"The Lady of Shalott" Day One: Independent Reading

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SWBAT interpret "The Lady of Shalott" through reading independently, answering text-dependent questions, and writing a reader response.

Big Idea

"Every theory is a self-fulfilling prophecy that orders experience into the framework it provides." Ruth Hubbard

Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers

My classes normally meet for 100 minute block sessions every other day.  Today is a professional study day, early release day, for teacher training. Our class session is only 57 minutes.

In this lesson, students engage in independent reading, answering text-dependent questions, and writing a reader response on "The Lady of Shalott" from their textbook The Language of Literature (McDougal Littell, 2003) to prepare for collaborative activities in two subsequent lessons.

The lesson below outlines Day One of activities.

Ballad Discussion and Independent Reading

57 minutes

I introduce this poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson as a ballad or a long, narrative poem normally sung.  We discuss that in contemporary culture, a ballad is any song that tells a story, such as Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" or "Beat It".  In literature, I explain that a ballad has some distinguishing characteristics, refer to or sing lines from "Billie Jean" to demonstrate each and then elaborate on how it fits the characteristic:

  1. The beginning is often abrupt: "She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene" (Line 1). We don't know the background of this young lady or even her name.
  2. The language is simple or "folksy": "I said don't mind, but what do you mean I am the one
    who will dance on the floor in the round" (Lines 2-4). The diction is one of everyday speech.
  3. The story is told through action and dialogue: this story involves the speaker meeting this young lady who accuses him of being the father of her child.  Lines 2-4 also present us with dialogue.
  4. The ballad often has a refrain repeated several times: "Billie Jean Is Not My Lover, She's Just A Girl Who Claims That I Am The One, But The Kid Is Not My Son, She Says I Am The One, But The Kid Is Not My Son."  This is the refrain or chorus, repeated three times throughout the song. 
  5. The theme of the ballad is often tragic: the central message/theme of the song, which I think is, "You may be blamed for something you didn't do" or from the speaker's point of view, "I'm being blamed for a son I didn't father," has a tragic connotation because the speaker feels he's caught in a situation he can't escape.

With more time in the class period, I would have (1) displayed the lyrics to "Billie Jean" on the document camera and (2) identified the aforementioned characteristics along with the students . With more time in the curriculum to include a poetry unit, I would have introduced "The Lady of Shalott" by reviewing the type of meter Shakespeare used in Macbeth, iambic pentameter and focusing on the meter Tennyson uses in this poem.

My goal is for students to understand this complex text and employ acquired strategies to navigate it proficiently so that when they reach college and career and encounter complex literary and informational texts, they are not caught off-guard or unprepared.

I preview the text by explaining that the poem takes place during the time of King Arthur and is set in Camelot, Arthur's kingdom.  We discuss the meaning of chivalry for men, represented by the Knights of the Round Table, including Lancelot. Chivalry involved integrity, honesty, and the utmost respect for women. Since we studied the King Arthur Legend and "The Wife of Bath's Tale" from Canterbury Tales earlier this school year, students are familiar with chivalry and the Knights of the Round Table. 

I introduce the assignment (Assignment: "The Lady of Shalott"), explaining that the text-dependent questions (Assignment: Text-Dependent Questions) can be found in their textbook after the poem.  I give students the option of reading the questions before reading the poem so that they will know what to focus upon while reading. Instead of simply assigning questions, I reiterate that I want students to write a response to the poem so that they can examine their opinions and interpretations of the poem (Overview: Student Work - Reader Response).  I like to use reader response as a springboard for literary analysis.  By examining and articulating their views on the text, students have a starting point to revisit the text in subsequent lessons and analyze how the author uses literary techniques to convey theme.  

Students work on the assignment for the remainder of class and finish for homework.