Get everyone involved! Build fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and analysis skills all in one short lesson.
I use this lesson with my 11th grade American lit/intensive reading class; however, it would work just as well in any reading or literature class. The lesson takes two 45-minute class periods (with a little homework).
I begin the lesson by playing an audio recording of the whole poem, without any introduction other than the fact that it is a very famous poem and we’re going to be studying it for the next two days. Then, I distribute the stanzas to students for independent work.
Each of the eighteen stanzas is printed on a single page. Between three and eight words/phrases are underlined in each stanza. Students are instructed to find the definitions of these words—they can use their literature books and/or a dictionary to help them. You can differentiate instruction by selecting which stanza each student will work with based on the difficulty of the language and concept.
The second step in the assignment is for the student to complete a Text Reformulation—rewriting the stanza in his/her own words to demonstrate comprehension. Then, the students analyze their stanza and determine the Most Important Word in the stanza and justify their choice with a written explanation.
To improve fluency, students are instructed to read the poem aloud at least ten times and to have their listeners sign their worksheet as proof they have read the poem. I make sure they know that I know they are likely to forge the signatures, but that the truth will show when it comes to time to read the poem tomorrow. Those that honestly practiced will be rewarded with higher grades on the reading.
The following day, we sit in a circle in order of our stanzas and complete a first reading of the entire poem—each student reading his/her stanza. I take off points for mispronunciations and failure to follow punctuation marks. I might add points for especially dramatic readings.
Then, using our literature books with the complete text in front of us, we go back through the poem, one stanza at a time. Students share their reformulations this time and then explain to the class what they think is going on in each of the stanzas. I help bridge the connections between stanzas the kids don’t recognize and also stop occasionally for a more comprehensive summary of “what’s happened so far?” The kids enjoy seeing how their “piece of the puzzle” fits into the larger poem, and each student was intimately involved in the process, rather than a passive receiver of a summary of the poem.
One extension that I’ve found helpful, if you have the time, is to add a drawing component. Students illustrate their stanza and share the drawing on the projector while they read. It does add a little more interest and push the kids to come to a deeper understanding of their stanza by demonstrating what they visualized as they read.
I’ve been selling this activity in my TeachersPayTeachers store for 15 years and it’s been purchased over 200 times and received five star reviews from 26 teachers. As I venture into new territory, turning my blog into a storefront, I’m going to offer this resource for 50% off—a two-day lesson for only $1.50! Just click here to pay and you’ll receive a 19-page .pdf download—these teacher notes and all 18 stanzas, one to a page. Payments are processed through Stripe and once you’ve entered your information, you’ll get a link download the resource. Please check back as I continue to offer more resources at discounted prices.