English 9 Enriched: Lyric Analysis Essay and Shakespeare

As the culminating assessment at the end of Romeo and Juliet, the students were given the following essay assignment:


Your Assignment: You should be prepared for this task utilizing the RHA-ed song lyrics from either West Side Story or High School Musical that you worked with in your group.  We also watched video representations as part of your preparation, and we had a discussion in class. What is the main idea of those particular lyrics? Write a unified essay in which you correlate that main idea in those song lyrics with a specific speech in Romeo and Juliet (There IS a right/wrong answer for which speech goes with the lyrics; you will have to think carefully). Be sure to show how each author uses specific literary elements or techniques to convey that idea.


Your task: After reading Romeo and Juliet and the assigned song lyrics, identify a controlling idea that the two have in common (using a specific speech from the tragedy).


Purpose: To analyze the correlation between the two using the common idea (controlling idea) that you have identified.


Style: Be sure to analyze the authors’ use of literary techniques (for example: dramatic irony, symbolism, imagery, characterization, etc) that help express your controlling idea.


Format: You must have an introduction to your controlling idea, two body paragraphs (minimum of 4 chunks), and a solid conclusion.

These are the videos we used as part of the preparations:

From West Side Story:


“The Jet Song” (compares/contrasts with Act I, scene i of Romeo and Juliet):


“Something’s Coming” (compares/contrasts with Act I, scene iv as well as some aspects of Avt V, scene i of Romeo and Juliet):


“Maria” (compares/contrasts with the end of Act I, scene v and the early part of Act II, scene ii of Romeo and Juliet):


“I Feel Pretty”  (compares/contrasts with the opening of Act III, scene ii of Romeo and Juliet) :


from High School Musical:


“The Start of Something New” (compares/contrasts with Act I, scene v of Romeo and Juliet):


“Get’cha Head in the Game” (compares/contrasts with aspects of Act I, scenes ii and iv of Romeo and Juliet) :



Reflections on Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

4a.  Reflecting on Teaching

As I look back on this 2013-2014 school year, I can see some things that really worked for me and for my students, and I will not be changing those.  For example:

~ Working in cooperative groups for various units.   Although this does tend to work better at the enriched level as opposed to the regents (because the enriched kids tend to be more focused and not quite as chatty about things non-related to the task at hand), I used cooperative groups throughout the year for all classes.  As we did close reading of materials, I found that some weaker students benefited from having a strong reader in the group to kind of lead them along.   Quite often I heard phrases like, “How’d you come up with that?” and “Show me where you got that.”  

~ Using Visible Thinking Exercises.  I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: This technique has been the single greatest tool I have gotten in the past several years through Professional Development.  I wish I had been introduced to it much earlier!   Using these exercises helps to focus writing, especially the See/Think/Wonder exercise for coming up with Concrete Details (CDs) and Commentary (CMs) for writing.  Students become more observant while examining paintings/photographs/music videos/film clips, and they begin to look for less obvious details as the year progresses.  This skill is transferred to close reading as we examine specific passages from text.   The Regents/Consultant students did it with articles about migrant farm workers in the second quarter when we read Of Mice and Men.  During that time, the enriched students were working with Every Bone Tells a Story, and each group did close readings relating to a particular hominid.  When the Enriched classes were working with The Odyssey in the second quarter, students analyzed Homeric similes and explored various motifs (such as Land of the Dead tales from various cultures).  They were also given speeches from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to analyze closely, and the enriched kids had to analyze and memorize a 20 line piece from one of Shakespeare’s other plays.  We used the Visible Thinking technique with Gulliver’s Travels (9E) and Plato’s “Apology”and the poetry unit (9R) also.

~ Every Bone Tells a Story as a non-fiction work for English 9 Enriched.    I love how the book was divided into the four hominins, and then each section was divided into: Discoveries (Expository Writing), Deductions (Research), and Debates (Persuasive Writing).  Each group worked with each of the three types of writing as it pertained to their assigned hominid.   This worked very, very well at the beginning of the year as I was introducing the different types of writing that we would be doing during the rest of the year.  

