Stories by the Fireside: More Than Puppy Dogs And Ice Cream

4 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT determine the themes present in Romantic poetry at the time of the American Renaissance by exploring the poets' choices in crafting the text.

Big Idea

Poetry publication is serious business. We're proposing a book cover that addresses the major ideas of four Fireside poets.

Introduction: It's Saxophone Day!

5 minutes

Today is the Birthday of Adolph Sax, inventor of the eponymous instrument. We start class by asking if anyone plays sax, or is familiar with a notable sax musician. I also point out the videographers, and how the students will interact with them during the day.  

As with all Daily Holidays, my goal in addressing saxophone day is to build engagement, as well as a sense of student ownership and community in the classroom. Today's holiday not only taps into the interests of some of my musicians, but also addresses the connections to the Romantic movement. 

Musical Interlude: The Romantic Movement in Poetry and Music

10 minutes

Students have already read an introduction to Romantic Poetry, so we start today with a quick review of the definition and of the characteristics of the movement (students have been exposed to these definitions in the Jigsaw Reading two days ago, and these characteristics are on the notes sheet for the poems. Students have this notes sheet out as we being to listen.):

Romanticism: NOT about love and candlelit dinners and boxes of chocolate and flowers (or "puppy dogs and ice cream," to quote the film, "Swingers" ), but from the French "romantique": beauty, inspiration, and not a "love" element. 

1. Inspired by the beauty of nature

2. Emphasize emotion and imagination over reason

3. Celebrate individual spirit

As today is Saxophone Day, we'll take a few minutes and draw some connections between the sax and the emotional tone of some music played on the saxophone and the tone of the poems we'll be addressing in class today. As they listen, I ask students to consider how the music makes them "feel," and, write a short reaction to the pieces. The sharing of their reactions and our discussion will address the three characteristics of Romanticism addressed above.

Each of the pieces is either belongs to the music side of the Romantic movement, or is inspired by the same characteristics the literary movement addresses. The look at the music stresses the development of the themes and central ideas of their poems (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2). Some of my students are enrolled in Music Theory, and may be familiar with these the ideas of the Romantic movement. If they bring up these motifs, class discussion will directly address them, allowing student-experts to share their knowledge. The songs will be Chopin's "Prelude" and Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody", shown from YouTube. 

Small Group Analysis

30 minutes

In collaborative groups (determined in the earlier Jigsaw Reading on the Romantic movement), students analysed each of the poems in the textbook, becoming an expert on one:

William Cullen Bryant's “Thanatopsis” 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's “The Psalm of Life”

Oliver Wendell Holmes' “Old Ironsides”

James Russell Lowell's “The First Snowfall” 

(All of these poems are in the public domain, but were selected because they feature in our textbook.)

Yesterday, in groups of six, students read and prepared to discuss their assigned poem. In this small group, the students shared their answers to the Fireside Poetry Notes Sheet, especially what makes this a "Romantic" (movement) not "romantic" (emotion) poem. This guide addresses the elements of Romanticism that define the movement for the students.  Collaborative groups allowed students to exchange ideas and to become “experts” on one of the four poems. The like-poem groups allowed students to focus on the poems’ structure. By working together, they can clarify any misunderstanding of the poems or poet’s wording, as well as structure a common consensus of understanding for the class. Students were to read and prepare the poem for class today, so that they were ready to teach its significance to their small group. Individually, students explain to their groups how the theme of the poem is expressed (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2), and how the poet chose to structure the poem (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5). 

Today, students will teach each other, and discuss, how the structure of each of the four poem express Romanticism--not only the wording, but also the poetic devices used and stanza structure each poet uses. They enter their pre-established “American Renaissance Study Groups” of four. As they move to group, one student gathers markers and newsprint on which to make a "book cover" for a collection of these romantic poems. Members report to the group in the following order: 1. Read their poem to the group (I may drop this part depending on time, and student enthusiasm for reading aloud). 2. Share their identification of elements of romanticism, and explain why/how they are "Romantic"; how do they evoke emotion? 3. Share meaning of poem, and explain how they deduced that meaning; what details, both in word choice and structure, address that meaning?  As students share this information, another group member copies it onto their poster, leaving room for the other elements. 

The study groups allow students to focus on meaning, and puts the responsibility of teaching the poems on the student experts. This look at the elements of Romanticism addresses both the meaning (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2) and structure (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5) of the poem. As students work on this section, I circulate the room to answer any questions, re-direct off-topic conversations, and get a general “pulse” of student reactions to their poems.

Within these groups, students will then decide upon a central image to illustrate the poem. This image will go into the box with the poem's notes, and should include, in some form, the elements of romanticism the students have identified, as well as represent the central meaning or theme of the poem (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2). 

Cleaning up and Two-Minute Warning: Recap and Extension

5 minutes

Given that students have been working in small groups and will have spread out over a large section of the classroom, I ask them to take three minutes to clean up, return markers and colored pencils, and fold their papers to put them aside until tomorrow. Once the"housekeeping" tasks are take care of, most likely with two minutes remaining, I remind them to complete the Poetry Evaluation Guide for homework. We will discuss this the next day.