More Than Turkey Legs & Buckled Hats: Puritan Background & Poetic Analysis

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SWBAT determine theme and its development through analyzing the impact of diction in Anne Bradstreet's poetry by using SOAPSTone as their analysis tool.

Big Idea

Most high school students can identify Thanksgiving Dinner with Puritans; today students explore the meaning, tone, and diction in Puritan poetry.

Unit Introduction: The Puritan Influence on American Literature

Introduction: It's National Waffle Week!

3 minutes

As students enter the classroom, I greet them and hand a copy of today's guided notes sheet: "Puritan Plain Style Guided Notes." We open class today with a welcome to "National Waffle Week," and since we're talking about food, I ask students to brainstorm and shout out what they know about the Pilgrims, and "Thanksgiving Dinner" is always an answer. This will transition into the next section. As always, Daily Holidays serve to build a sense of community, openness, and trust in the classroom, especially early in the school year as teachers and students are still "feeling out" the classroom climate and communication styles.

Informational Reading: Taking Guided Notes

15 minutes

Since "Thanksgiving Dinner" is typically identified as part of the previous brainstorm (or I point it out), I inform students that the Pilgrims were part of a larger group seeking to establish a place to worship as they saw fit. In order to fill in their knowledge of the time period in which we're studying, in turn to provide a greater understanding of the poems and sermons we will read, students read the background on the Puritans the lives of Anne Bradstreet, and Edward Taylor, looking for strong and thorough textual evidence to fill in the blanks of the guided notes sheet (RI.9-10.1). Students will need this information in order to draw on by referring to evidence during class discussions (SL.9-10.1a) and support analysis of what the poems say explicitly as well as inferences drawn from them (RL.9-10.1).

Once students have completed the reading, we review as a class in order to ensure students found all of the correct information, and I provide the information needed to identify the elements of Puritan Plain Style. 

Students are taking guided notes to provide them with training looking for main ideas in note taking, to provide a clear cultural background, and to reinforce multiple modes of learning (visual and auditory, for example). The information for all guided the notes typically can be found in the assigned readings; if a student is absent, he or she is able to find that information even if missing the mini-lecture. Pausing to check for information both ensures students are "getting" the information and provides them time to fill in the blanks of their notes sheet. I do not lecture a lot in class. I prefer to encourage students to explore the material themselves, but in this case, I wanted to allow the students an opportunity to get used to the cadences and expression when I'm speaking. Additionally, students are able to "see" what to identify and look for in their own note-taking; I can briefly refresh skills for finding the main idea.

SOAPSTone: A Poetry Explication Tool

28 minutes

Anne Bradstreet's poem "To My Dear and Loving Husband" is highly readable and engaging for a high school students, and it is a strong example of the elements of Puritan Plain Style. In order for students to analyze the development of the parallel between the speaker's love for her husband and the speaker's love for God (RL.9-10.2) and cumulative impact of the simple diction, directly stated meaning, and references to everyday objects indicative of Puritan Plain Style (RL.9-10.4), students are conducting a "SOAPSTone" analysis of the poem. On the back of the guided notes sheet is a worksheet for "SOAPSTone," a tool for explicating poetry. Modified from the "SOAPS" analysis of primary source documents, SOAPSTone is used to provide a method for students to identify textual evidence about the elements as the poem as well draw inferences from the text (RL.9-10.1). The acronym, SOAPSTone, serves to identify or infer six of the elements students need to understand poetry fully: subject, occasion, audience, purpose, speaker, and tone. By establishing these six elements of poetry now, students will be able to have  a point of reference for all poetic analysis and explication throughout the year.

I project the handout to the students, and ask volunteers to put each of the elements into their own words, and then point out that each section is effectively part of "Five Ws and an H," (Who, What, Where, When, Why, How...and "To Whom"). By connecting SOAPSTone to "Five Ws and an H", we recall skills the students learned in Middle School. This reinforcement across the curriculum builds deeper understanding of literary terms.

Once we've clarified SOAPSTone, we turn to "To My Dear and Loving Husband." I project the poem onto the classroom whiteboard, so that I can annotate as we read.  I ask for a volunteer, and read the poem aloud, getting a feel for rhythm and rhyme, identify the AA,BB,etc. rhyme scheme and the iambic meter (I define "iambic"), and mark the whiteboard with those. 

We read the poem aloud a second time, and then I solicit volunteers and call on students to identify the elements of Puritan Plain Style and SOAPSTone as they appear in the text. Students must explain and/or give examples as they share. I highlight and note their answers on the whiteboard as we take the poem apart.  

After we have identified rhythm, rhyme, the elements of Plain Style and the elements of SOAPSTone, I ask students if they LIKE the poem. We'll talk for a few more minutes about the meaning and love between the speaker and her husband, before wrapping up for the day. 

Throughout this section, I check for comprehension and pause for students to ask questions. 

Explicating poetry is often a challenging activity for my students. I've found that while exposed to it their Freshman (Grade 9) year, they still struggle with exactly what to look for when annotating and exploring poems. SOAPSTone helps take some of that uncertainty out by providing a framework for explication.

Two Minute Warning: Homework Assignment Wrap Up (Self-Explication)

2 minutes

At the end of class, we take two minutes to wrap up, clarify any further questions, and provide tonight's homework: students are to read and explicate the elements of SOAPSTone and Puritan PLan Style in Anne Bradstreet's "Here Follow Some Verses Upon the Burning of Our House, July 10, 1666." 

Just for fun, I note to students that Bradstreet's house burned down on my "negative" 312th birthday.