~ Plato’s “Apology” and Evidence-Based Claims.  After trying out the Plato module from Odell Education last year, I decided to try it again this year with some of my own modifications. I did like how the worksheets reflected work that I was already doing with my students.  The Forming Evidence Based Claims worksheet is actually a version of See/Think/Wonder, while the Organizing Evidence Based Claims worksheet asks kids to create a thesis statement with two signposts (something I’d already taught them earlier in the year).   I did this piece early in the year so as to set the stage to use the Evidence-Based Claim forms all year. I found they work especially well as graphic organizers for the Regents literature as well because I used them with the short story unit, with Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet, and the poetry unit.

Things that I will change:

Well, as I am going to English 10 Consultant and English 11 Regents, I’ll be creating all new units. Because I have the same Consultant students, I can build on the work we have done this year.


4b.  Maintaining accurate records

One tool that helps with maintaining accurate records of dates and times of when work was turned in is the online website that I have for each classroom.  From my own funds, I purchased a networking classroom website from Ning.com that I used with my Enriched students.  When an assignment is completed online, it is dated and time-stamped, so I know exactly when it was done.  There is no argument about late assignments with this tool.  I also purchased 5 access site for FlashPoint Interactive for work with all of my classes, especially in working with the Root of the Week.

In addition, I make use of the Infinite Campus grade book online.  Parents may see grades on the portal and keep track of their child’s progress.  I have both positive and negative reactions to this.  On the positive side, parents can see what a child is missing and encourage him/her to turn the work in, or if the child does poorly on a quiz, the parent can intervene with the child.  On the flip side, some parents check the portal constantly and question grading practices for every little point in an attempt to raise their child’s grades. 


4c.  Communicating with families

All information about the course is sent to the parents over the summer so that they are informed about what their child can expect.  I send expectations, supplies lists, and a list of reading materials for the upcoming school year.

Most frequently, I communicate with families via email.  This gives me an electronic record of the communication, and I always include Mr. McBride (as English Department Supervisor) and the student’s house office administrator in the conversation.   I send emails for significantly late work, failing averages at the halfway point in a quarter, or missing work, and I make suggestions for how a student may improve his/her grade.  I also send emails when a struggling student has improved as a motivation for continued improvement.  If a parent does not respond to my email I follow with a phone call and log the call on Infinite Campus. 


4d.  Participating in a professional community

I served in the early part of the school year as a member of the Webster School District Policy Board where we work to design and bring about meaningful professional development opportunities for our teachers.  I was forced to resign my position due to family responsibilities mid-way through the year.

I participate in a PLC with another 9th grade English teacher and with two of the Special Education teachers, but I also discuss curriculum and other school business with other teachers as well.

For the past four years, I have served the school as the head yearbook advisor, maintaining accurate financial records and helping students and my co-advisor create a quality product.  I have also served as a ski club chaperone for the past nine years, and I was a class advisor for three years from 2007-2010.   Our committee planned the 2008 Junior Prom and the 2009 Senior Ball.

This was the sixth year that my students published an anthology of short stories that follow the Hero’s Journey pattern outlined by mythologist Joseph Campbell.  Each year, the short story project dovetails one of the units that we have worked with.  In the 2008-2009 school year, we read real-life stories of heroes.  Because of the popularity of the television show Heroes at the time, we patterned our story after the television show by giving ordinary people super-powers and creating our own superhero tales in In The Footsteps…  In 2009-2010, we read Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul in which humans created immortal characters/gods in their cultures and then later forgot about them.  Because the characters were immortal and could not die, they became the forgotten and lonely street-people.  Our task was to “rescue” an immortal by taking the time to learn and tell the story of a student-created immortal who was on the brink of being forgotten forever in We Remember…  During the 2010-2011 school year, we read The Hobbit, and so students created quest tales that included a long journey.  The culmination of that project was Forged Through Trials.  Last year’s project was also inspired by a television series and went with our Cultural Mythology unit.  In the spirit of Once Upon a Time, students selected a myth or fairy tale and modernized it.  The end result was Altered Reflections.  Each book was published online and is currently available worldwide.  This was the project followed by the Joseph Campbell Foundation that led to my participation in the international Symposium on Mythology.  Last year’s project surrounded a non-fiction work, Every Bone Tells a Story.    Students selected one of the four anthropological discoveries from the text, and they researched the region/culture in which the person may have lived.  From there, they put flesh on the bones and created stories for the hominins.  Lapedo Child and Turkana Boy have rite of passage tales or a coming of age story.  Kennewick Man has a long-journey story, as did Ice Man. The possibilities were many, so students had the opportunity to be creative all the while honing their research skills as the settings must reflect the region and ancient culture. This year’s project surrounded the creation of satirical stories after reading Guller’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.   As practice for creating satire, students played with parody in The New York Odyssey, drew their own editorial cartoons based on news articles they found, wrote song parodies that satirized an aspect of modern culture, and watched video clips of satirical “news” shows.

