The Sonnet, Shakesperean Style

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Students will be able to analyze the affect of a poem's form by reading a nonfiction article about sonnets and analyzing rhyme scheme, rhythm, and word choice.

Big Idea

What's in a sonnet? Rhyme scheme, rhythm, iambic pentameter, oh my!

Daily Grammar

10 minutes

In the last few weeks, the bellwork on Wednesday and Thursday (our long block days) has been done as a competition.  Students work with their groups to find all of the corrections, and the first group with all of the corrections gets a punch on their punch cards.

Today many groups missed the apostrophe in 'let's' to show that it's a contraction.  They also struggled with the two run-on sentences in the second paragraph. 

They also wanted to add the little circle (does that have a name?  I feel like I should know this, but I don't.) to show that the numbers are showing degrees.  However, since the word is spelled out, those circles are not needed.

What's in a Sonnet?

40 minutes

What's in a sonnet?

That by any other name would be called a poem.

So a sonnet would be, if it were not called a sonnet.

And yet, a sonnet is a sonnet and a sonnet does as sonnets do.

I distributed copies of the Shakespearean Reference Sheet.  I also include a copy of the article from the website Shakespeare Online.  This gives students a brief explanation of what a sonnet is in two different ways--paragraphs and a reference sheet.



First Impressions of a Sonnet

5 minutes

I asked them to read it three times.  It's only a page, so it's suitable for re-reading.  The first time, they read it to themselves silently and I asked them to annotate details (main and supporting) that told them what a sonnet is. I gave students a couple of minutes to share their annotations with their group.  Could they add annotations to their own papers after listening to their peers?  Absolutely.


I asked two students from each group to move to a different group for the second read. This allows students to physically move and get different ideas from different people.


Diving Deeper into the Sonnet

10 minutes

The second time, I read the article aloud, modeling prosody.  I asked them to underline new things they noticed.  In other words, what new information did they notice that helped them understand what a sonnet is. Again, they shared their annotations with their group members, new and old, and added annotations.




Making My Thinking Transparent

15 minutes

The third time, I read aloud while I did a think aloud. I pointed out the following:

  • Shakespearean sonnets are always fourteen lines.  There are three quatrains and a couplet.  A couplet is a group of two lines.
  • There is a strict rhyme scheme. In the quatrains, the first and third lines rhyme and the second and fourth lines rhyme (ABAB).  The couplet rhymes (GG).
  • They are written in iambic pentameter. Iambic means that there are feet with two syllables, and the first syllable is unstressed and the second syllable is stressed.  It's like a heartbeat.
  • There's an organization to the sonnet.  The first quatrain sets up the subject of the sonnet.  Quatrain 2 develops the theme and quatrain 3 finishes it.  The couplet's job is to summarize the theme

Hitting the Bottom of the Sonnet

10 minutes

The last thing I did, as closure, was to ask students to write a third quickwrite.

For this quickwrite, students needed to explain the four key parts to a sonnet.

I also warned them that we would be looking at a real live sonnet the next day and it would might just make their brains explode.

If I'd had time, I'd ask students to complete the following additional activity--to create a diagram, chart, or picture to show the important components of a sonnet.

Lesson Resoures

Today's lesson picture was created with Wordle.