Is it Romantic, Victorian, or Modern? Putting Poems in Their Place

5 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT categorize poems based on literary movement.

Big Idea

Literary movements have certain characteristics, but are fluid rather than fixed.

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Time Frame and Context

This is Lesson 6 in the British poetry unit. Students have worked toward understanding their poems in several ways. They know the poems are primarily from the Romantic, Victorian, and Modern eras, but what does that mean? Today students get a sense of the characteristics of three time periods in literature. To accomplish this, students

  • Identify possible categories in which their poems could fit, 
  • Group themselves based on their poems and the categories they have identified,
  • View and take notes from a Prezi that introduces them to the literary movements and their characteristics,
  • Respond to the question: What literary period best fits your poem and why?

Identifying Possible Poetry Groups

15 minutes

Literature anthologies for both American and British literature group texts based on time periods. These, of course, are artificial constructs but have a logical basis. There are, however, academic debates about when one period ends and another begins. I explain this to students. 

Nevertheless, it behooves us to help students understand how literature responds to moments in time. To do that, we can attempt to place the poems students have chosen into their constructed literary periods. 

Our first task is to identify possible poetry categories or groups.Students volunteer possible categories, and I list them on the board in the order in which students identify them. Student Generated Poetry Tags/Categories/Groups. We list possible categories until students are satisfied w/ the list and have no other suggestions.

Get Your Group-On

30 minutes

After students identify possible categories for their poems, I instruct them to group themselves (their poems) based on the categories we listed: Student Poetry Category/Group. To do this, students must talk to one another about their poems. They must read them to and with one another. They must negotiate and check one another's interpretations. 

"Death" Group is a large group. I suspect they had the comfort of the reading corner as one appeal to grouping themselves as they did. Friendship also factored into their choice. After chatting with them, it's very possible they could have split the group. 

Other groups were a bit more methodical in their choices. Life Lessons Group and Nature Poems Group are clearly smaller, and these students had more logical reasons for their grouping. For example, the nature group included the poem "God's Grandeur." The students identified specific details and lines from their poems when justifying their groupings during discussion. 

Some students needed a bit of reassurance and prompting w/ questions from our student teacher as they worked to identify their groups. Drue helping students determine their poetry group shows the importance of teacher support during activities requiring activation of critical thinking. 

Taking Note of Literary Movements

15 minutes

Introduce students to the three literary movements--Romantic, Victorian, and Modern--with a Prezi presentation. 

This Prezi was created by my student teacher, and it gives students the basics of each literary movement. As students viewed the Prezi, they took notes. They know they'll need to analyze their poems based on their notes and attempt to put the poems into the proper literary movement. 

The Modern Period section is one I supplemented w/ the Modernist creed, "Make it new." Additionally, I explained that writers in the modern period rejected closed forms, traditional institutions--from education to religious institutions. I told students I think about the modern period as embracing the idea that life has meaning but that we need new ways of constructing that meaning. In contrast, postmodernism rejects the idea that life has meaning and that we can construct meaning in any form. These, of course are questions of ontology and epistemology, although I did not introduce these terms to students this year because they aren't ready for them.

What Literary Period Fits Your Poem? Ticket Out

10 minutes

For their exit ticket, I asked students to put their poem's literary period on a piece of paper and give 1-3 reasons, based on the poem and the period, for their choice. 

Most students did an excellent job w/ this task, and those who did not identify the correct literary era of their poems came close and had really good reasons based on their notes and poems. 

One student classified "How Sooth Hath Time" correctly: Student Ticket Out: Classifying Poem. I like that the student with Coleridge's "Kubla Kahn" mentions nature: "Kubla Khan" Student Classification into Literary Period. Also included here is a student analysis of "God's Grandeur": "God's Grandeur" Student Classification of Poem.