The students then voted on the top stories to be included in the anthology.  Their completed book, Through the Telescope, features twelve stories. I presented the students’ published work at the 9th grade awards ceremony, and we had a book signing celebration in the school’s Career and Counseling Center (CCC), complete with a cake bearing the book’s cover.


4e.  Growing and developing professionally

I am a member of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, which correlates with my work in teaching cultural mythology and The Hero’s Journey to my students.  In 2012, I was selected to present at an international Symposium on Mythology in Santa Barbara, California about the work I have done with my enriched students over the years, particularly the long-term short story project that we do annually, which culminates in the publication of an anthology.  As a result of my presentation, the Joseph Campbell Foundation has asked me to serve as one of the lead teachers on a committee that is creating an international database of lessons for use in the teaching of mythology. I intend to make use of that database as I work with my Juniors next year in preparation for them writing their personal narrative/college essay.

I worked with the owners of FlashPoint Interactive to publish my Root of the Week project that I began here in the district in 2008. It is currently available to all FlashPoint subscribers.

I have taken advantage of the Webster Central School District’s professional development offering on Visible Thinking activities in the classroom.  This practice has really added depth to my classroom discussions and to student sharing/writing.  There are examples of Visible Thinking exercises posted for your perusal. 

As part of my growth, I am planning to apply for a Fullbright Scholarship to do educational work in another country for a short time (3-4 months). It is my desire to bring a Capstone back to Webster after completing work on a Capstone Project in either Great Britain or Finland.


4f.  Demonstrating professionalism

I work hard to maintain my integrity in my chosen profession.  I take my charge to educate students very seriously, and I am consistent in my dealings with students.  While I may be strict, I believe that I am extremely fair and that I do whatever is necessary to see students succeed. 

I offer credit recovery options for students who are missing work.  Because I believe that all assignments are important and should be completed, I have given students “incomplete” grades on report cards until all work has been done. 

Reflections on Domain 3: Instruction

3a.  Communicating with students

At the beginning of a new unit, students are given a calendar and a schedule of due dates for homework, tests/quizzes, and classroom activities.  In this way, students can organize their own schedules and plan to have work competed on time.  Also, in the event of an absence, students know what has to be made up. 

Students are also given a study packet for each unit as well.   These packets include: introductory information pertinent to the unit, vocabulary word lists, reading/study questions, literary analysis questions, and any supplementary materials that we may need in the unit (poems, stories, articles, worksheets, etc).  All of my unit packets look alike, so students come to know where to find certain materials in them.   The expectation is that all study questions will be answered in 3-5 varied sentences (as a way to improve the development of a response) that include a properly cited embedded quotation from the text (as support).

My quiz formats are all alike as well throughout the year.  Keeping quizzes in a familiar format creates a sense of comfort in the students as there are no surprises.  All reading quizzes are comprised of ten multiple-choice questions (text-based and also related to literary analysis) and three short responses (taken directly from the homework questions).  I tell students that the homework is a dry run for the quiz.  The better job they do on the homework, the better it will stick in their memories as they answer the same questions on the quizzes. 

All vocabulary quizzes also follow a similar format: I read the definition, and students write the appropriate word and spell it correctly.  Students earn ten points for appropriate, correctly spelled words.  Five points are given to responses that are 1-2 letters off in spelling (including a capital letter for what are not proper nouns), and anything more than 2 letters off is marked wrong.  Students are often given bonuses of past vocabulary words or using the words in complete sentences that demonstrate they know what the word means. 

