This guide will continue to build on students’ critical thinking skills and film analysis. Below you’ll find conversation prompts and poetry writing activities that create connections to student experiences and help build empathy and understanding. We’ll consider the filmmaker’s artistic choices and how they helped to turn/adapt an existing work of poetry into an animated film.
If you haven’t done so already, be sure to read the Note to Teachers—you’ll find tips for watching short films with your class and helpful resources for inquiry-based discussions.
- Ask students to describe the two films we’ve seen so far and what they were about.
- Write the term spoken word on the board or project them on screen.
- Ask students what they think spoken word might mean?
- Explain that the film is based on a spoken word poem called ACCENTS.
- Ask students to share predictions of what the film might be about based on the title.
- We’re going to watch ACCENTS by filmmaker Robertino Zambrano and based on a poem by Denice Frohman
- The film is 3 minutes long.
- It’s important not to talk or take notes during the first viewing, since it may cause you to miss something important!
- We will watch the film more than once.
Watch the film together and gather initial reactions using open-ended questions.
Follow the film screening with a moment of pause for the group to gather their thoughts. Ask the open-ended questions below and record students’ answers. Have students support their observations with evidence by asking, “What did you see that makes you say that?”
- What did you see? What did you notice about this film?
- How would you describe the visuals, or what you saw, in the film? Tell me more about that.
- How would you describe the words or the narration in the film?
What moments in this short film stood out for you? Why? What was your favorite part of the film?
- How was the film similar or different from what you expected to see? How is this film similar or different from other films you have seen before?
- You can watch the film as a group by sharing your screen, and selecting the “optimize for video sharing” option. Make sure all participants (including yourself) are muted while the film plays.
- Engage students in Think, Write, Pair, Share before discussing as a group. Consider using breakout rooms for small group discussions.
- Try using Mentimeter on Zoom to collect responses.
If you need a link to share this film with your students, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Closer Look
Consider posing a question before screening the film again and have students take notes while viewing the film this time.
- Who is the poet/narrator telling us about? How is this person described?
- A poem can be interpreted many ways. What does this poem mean to you?
- Why do you think the poet may have titled this work ACCENTS? What do you think of when you hear the word accent? Can you think of different meanings for the word accent?
- What are some ways that the filmmaker conveys the poet’s message in the film?
- What do you notice about the use of language?
- What do you notice about the use of voice (volume, tone, pacing, accent)?
- How does the filmmaker use the soundtrack to accentuate the poet’s words?
- The narrator says a “sancocho of English and Spanish pushing up and against one another in rapid fire.” What do you think they might mean by this? What do you think sancocho might mean?
- Sancocho is a hearty stew containing ingredients that represent the culinary and cultural mixing that occurred in colonized Latin American countries. Why do you think the poet might have chosen to use this word? Does knowing the meaning give you any new insights or ideas about the poem or film?
- In pairs, have students identify examples of comparisons and metaphors in the film, either visual or verbal (textual). Students can identify simile, imagery, and symbolism, in the film and poem and engage in group discussion.
The Bigger Conversation
- Watch Denice Frohman perform Accents live at the Nuyorican Cafe here.
- What do you notice about the use of voice (volume, tone, pacing), body language, facial expressions, etc. in Frohman’s performance? How does the performance impact the message?
- After viewing this performance, ask students to write their definition of spoken word. Revisit the responses from the pre-viewing activity. Did their definition change? Why?
- Share with students that Nuyorican is the blending of the terms New York and Puerto Rican and refers to members or culture of the Puerto Rican diaspora in New York City. It can also refer to their blending of English and Spanish or Spanglish.
- Have students research the history of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, a cultural venue which has given voice to a diverse group of poets, actors, filmmakers, and musicians since 1973.
- What is Latinx? Have students research the terms Latinx, Hispanic, and Latino. Invite them to trace their history and meaning. Who identifies as Latinx? Assign books and stories by Latinx authors and or that highlight Latinx experiences to support and further the discussion.
- Have students revisit and discuss the definition of identity as “the qualities and beliefs that make a particular person or group different from others.”
- What are group identities and how do they describe me? Others?
- What might an accent tell us about someone’s self-identity or perceived identity?
