Reading and Writing about Ballads

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Students will be able to cite several pieces of information from a nonfiction article to write a definition of a ballad.

Big Idea

Ballads: rhyme, rhythm, reading, and writing.

Daily Grammar

10 minutes

A major focus of today's passage is dialogue.  The dialogue tag (he said) interrupts the dialogue, so two sets of quotation marks are needed.  One set goes around "Fiona" and the other goes around the rest of the dialogue.

We discus the difference between possessive and plural with the word wife/wives.  With the error included in the passage, it sounds like Mr. O'Donnell has more than one wife.  But he really only has one wife, so we need the singular possessive, not plural possessive.

Reading about Ballads

30 minutes

Students learned about the four parts to a ballad in yesterday's lesson.  I felt pretty confident in their basic understanding of the rhyme scheme, themes, and format, but I knew that their understanding of rhythm was shaky at best. Therefore, we spent another day on ballads.  Today the concentration was getting the information from a rigorous nonfiction passage, rather than relying on teacher lecture.

I asked students to take out their Ballad Reference Sheet and told them that we'd be reading this again.  (A year ago if I had asked students to re-read something, they would have groaned.  All of my classes have gotten used to the idea of reading, re-reading, and re-reading again. I can't tell you how comforting this is.)  As we read these four paragraphs, we would be looking for details that told us what ballads are.  I asked students to consider the questions to the right and we took it passage by passage.

I asked for a volunteer to read the paragraph.  After my lovely volunteer read the paragraph, I asked students to write down two things that they learned about ballads.  Two things that the author told them about ballads, two things the author wanted them to understand about ballads.  After a few moments, I asked students to share within their groups, and then we shared out with the whole class. We used this process for all the passages.

Passage 1

  • Ballads show what happens.  They don't tell.  They use imagery to show the action.
  • Ballads are written in quatrains. 
  • The second and fourth lines rhyme.

Passage 2

  • Ballads are songs. 
  • Ballads have quatrains that rhyme using the ABCB rhyme scheme.
  • Ballads tell a comic, heroic, or dramatic story.

Passage 3

  • Ballads are written in quatrains.
  • Ballads are written in iambs, which create rhythm.
  • The first and third lines have the same rhythm.  The second and fourth lines have the same rhythm. (Students noted that "The Jabberwocky" did not follow this strictly.)
  • Iambs have two syllables, one unstressed and one stressed (ba BUM).

Passage 4

  • Ballads are written in iambic tetrameter (four unstressed and four stressed syllables) and iambic triameter (three unstressed and three stressed syllables).
  • The line with iambic triameter makes a point. 
  • The number of syllables may change.  (Ah! Lewis Carroll played with the rhythm and only used iambic triameter in the last line of every quatrain! We see what he did there!)

Writing about Ballads

10 minutes

Today's response in writing was to write a paragraph that explains the four crucial parts of a ballad and shows examples from "The Jabberwocky."

I quickly outlined how students might organize this paragraph. The topic sentence should mention ballad, four parts, and "The Jabberwocky." There would be four sets of concrete evidence and commentary, one set for every part.  Format would get its own set of CE and CM, theme would get its own set of CE and CM, rhythm, would get its own set, and rhyme scheme would get its own set. The concluding sentence should summarize and explain the importance.


They asked if they could use "The Jabberwocky" and their ballad reference sheet in order to write their paragraph.  Of course! This paragraph would be due the next day at the beginning of class.

Lesson Resources

Today's lesson image was created with Wordle.