By being upfront with students about quizzes and keeping up with the schedules in the study packets, this helps to alleviate the stress of wondering what’s coming next.  I give as much advance notice for all assignments as possible to allow students to adapt to their personal schedules, which include sports, music and other activities.


3b. Using questioning and discussion techniques

I ask higher level questions both on quizzes and in the classroom.  I want students to be able to back their responses up with textual evidence, so I follow their answers with, “So how do you know?” or “What makes you say that?”  Also, when a student responds to a question, I ask others to add to the response.

Students also work in cooperative groups throughout the year.   I mix up the groups so that they get to work a unit with everyone in the class at least once.  I pose questions to each group, and they work together to come up with an answer, which they then present to the rest of the class.  This works especially well with the literary analysis questions that I give in each unit.  For example, during the Shakespeare unit, I divided a list of twelve questions among the six groups.  This allowed the groups to focus in on two particular literary devices in depth (because was group was responsible for only two questions).  When a group presented to the class, the listeners were responsible for writing down what they heard.  During the presentations, I would interject with, “And….” or “Soooo…” or “But…” and students would then elaborate on their responses.  This continued until the question had been thoroughly answered.  By the time we were finished, each student had an answer to all of the questions. 


3c. Engaging students in learning

For some assignments, I allow students to create the questions from the reading.  I tell them that the questions have to be text-based, but without obvious, fact-level, “point to it” answers.  We work on inferencing with the reading to create higher level thinking questions.  For example, when the enriched students worked with Every Bone Tells a Story (a non-fiction piece they’d read over the summer) during quarter one, they were placed into cooperative groups (one for each of the four hominins discussed in the text).  Each group had a series of tasks to perform, including creating study questions for their assigned section of the book.

For all classes, I also offer as much choice as possible so that students feel they have some input into their assignments. For example, when we worked with the Evidence-Based Claims in the Regents/Consultant short story unit, the students were allowed to choose which of the stories they felt most comfortable using in the completion of a writing assignment (each claim focused on a different literary device, so students could choose to write about the one they felt they could shine with). During the poetry unit, the Regents/Consultant students chose their own free verse and lyric poems to use for analysis. I believed that if they had some choice, they would be more inclined to look deeper into the poem.


3d. Using assessment in instruction

I used the following categories in my grade book:

Reading (40%):  This section includes all reading tests/quizzes and homework assignments;

Analysis (20%):  This section includes literary analysis essays, critical thinking writing assignments done online (Reader Response Questions), and literary analysis questions from the unit. This section also includes journal writing in response to Visible Thinking exercises;

Research and Reports (20%):  This section includes all the steps of the research process for the main research paper, as well as smaller research projects or reports done throughout the year. For the Enriched students, it also includes the enriched short story project and the 60 Day Sojourn done online in conjunction with the Hero’s Journey lessons;

Language Skills (20%):  This section includes the Greek or Latin Root of the Week posting done on the classroom websites as well as all vocabulary quizzes for the unit. It also includes any writing exercises we do involving grammar/sentence structure;

Students are able to monitor their own progress via the Parent Portal online.


3e. Demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness

I have made it my practice to eat lunch in my classroom in order to be available for students on a regular basis.  They can come to me during period 5 for make-up quizzes, to ask questions, or to seek help with homework/assignments. 

In the event of a student struggling with material, I have been willing to work with that student to help him/her succeed. I have worked specifically with several students who have suffered from concussions this year, as well as extra support for my IEP students.  I have also extended deadlines to students who come to me and ask for help. 

Reflections on Domain 2: Classroom Environment

2a. Creating an environment of respect and rapport

On the first day of class, I give students a course expectations sheet.  On it, I outline classroom procedures, materials/supplies needed, class rules, grading and assessment practices, and a list of units of study for the year.  I also include contact information for parents and students alike. 

