Stories by the Fireside: Creating Experts on Romantic Poets

21 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT identify the expression of central Romantic themes by collaboratively analyzing a poem from the Fireside poets.

Big Idea

Discussing meaning of poetry, both author-intended and personal, in the spirit of Fireside story-telling.

Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November: Welcome and Intro

5 minutes

Today is Guy Fawkes Day, a name with whom students are familiar thanks to the Occupy movement's use of the character masks from the film, "V for Vendetta." Students know the name, but I have found they are unfamiliar with the man behind the mask, so I take a few minutes at the beginning of class to share some information from the Halloween reading. I recite the first few memorable lines from Guy Fawkes poem, "Remember, remember/the fifth of November/Gunpowder treason and plot," to highlight the use of poetic devices we've been addressing in class. 

Guy Fawkes Explication:

repetition (Remember, remember)

internal rhyme (remember --> November)

assonance (the "o" in Gunpowder, treason, plot)

rhythm (iambic hexameter) 

As always the purpose of the Daily Holiday and intro is to "hook" the students for the day, by appealing to various possible interests. It also may, depending on the student reaction, allow time to practice posing and responding to questions, and connecting the topic to ideas from class or from society as a whole (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1c). 

Expert Groups: Reading and Reporting on Firesides

25 minutes

Students read background information from the textbook on the Romantic movement in American literature, and today will wrap up their jigsaw notes, presenting their individual notes on the central ideas of the reading (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2), and presenting those summarized notes to their group (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4). (See "A Renaissance of American Literature", today continues yesterday's activity due to running out of time). Students then move to their expert groups, with those students who took notes on the same author and explicated the same poem. 

In these expert groups, students read the poem and complete two tasks:

1. Answer the Fireside Poetry Expert Questions. These direct and focus the students' interpretation for the second task, as they identify specific elements and draw inferences from the poems (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1).  I ask students to begin by reading these questions, in order to frame what they are looking for. In this video, the student reads questions 4 and 5 from "Thanatopsis" to her group--I clarify the pronunciation and meaning of the title, and  from there, she leads their discussion in the poem. Her group member contributes by saying, "We can do that right now." In these groups, students are able to contribute their strengths and understanding, and learn form each other.

2. On the Fireside Poetry Notes Sheet, identify the main idea (theme) of the poem and use of/inspiration by the following elements of Romantic writing in order to shape that theme (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2):

  • Imagination and/or emotion
  • Nature
  • Individuality/human goodness

By working together in a larger small group (6-7 students), the aim is to draw from everyone in the group, providing students with a variety of perspectives and abilities to collaborate. 

"Snowbound": An Interlude

15 minutes

Once each jigsaw group has completed their notes, and after they have moved to their expert groups, I ask the students to pause what they are doing, and take a look at John Greenleaf Whittier's "Snowbound", in their textbooks. In order to model what I am asking each student to do, I read the first six questions on the "Snowbound" Modeling Questions activity, and then read the poem aloud in chunks (through line 30), addressing each question as we go. I then pause to ask students how "Snowbound" meets the elements of Romanticism, based on what we've seen so far (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2). I chose "Snowbound" to model partially because it was already printed in the textbook, and partially because of the final stanza, describing the family huddled around the fire, telling stories--exactly the image the Firesides were trying to create in their work. 

Wrap Up and Reminders

5 minutes

I ask students to wrap up with five minutes remaining, in order to ensure there is enough time for them to return their chairs to rows and, once they have settled back in to their seats, to answer any questions they may have (especially because one class is being filmed for a Cornerstone tomorrow).