- Consider place and culture. What assumptions or stereotypes exist around accents? How can we challenge those stereotypes? Discuss the ways accents might be seen or perceived as a reason for shame or a point of pride. How does this poem and film take this on?
- Discuss how the poet embraces her Puerto Rican identity through a celebration of her mother’s accent and experiences, at times incorporating Spanglish words to also touch on what it means to be multicultural.
- How can I be proud of who I am and celebrate others? What does it mean to feel good about myself and where I come from? How can I express pride in who I am?
- Students can create an Identity Chart to explore their multiple identities. In the Reflection section, they can review the identity chart to spark inspiration to write their own poems.
- Exploring Identity in the Middle School Classroom from Teaching Tolerance
- Creating an Identity Safe Classroom from Edutopia
- What is Latinx? Tracing its History and Meaning, a student’s perspective on identifying as Latinx
- Latino, Hispanic, Latinx, Chicano: The History Behind the Terms, History Channel article on the complexity of unifying multiple nationalities under one term
Behind the Scenes
The short film ACCENTS is part of a TED-Ed series called “There’s a Poem for That.” For this particular piece, poet Denice Frohman was paired with award-winning animator Robertino Zambrano.
Pose one or two of the questions below before showing the film once again, and let students take notes while they watch.
- How would you describe the colors and the visual style of the film? (You can also use the images above to prompt responses.) How do the colors make you feel?
- What do you hear in the film? How would you describe the sounds and music? (Have students close their eyes as they listen.) How do the sounds make you feel? What do they remind you of?
- Although the poet isn’t singing, the reading captures the music of her mother’s accent. How would you describe the way Denice Frohman delivers the poem (think about the rhythm, tone, and crescendos)?
- How does the filmmaker capture the rhythm, syntax, and mixing of languages featured in the poem?
- If you were to make a film that represents your identity, what colors or sounds would you use? What song or music would you choose that connects with your identity?
Help students understand that Robertino Zambrano made many decisions in order to convey the poem to us, the viewers.
- Why do you think Robertino Zambrano chose to use animation instead of live action in this film?
- How might the film be different if it was told as a fictional story with actors?
- How might the film be different with different colors, or sounds?
Robertino Zambrano directed and designed the look of the film ACCENTS. He has worked as a filmmaker in many places including Sydney, Australia, NYC, and Silicon Valley, California. Zambrano enjoys trying out new technologies and experimenting with new ways of making art and films.
Denice Frohman wrote the poem ACCENTS about her own mother. She is also the voice you hear reading the poem in the film. In addition to writing poetry, she is a performer and an educator from New York City. She now lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Let students know that while the poet might have had a message or idea in mind, we are all welcome to interpret the poem in our own way.
Share this video interview with Denice Frohman or share the excerpt below and invite students to share responses.
“I wanted to take something that’s deemed unworthy or uncelebrated and to turn it on it’s head and to take it back…to celebrate it and throw it a parade. I wanted to write my mother out of a shame that didn’t belong to her. I wanted to write her into a power that she possesses. I wanted to subvert the hierarchies of language that puts English at the top, and every other language at the bottom.”
Invite the class to reflect upon the film and ways that the film conveyed the theme of identity with this creative activity.
- In this context, bio is short for biography. Students can write a biopoem about themselves or someone else. This activity will support students in reflecting about their own identity or remembering what they learned about a fictional character, or someone they know.
- Have students revisit and reflect on their Identity Charts before starting their biopoem individually.
- For the first draft follow this simple format. Encourage students to get creative as they revise their drafts.
- (Line 1) First name
- (Line 2) Three or four adjectives that describe you or the person
- (Line 3) Important relationship (daughter of…, friend of…, etc)
- (Line 4) Two or three things, people, or ideas, that you or the person love
- (Line 5) Three feelings you or the person experience
- (Line 6) Three fears you or the person experience
- (Line 7) Accomplishments (who composes…, who discovers…, etc.)
- (Line 8) Two or three things the person wants to see happen or wants to experience
- (Line 9) Residence or where they are from
- (Line 10) Last name (or add your variation)
- Have students create illustrations for their poems.
- If your school has a technology teacher or art teacher, team up with them and encourage students to create animations or storyboards of their biopoems.
04 Grab My Hand: A Letter to my Dad
An animated love letter from son to father to friend reminds us that there’s no good reason to let affection go unspoken.