One thing that I absolutely insist upon in my classroom is that we all respect one another.  I do not allow teasing or bullying of any kind, and I when I hear kids “joking” with one another in what may be considered a disrespectful way, I make students apologize to one another.  As part of classroom respect, I insist that gentlemen do not wear hats indoors, undergarments are UNDER clothing, electronics are where I cannot see them, and food is left in the cafeteria. 


2b. Establishing a culture for learning

Once students know what to expect, I have very few discipline problems.  I keep students on task by asking questions pertaining to the reading/task at hand whenever they seem to be veering on to another path. 

I display their work around the room, particularly their creative work.   I have posted pictures of the posters they have created (and may refer back to as needed when they are hanging up), as well as their Visible Thinking exercises for the unit so that we may refer back to things they may have seen or thought about earlier in the unit.

I have a specific shelf for each class’ journals, as well as reference materials around the room for them to use (dictionaries, thesauri, etc).   When a student asks me what something means, they have come to know that my response to them will be, “Get thee to a dictionary.”  


2c. Managing classroom procedures

Kids know that we have set routines for group work, their packets are set up in a similar fashion, their vocabulary quizzes follow a specific format, as do their reading quizzes.  I create this routine so that they become comfortable in knowing what is coming.  When they see their journals on their desks, they know that we are doing a Visible Thinking exercise.  When they trade papers for peer grading, they know automatically that they have to have a red pen and put their name in the lower right-hand corner.  They also know that they are expected to have the MLA heading on every piece of work that comes in for a grade, and that the heading is checked by peers during written/vocab quizzes. 


2d. Managing student behavior

If students know what to expect, then there are very few surprises.  The fewer surprises, the more comfortable they seem with a routine, and classes run smoothly.

I expect that students will refer to me as Ms Woodward, and not simply as “Woodward.”  I also expect that they will respect my boundaries and work space just as I respect theirs.  That means that students may not simply walk up to my desk and help themselves to anything they find (such as a writing utensil or a stapler).   I remind them that I would never come up to their desk to help myself, so they may not do so with my desk.  Students seem to understand and respect this guideline.


2e. Organizing physical space

I change the configuration of my room quite frequently.  While I begin the year in rows (better for me to learn their names from a seating chart), I do form various sized groups for each unit, depending up on how many groups I need. 

This gets a little tricky when I have two class levels doing different pieces or are at different points in a unit. I tried to plot my units out to last an entire quarter so that I could leave the desks in one set configuration for the full ten weeks.

For Enriched: During Every Bone Tells a Story, I needed four groups, one for each hominid.   When I moved on to The Odyssey, I used eight groups because of the wide array of cultural mythology we were using.   In the third quarter, we were in six groups for Gulliver’s Travels and again for the fourth quarter with Romeo and Juliet; three pairs of feuding families.  

For Consultant/Regents: We worked in four groups (albeit they were rather large groups due to class size) for Plato’s “Apology.” By the time we got to short stories in the second quarter, I decided that we would have paired rows where students could “go head to head” with a partner. This required me to physically reconfigure the classroom between Regents/Consultant classes and Enriched, but I felt they work better with partners instead of in larger groups at that point. They went back to groups for Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet, and for the poetry unit.

I mixed students up during the year so that they had the opportunity to work with as many people in the class as possible.

Reflections on Domain 1: Planning and Preparation

1a. Demonstrating knowledge of content and pedagogy

I have taken several workshops in Visible Thinking, and I use it consistently in my classroom.  I have found that the SEE/THINK/WONDER exercise is a wonderful lead-in to the Jane Schaeffer style of writing embraced by the Webster Central School District.

I have an in-depth knowledge of mythology and the Hero’s Journey process through my association with the Joseph Campbell Foundation and as past leader of the Mythological RoundTable (R) Group of Rochester.  I use this knowledge to create lessons that create a greater understanding of Cultural Mythology and The Odyssey

Student work with the Hero’s Journey culminates in the publication of an annual anthology of short stories.  My experience with on-line publishing through the publication of my own books aids me in this part of my work with students.  As such, I have working knowledge of what makes good writing.

