In order to get the students prepared to analyze poetry, especially more complex poetry, I want them to understand symbols. The students do have a background knowledge with symbols, but in preparation for reading this particular poem, refreshing our brains will be helpful.
I will ask the students to answer the questions on the Symbols handout. It asks them to match up common emotions symbolized by colors. For example, yellow could be associated with happy, red with anger, blue with calm or sadness, etc. I want the students to elicit these answers and talk about our background knowledge and how that plays an important role in understanding symbols.
I will have the students share their responses with their shoulder partners. Then, talk about it as a class.
We have just talked about figurative language, including allusions. The students have an understanding for using objects or people to represent or symbolize something else.
In the poem "The Road Not Taken" there are many symbols that he uses that are important for the students to identify and understand in order to understand the meaning of the poem.
To begin, I will first review with the students what we know about poetry. We have been looking at prose more often than poetry, so I want to bring to the forefront of their brains everything we know about poems. I will elicit answers about the structure of poems, the language used in poetry, the grammar and sentence structure, rhyme, rhythm, meter, etc... I want to bring all of that knowledge forward so we are suited and ready to read the poem. These are all concepts covered in elementary school, so quick refreshers are all that I will allow time for.
I will write that Brainstorm list on the board and talk about each piece, the purpose and impact of each characteristic. For students to understand and comprehend poetry, they need to be comfortable with the structure and design of poems.
Next, I will demonstrate to the students how I tackle a poem when it is put infront of me. I am always honest with the students, telling them analyzing poetry is not an easy task, it is very complex. Most poems are puzzles and mysteries that are wanting to be put together or solved.
I begin by telling them I will first look at the structure of the poem, paying attention to the stanzas, the sentence length, the shape, etc. This all tells me what type of poem I may be reading. Is it a Haiku? A Limerick? A Narrative? A Concrete Poem? It helps set my mind up for the task.
Next, I tell the students I read the title and try to analyze what it means to me. What do I know about the subject? Could it be a symbol for something else?
Then, I tell the students I always read it through once, without making any marks. I just read it. This allows any immediate connections, inferences, or understandings to take their place in my mind. Next, I read it again, marking any obvious inferences, figurative language, word choice that I feel are important. Finally, I read it again, line by line stopping at each stanza and thinking about what that stanza is saying. I make all my notes on the poem. Finally, I use all of my notes to determine the meaning of the poem.
In the video, you can see how I walk the students through this task.
Now comes the fun part! I tell the students we are going to be looking at a poem by the author Robert Frost. I will read a little background about Frost to help the students understand the motivation for his writing. I feel, especially with poetry, it is important for the students to know some basic information about the poet. I find it really helps them connect to the poem and understand the poets motivation for writing. I found when using song lyrics for figurative language, knowing the artist played a big role on understanding the song. The same holds true for poetry.
So, I will begin by reading a little background information from the series "Poetry for Young People-Robert Frost". I only read a little about his life and where he grew up. This helps the students understand his love for nature and the seasons.
Next, I display the poem, The Road Not Taken. I chose to use this poem because I am familiar with it and to demonstrate the poem so students can fully understand the process, I wanted to use a piece I am very comfortable with and understand.
I will walk through the steps I explained during instruction for getting to know the poem. I'll look at the structure, the title, make inferences and predictions eliciting response from the students. I want them to dive in deep with this process as well.
Next, I will play Video One-Reading and have the students follow the instructions. By having the video walking them through it, I am able to walk around and monitor their markings and provide guidance. I want to see what the students are capable of doing on their own, when being pushed. I may ask questions such as "Why would he describe the wood as being yellow?" This will link us back to our discussion on symbols. However, I want the students to ask their own questions about the poem. I will allow them to struggle with this for about 15 minutes before sharing out what we found.
Next, it is important for students to hear their peers thoughts. I will have the students work within their groups to discuss their annotations. I will do a "Timed-Round Robin". In a TRR, each student in the group is given a certain amount of time to talk. They must stay on topic and talk the entire time. If they are struggling with having enough to say, their group members can ask them questions to keep them talking. I find this is a great way to hold each student responsible and allows them to take ownership in their own work.
I will have each person talk for 4 minutes about their findings. As they are talking, their group members should be recording any ideas they want to add to their own poem. This allows them to see the purpose in collaboration.
Finally, I will ask the students to answer the questions about the poem on the Graphic Organizer. I will use this as an assessment and for discussion about the poem in the next lesson.
This graphic organizer has the students break the poem down stanza by stanza. It allows the students to not feel so overwhelmed with the poem and will help them answer the questions about the poem.
I'll begin by playing Video 2-Poem Analysis to walk the students through the directions. While they are watching the video, I am able to monitor the students and make sure they are following the steps.
To help the students process their understanding and to assess their learning I will have them complete the Closure Slip.
I will ask the students to reflect and share on one strategy they use when analyzing a poem. Not only will this require them to think about how they work through poetry, but will also ask them to evaluate which strategy works best for them. This can be really powerful in helping them be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses.