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.

English 9 Regents: Forming Evidence-Based Claims about Poetry

When we began work with Free Verse poetry, we took a very close look at “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes.  After making a claim regarding a theme in the poem, we especially paid close attention to the following figurative language tools to see how they supported the theme of never giving up in spite of extreme difficulties:

– the extended metaphor of the staircase (both the “crystal stair” that the Mother’s life was not, and the beat up, wooden staircase that it was);

– the symbolism of the tacks, boards torn up, bare places on the floor, and the turns at each landing;

– and the characterization of the Mother through her dialect and her willingness to keep climbing in spite of hardships.

In preparation for their next writing assignment, we took the information about “Mother to Son” and placed it on a Forming Evidence-Based Claim worksheet (see below) to use as a model:

MOTHER TO SON Forming EBC Worksheet

The students had been instructed to bring in any Free Verse poem of their choice (as long as it was school appropriate and a minimum of 20 lines so that they had something to work with).  After we finished the model of “Mother to Son”, I asked them to do the same thing for their own choice of poem.  The poems had to be RHA’d for theme and at least three examples of figurative language that supported the theme.

Student Samples:

EBC Poem Mackenzie


EBC Mackenzie


EBC Poem Andre

EBC Andre

Once they completed their Evidence-Based Claims forms, they were then able to construct a three-chunk paragraph about the poem that they had selected.

English 9 Regents: Poetry (Odes)

As part of our poetry unit, students learned about a variety of poetic styles from odes, to elegies, to romances and epics.  We examined a plethora of figurative language tools used by poets to craft their work.

This is what we did with Odes:

1- defined Pindaric and Horatian odes and the purpose of an ode altogether

2- read and analyzed the structure of “Ode to Aphrodite” by Sappho (example of Pindaric Ode)

3- read and analyzed the structure of two odes from T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (“Macavity: the Mystery Cat” and “Mungojerry and Rumpleteezer”), which are examples of Horatian Odes.

5- compared student analyses of Eliot poems (speaker, tone, mood) with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s interpretation of the same poems in the musical Cats.  Analyzed Webber’s characterization of each cat (speaker, tone, musical style, choreography, costuming, lighting) and justified his choices with textual evidence from Eliot’s poems.

We then used a Visible Thinking exercise with video performances of these same odes:


“Mungojerry and Rumpleteezer”



English 9 Regents: Poetry

Throughout the poetry unit, I am introducing a variety of poetic styles as a brief overview of the genre.  The poems include:


“Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost (meter and rhyme scheme)

“The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe (how assonance, consonance, and alliteration are used to create onomatopoeia)

“Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar (meter and rhyme scheme; symbolism)

“Mending Wall” by Robert Frost (blank verse, iambic pentameter, effectiveness of imagery)

“Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes (characterization, extended metaphor, symbolism, free verse)

“When I Heard the Learned Astronomer” by Walt Whitman (free verse, “self” as speaker)

“Ode to Aphrodite” by Sappho (Pindaric ode, strophe/antistrophe)

“Macavity: The Mystery Cat” by T.S. Eliot (Horatian ode, characterization, imagery, speaker)

“Mungojerry and Rumpleteazer” by T.S. Eliot (Horation ode, characterization, imagery, speaker)

“In Memory of W. B. Yeats” by W. H. Auden (elegy, characterization)

“Sonnet 130” by William Shakespeare (sonnet format, iambic pentameter)

“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe (narrative poetry, characterization, conflict, imagery, repetition, trochaic octameter)

“Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Taylor (narrative poetry, characterization, conflict)

“La Belle Dame Sans Merci” by John Keats (narrative poetry, romance, characterization, setting, speaker)

“The Lady of Shalott” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (narrative poetry, characterization, romance, conflict)


English 9 Regents: Prologues for “The Interlopers” a la Shakespeare

As students examined Shakespeare’s opening prologue in Romeo and Juliet, we talked about the function of a prologue (introduction of characters, setting, and the main conflict, as well as an invitation to “stay tuned”) in his play.  To show that they understood the function of a prologue AND the structure of a sonnet, the students were asked to create a prologue (in sonnet form) for another story about feuding families: “The Interlopers” by Saki.  It was a story we had read during the short story unit this Fall.