As a stage performer who was trained in Theatre during a summer session at Thames Valley University in London, England under the tutelage of Rodney West from the Royal Shakespeare Company, I have much to bring to my students’ understanding of theatre and plays, particularly the works of William Shakespeare.  I also perform with various community theatre companies in the Rochester area.


1b. Demonstrating knowledge of students

Early in the year, the English Department gave a pre-assessment so as to determine the strengths and weaknesses of our particular group of students.  Through the results, I knew what I needed to focus on at least in the realm of persuasive writing with my classes.

As a teacher of the enriched program, students are expected to come in with strong writing skills, so I create lessons that involve higher level thinking and reasoning skills, and I challenge their use of effective sentence structure and diction.  I am also familiar with what is popular in teenage literature, and since these are most likely my readers of current young adult fiction, I work to connect the curriculum literature they will be assigned to that which they read by choice.

This year was my first time teaching Consultant classes, and I worked with my consulting teacher to better get to know my special education students through studying their IEP’s and/or 504 plans in depth. While working with their accommodations, I still held them to the same rigor and level of expectations as my Regents students. As they will be taking the same assessments, it would have been a disservice to them to do otherwise. After seeing their extreme progress throughout the year, I was pleased to learn that I would be moving up to English 10 next year.


1c. Setting instructional outcomes

I use District-approved rubrics for grading writing assignments, particularly those that model state assessments.  I allow students to see the rubrics in advance so that they are aware of the expectations.   For some long-term projects, I show them models of former students’ work (many allow me to keep their projects afterwards) so that they can get an idea of what I am looking for in their work. 

Although I teach similar literature to both levels (English 9 enriched and 9 Regents/Consultant), I adapt lessons for each level.  There are things I may have to work more on with the Regents kids (like doing more close readings of certain speeches in Romeo and Juliet or of the poems in the poetry unit) than are necessary with the Enriched students. Because of the struggles with reading comprehension, I decided not to read The Odyssey with my Consultant classes because I did not wish to stress them beyond their present capabilities. I made up for the Lexile levels with the selections of poems in the poetry unit, which included Tennyson, Keats, and Poe.

I also decided that it would serve the Consultant classes better if I did the research paper as a separate unit instead of having them work on it while in the midst of a literature unit.   As per district instruction, I used the Odell Research Module (Music) for them. My Enriched students completed the research project in conjunction with the Cultural Mythology unit as their topic was Storytelling.


1d. Demonstrating knowledge of resources

For my enriched classes, I purchase (out of my own pocket) a Ning website for online class assignments.  I maintain and weekly update these websites while also monitoring student performance on the online assessments.

I also purchased (out of my own pocket) access to Flashpoint Interactive for both literature and for the Root of the Week assignments that all students (Enriched, Regents, and Consultant) complete online.

When publishing the student short story anthology, I am savvy with using Lulu.  I work with students on creating the cover for the book, and then I do the uploading and final editing for publication.  I also post websites of various writing contests so that students may submit their work for possible publication and honors.

On the classroom sites, I place links to helpful online sources for all units.


1e. Designing coherent instruction

I create study guides for my students that not only provide background material about the author and topics/ideas we shall be exploring in a particular piece, but I give them vocabulary lists, reading questions, Reader Response questions, and literary analysis questions.   Because I have seen how Visible Thinking exercises have benefited my students’ writing in the past, I work to create thoughtful Visible Thinking exercises to accompany the units of study.  I know that students need to be prepared for the state tests, so I design lessons and assessments that mirror what they might see in the future.

My curriculum advisor, Jeremy McBride, has copies of all my unit plans on file.


1f. Designing student assessments

All assessments are designed to test skills that students will need to be successful in all areas of English Language Arts, but particularly those that will be presented on state (and soon, federal) standardized tests.  I particularly focus on the areas of:

1.  persuasive writing

2.  literary analysis

3.  close reading of both fiction and non-fiction

4.  research

English 9 Regents: “The Lady of Shalott”

Like we did with the previous narrative poems, we worked through the Elements of Fiction for Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott.”

