Determining How Symbolism in Poetry Impacts a Speaker's Perspective of War

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SWBAT cite textual evidence to understand the connotative meaning of phrases in Sandburg's "Statistics" & "Grass" poems.

Big Idea

Hush that Fuss! Are you talking about WWII in explicit or literal terms?

Lesson Introduction

A symbol is a thing that is representative for something else. There are many effects that symbols have in poetry. For starters, symbols help poets create images in the reader's mind. Secondly, they convey deeper meanings than words would otherwise. In today's lesson, students will read, annotate, and analyze Carl Sandburg's "Grass" and "Statistics," to argue how imagery is used to evoke strong feelings in the reader about the poet's perspective of war. 

Warm-Up: It's All in a Question

7 minutes

For students to begin understanding the impact that poetry has on reading comprehension, the following prompt will be placed on the board for students to answer:

How can a poem give more details about WWII than a story?

 Students will respond to the prompt silently. To end this activity, students will volunteer to share their response to the bell work. Below are other points that I will share abut the uniqueness of poetry!

  • the use of the poet using emotions and imagery to tell a story
  • a theme is unpacked in a smaller package which requires more appreciation of what the speaker is saying
  • limited time and space to tell information so EVERY detail is important


Moving to the next activity will allow students to begin understanding why a poem is the most adequate genre for revealing emotional feelings about war.

Close Reading with Annotation

20 minutes

Students will read Carl Sandburg's poems independently. While students are interacting with each poem for the first time, they will use the following analysis to guide their annotation on each poem

  • Key words: Identify words or phrases that you noticed is important or significant to the meaning of the poem.
  • Feelings: Write out the feelings you have as you read each poem. Identify words that created this mood.
  • Ideas: Write out the main idea or theme of the poem. What other ideas was the poet trying to share? What was the poet saying about change? About war?
  • Images & Symbols: What were the central images of the poem? What deeper meanings did they have? Why did Sandburg use Napoleon as the central figure of the poem? What does Napoleon symbolize?
  • Structure: What type of writing is this piece? What poetic element structures and devices were used? Find words and phrases that are repeated. How does the repetition contribute to the poem?


In order for students to understand any text, they must read for a purpose. I will call on students to share their work on the poems with the whole class. Because students did this task independently, it is important that time is given so students can share new understandings gathered from the text. With these poems being used mainly in high school, students may struggle with the complexity level as well as how the use of personification in "Grass" contribute to their overall understanding of the poet's perspective about war.

Exit Ticket: Questioning

20 minutes

Students will end class by working on the Carl Sandburg Poem analysis & questions in their notebooks. I will allow students to chose a partner to work with on this comprehension activity. I will serve as a facilitator to answer questions students may have about the content of each poem. I will end class by doing a share-out of responses students uses to answer questions about each poem.