Here is a student sample by Mike B. (I bolded and italicized the stressed syllables to show the iambic pentameter):


For years a feud has continued to grow

Over one puny little strip of land;

This feud has brought them nothing but sorrow,

And could not be stopped by the judge’s hand.

Our story takes place one dangerous night:

Two different men plotting each other’s doom,

But soon their evening will be filled with fright

As imminent danger begins to loom.

As Ulrich and Georg lessened their rage,

Their families’ past they began to pave,

Unknown to them, their current wooden cage

Would also serve as their eternal grave.

The land the families saw as their prize,

Ironically brought down their sons’ demise.

English 9 Regents: Foreshadowing in Of Mice and Men

I set the scene with dimmed lights and had the students completely clear their desks so that I could perform a reading of Chapters 5 and 6 from Of Mice and Men.   As I read, I used character voices and dialect to support the various characters I portrayed.  The room was completely still as I read…you could, to use a cliche, hear a pin drop.   When I finished, students were to work SILENTLY on their reading questions (in honor of the two characters who died in those chapters).

Their writing piece will not be with a partner this time, but it will still be an Evidence-Based Claim.  This will be the culminating assessment for the novella as each will work independently.  Throughout this unit, students had practice writing several evidence-based claims paragraphs (Steinbeck bio/Migrant Workers; Animal Symbolism in Chapter 1; Characterization of George/Lennie in Chapter 2; Creating Tone (Sympathy) in Chapter 3; Characterization Through Imagery in Chapter 4; and Prejudice throughout Chapters 2-4).  The students are complaining of carpel tunnel syndrome!

Each writing piece was practice in writing literary analysis.  Their final assessment will be to choose from the two significant events in Chapters 5 and 6 (the deaths of Curley’s wife and Lennie).   Once they have made their choice, they will have to complete an Evidence-Based Claims Form about how the even was foreshadowed by prior events in the novella.  Their paragraph, then, will be about how either the death of Curley’s wife or the death of Lennie was foreshadowed in the plot.

By this time, they should be able to complete this in one period (55 minutes).  They have been doing so with prior Evidence-Based Claims paragraphs when they worked with partners.

Forming EBC Foreshadowing

English 9 Regents: Prejudice in Of Mice and Men

After reading Chapters 1-4 of Of Mice and Men, students worked together to fill in the following chart on the board (answers are already filled in below):

CHARACTER                                       TYPE OF DISCRIMINATION


mental disability


physical disability/age discrimination


      physical disability/age/racial discrimination


picked on because of his height

Curley’s wife

gender discrimination

After they completed the chart, names were drawn and students could choose which character he/she and their partner would write about. The catch was that only TWO pairs could write about a particular character (for example, only two pairs could write about Crooks per class). This prevents getting 78 papers about Crooks and ignoring the rest of the characters.

Once the pairs selected which character would be the focus of their paragraph, each pair had to fill out an Evidence-Based Claim Form to organize their ideas about the character and how he/she was an object of prejudice.

Forming EBC Prejudice

English 9 Regents: Characterization Through Imagery

Characterization through imageryToday we examined the first two paragraphs of Chapter 4 in Of Mice and Men.  As they were examining Steinbeck’s use of imagery, they made a list of ten items they “saw” in Crooks’ room that demonstrated something about his character.

They then had to select the top three things they saw that really said something about Crooks and create three “I Think” statements and tell WHY they thought so about Crooks’ character.

After the three “I think” statements, they also had to write three things they wondered about Crooks based on what they “saw” in his room.

Students then shared what they SEE, THINK, and WONDER about Crooks through Steinbeck’s imagery.

After they shared on the front board (poster), they filled out an Evidence-Based Claim Form to prepare for a characterization paragraph about Crooks based on the imagery of his room in the stable.

Forming EBC Characterization Through Imagery