You can read the text of the poem here:

The Lady of Shalott  by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

 Visible Thinking:

Both of the following paintings are by John W. Waterhouse and were inspired by Tennyson’s poem:


John William Waterhouse

JW Waterhouse

The Following video was published on Nov 12, 2012

In celebration of the 2009 bicentenary of the birth of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) WAG Screen made a short, filmed dramatisation of his poem The Lady of Shalott to be shown at The Collection, Lincoln. Inspiration for the visual imagery came from the many Pre-Raphaelite paintings that the poem inspired, but most especially the paintings of the artist John William Waterhouse.

Using the images from the Waterhouse paintings and from the above video, I placed the recreated images next to Waterhouse’s original.  I also added a line of text from the poem that supported the “action” in the pictures:


I am Half Sick of Shadows



Down She Came and Found a Boat___________________________________________________

 From there, students did a Visible Thinking exercise about how 1) both images brought Tennyson’s poem to life, and 2) how the video attempted to recreate Waterhouse’s representations of the poem.

NOTE: As we are doing many Visible Thinking exercises with the poetry unit, we are sharing verbally instead of using PostIt Notes.  I shuffle their class cards and deal them into three piles: See/Think/Wonder.


English 9 Regents: Elegies

The elegy began as an ancient Greek metrical form and is traditionally written in response to the death of a person or group.  Though similar in function, the elegy is distinct from the epitaph, ode, and eulogy: the epitaph is very brief; the ode solely exalts; and the eulogy is most often written in formal prose.  The elements of a traditional elegy mirror three stages of loss.  First, there is a lament, where the speaker expresses grief and sorrow, then praise and admiration of the idealized dead, and finally consolation and solace (source: Poets.org).

When working with the elegy, we specifically focused on the three main stages of loss and examined how W.H. Auden presented each of them in his tribute to Irish poet, William Butler Yeats.

In Memory of WB Yeats by W. H. Auden

Part I:  free verse- no rhyme or meter, much like the initial feeling of great sorrow or loss when a loved one has passed.  Predominantly uses imagery, each stanza being a different “snapshot” about the day that Yeats died.  This reflects the scattered thoughts of a grieving person as their minds fill with images about the deceased.

Part II: blank verse- still no rhyme, but there is meter, suggesting that a sense of “order” is returning, and one begins to remember the loved one with admiration (after all, who really remembers the bad stuff?).   It takes more effort (in choosing words to fit a meter) to create the iambic pentameter, unlike the free verse.  It does require some time and effort to move past the initial stage of grief.

Part III: verse with both meter (trochaic tetrameter) and a rhyme scheme (stanzas are quatrains with two rhyming couplets each).  Rhyme and meter are both present, forming a sort of “wholeness” after the loss (not that free verse poems cannot be considered “whole” in their own right, but it does require a bit more effort in order to create both rhyme and meter).


Visible Thinking:

We then turned the same ideas about the stages of loss as students watched/listened to the three verses of a more modern elegy, “Good-bye, England’s Rose” by Sir Elton John:


NOTE: As we are doing many Visible Thinking exercises with the poetry unit, we are sharing verbally instead of using PostIt Notes.  I shuffle their class cards and deal them into three piles: See/Think/Wonder.



English 9 Regents: Elements of Fiction in “The Raven”

We read and analyzed “The Raven” using the elements of fiction triangle (review for the exam) as well as examining Poe’s use of specific poetic devices.

Each group (6 groups) selected a card for which part of the story the group would focus on: Exposition (Characterization), Exposition (Setting/Mood), Rising Action (Conflicts), Climax (Turning Point for the Protagonist), Falling Action (Reaction to/Consequence of the Climax), and Denouement (Resolution of Main Conflict).  Each group shared its findings as well as made references to poetic devices that Poe used to get the ideas across.

Visible Thinking:

The following video, “Stephen King vs. Edgar Allan Poe: Epic Rap Battles of History,” was used in a Visible Thinking exercise (students were pre-warned of PG-13 phrases and excused from the room while it played if they thought they might find the two references offensive…they are so brief that they might not even be noticed in the rap, but I put it out there just in case):


NOTE: As we are doing many Visible Thinking exercises with the poetry unit, we are sharing verbally instead of using PostIt Notes.  I shuffle their class cards and deal them into three piles: See/Think/Wonder.