What is an Ode?

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Taking another cue from Walter Dean Myers in Bad Boy, SWBAT read and analyze "Ode To The West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Big Idea

"But secretly I wanted to be an English poet" (Myers): Exploring the odes that moved him.

Shortened Day Schedule

Today's lesson is designed for a 45 minute duration as opposed to the usual 70 minute duration.  This week is student-led conference week, which means we are on our minimum day schedule.

What Is An Ode?

10 minutes

In addition to the sonnet, the second type of poetry that affected middle-schooler Walter Dean Myers in Bad Boy is the ode.  Today, I will expose my students to this form in order to better understand what Myers was experiencing.

I begin by sharing a brief powerpoint that defines ode and have my students copy it down in their spiral notebooks.  As they write, I elaborate on a few key points:

  • Unlike the sonnet, odes do not necessarily follow a set of rules, other than the rule of focusing on a central topic.  Thus, I explain that odes generally reside in the camp of free verse poetry.
  • I explain, however, that the ode they will be looking at today does work with an imposed closed form, and I challenge my students to determine what the patterns are.
  • I explain that the five divisions of the ode they will be reading are referred to as cantos.
  • Finally, I add that odes can be of any length.


"Ode To The West Wind" Partner Work

35 minutes

After the brief powerpoint, I distribute copies of "Ode to the West Wind" to each student.  Myers references the odes of both Byron and Shelley in the chapter called "Sonnets From The Portuguese," and so I have selected one of Shelley's odes for my students to tackle.

I arrange my students as partners, strategically pairing my struggling readers with my stronger readers.  I explain that I am giving them each other before I am giving them the whole group (myself included) to grapple with the complexity of the poem.  Because much of Walter Dean Myers' education was self-motivated, reading and analyzing many works of literature on his own, I want to challenge and empower my students with a similar experience.  By insisting that they first navigate the text on their own, I hope to instill as sense of confidence in their capabilities.

As student partnerships begin working with the poem, I circulate the room, fielding questions from my students (usually by asking questions in return--Socrates would be proud!).  At the very least, I encourage them to focus on the main idea of each canto, and to look for any patterns in the poem as a whole.  Overall, however, I try to stick to my goal of having them explore the poem on their own at this point.

This activity will most likely take the remainder of the period, and most classes will not finish to the extent that they are able to share and review their determinations with the whole group.  As this occurs, I will instruct my students to finish their analysis of the poem for homework.