William Edmondson - Stacy C. Hollander , Museum of American Folk Art for
  • tennesseeencyclopedia.net
  • I Heard God Talking to Me: William Edmondson and His Stone Carvings by Elizabeth Spires
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23nvsOudLs0
  • Student copies of Venn Diagram, Socratic Seminar note-taking template, reflection notes