What follows here is an account of what I am reading, which books I love, some information on reading, etc. I hope you will feel free to comment back on things I've written about--for this is a sharing experience!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Proposed Lesson on the Fireside Poets

Lesson Plan for Read Aloud: Fireside Poets
Kathleen McKenzie
AP Language

Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life” and “The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls”
Objective: Compare/Contrast the two poems.
Steps:  Read aloud each poem.  Key vocabulary.  Scansion.  TPCASTT.  ReRead.  Discussion.
1.       "A Psalm of Life" (1838) expresses both the confusion of his feelings in that time of discouragement and his resolve not to succumb to mournful passivity. Its counsel to "Act,--act in the living Present!" and its injunction to "be up and doing, / With a heart for any fate" gave poetic expression to the motto he had discovered in a German graveyard….  The second poem came later (1879) in life –after tragedy had struck him hard.  He died in 1882.
2.       Vocabulary:  bivouac-shelter, encampment   sublime-inspiring   main- sea    forlorn-sad
curlew- large shorebird   efface-erase, expunge  hostler-horse minder
3.       Scansion: Beats per line, rhyme, allusions, figurative language
4.       TPCASTT:  Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Allusion, Shift, Theme, Title
5.       Discussion: What message does each poem convey?  How do they relate to his changes in life and fortune?  DidYouKnow:  Longfellow is the only American poet with a bust at Westminister Abbey’s Poet’s Corner? Longfellow was accused of plagiarism by Poe?

William Cullen Bryant’s “Old Ironsides”
Objective:  Connect with past events; the power of persuasive verse
Steps:  Relate historical context.  Read aloud the poem.  Vocabulary.  Scansion.  TPCASTT.  ReRead.  Discussion.
1.        Historical context:  "Old Ironsides" is a poem written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., on September 16, 1830, as a tribute to the eighteenth-century frigate USS Constitution. Thanks in part to the poem, she was saved from being decommissioned and is now the oldest commissioned ship in the world still afloat.
2.       Vocabulary:  ensign (flag), harpie (mythological creature, half woman, half bird) that attacked sailors
3.       Scansion:  Beats per line, rhyme, allusions, figurative language
4.       TPCASTT:  Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Allusion, Shift, Theme, Title
5.       Discussion: Why does Bryant use the term “harpie” as he does?  Is it effective?  DidYouKnow:  This was Holmes’ most famous poem?  Why do you think this is so?

Oliver Wendall Holmes “Thanatopsis”
Objective:  Allusions
Steps:  Background.  Read aloud.  Vocabulary.  Scansion.  TPCASTT.  ReRead.  Discussion.
1.       Background:  Written over several years, this is a tribute to a young friend of Holmes who passed away as a young man.
2.       Vocabulary: The title is from the Greek thanatos ("death") and -opsis ("sight"); it has often been translated as "Meditation upon Death"
3.       Scansion: Beats per line, rhyme, allusions, figurative language
4.       TPCASTT: Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Allusion, Shift, Theme, Title
5.       Discussion:  Do you consider this a morbid poem?  DidYouKnow:  Holmes was a medical doctor?  And that he helped Longfellow with the English translation of Dante’ Divine Comedy.  Holmes was the first to use the term “anesthesia.”  Do you think his scientific background influenced his writing style?  About 1860, Holmes invented the "American stereoscope", a 19th century entertainment in which pictures were viewed in 3-D. He later wrote an explanation for its popularity, stating: "There was not any wholly new principle involved in its construction, but, it proved so much more convenient than any hand-instrument in use, that it gradually drove them all out of the field, in great measure, at least so far as the Boston market was concerned."


  1. It is so wonderful to realize the assignments can transfer richly and seamlessly to high school. The challenge is obtaining true buy-in from other content areas. How do we share the wealth of this type of deep thinking instructional planning?

  2. Unfortunately the old adage is true: A prophet is ignored in his homeland, so to speak. While I might could share with other schools, I'm afraid that I would not be successful at Cass because I "teach the gifted kids." But anyone who has taken gifted endorsement can tell you that raising the bar is important for ALL students.

    Of course, you could ask for lesson plans on reading from all subject area administrators--we have to submit them (and the above plan was only PART of the actual plan I submitted!) What would be interesting would be to see how these "plans" were actually taught.

    It's not really difficult to plan a good lesson--especially if one is an experienced teacher. But too many are too tired or set in their ways.

    Maybe you could give a lesson to our faculty? You are brilliant (no false praise here) and I think they might listen to you!

  3. Thanatopsis was written by Bryant; Holmes wrote Old Ironsides.