Compare and Contrast Two Poems

Objectives: Students will be able to analyze how Keats and Longfellow use poetic techniques to explore his particular situation respectively as described in their poems.

  • CCSS
    Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful.
    Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
    Interpret figures of speech (e.g., hyperbole, paradox) in context and analyze their role in the text.
    Analyze nuances in the meaning of words with similar denotations.
    Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
    Write explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Text: Poems “When I Have Fears” by John Keats and “Written at Boppard on the Rhine August 25, 1842, Just Before Leaving for Home” by Henry Longfellow ( AP English Literature 2008 exam page 2)

Materials: copies of the poems, AP Essay rubric, discussion questions and TPCASTT poetry analysis tool; personal white board

Resources for further reading:

Differentiation: Students select details from the poem based on their individual reading experience and understanding of the text. They are also given various options to respond to the poem depending on their personal level of challenges or strengths. Students can raise their own questions to probe into the implied meaning of the poem. TPCASTT- a poetry analysis method, provides students wit various entrance points and the Method is an analytical tool that students use to help them analyze the poem.

Grouping Rationale: Students will be grouped based on personal choice with consideration of individual learning needs, styles, talents and personality to maximize their productivity. In each group, all participants are contributors; each member takes turns to be a timer, recorder, facilitator and presenter.

Do now: Reflect on the poetry analysis task ( compare and contrast two poems “Chimney Sweepers” by William Blake) we discussed the day before*. Name two strategies you have learned from the discussion. Be sure to provide specific examples to illustrate your point. Jot down the strategies on the personal whiteboard. Pair share.

*For those who were absent the day before, please click the link to read the section” how to improve the performance on the exam- page 3)

Mini Lesson with Guided Practice

Topic: After reviewing the strategies to write about comparing and contrasting two poems, what are some of the effective ways to approach this type of analysis?

Step 1: Students list ideas with the teacher’s facilitation.

Step 2: Students select three to four points ( preferably challenging to them) to discuss in a small group. They may present their understanding of certain points briefly at the end of the discussion based on the peer request.

Possible strategies for discussion:

  1. identifying what the task specifically asks you to do- what’s the abstract concept and what are the concrete? How to frame the task into a question?
  2. finding an “entrance” to the essay in the introduction
  3. providing a context for the analysis ( readers who didn’t read the poems should gain some insight from the contextual information)
  4. thesis statement ( that reveals your thorough understanding of the poems- identifying the connections as well as distinctions between the two poems; a complex synthesis statement that contains a shift; name the poetic techniques the authors use to develop their ideas)
  5. starting the body paragraphs with -meaning-driven topic sentence ( a claim).
  6. Integrating the discussion of poetic techniques organically
  7. developing one paragraph to discuss the connections between the two poems ( idea, subject or tone, structure etc. Use TPCASTT tool)
  8. developing another paragraph analyzing the distinctions (diction, imagery, point of view etc. Use TPCASTT tool)
  9. Focusing on analytical commentaries for the evidence you cite : why does your evidence support your claim?
  10. citing precise and succinct evidence ( integrate in-text citation organically; no block citation)
  11. concluding with a universal ” so what”

Step 3: Students write the numbers of the discussion points that need further explanation on the whiteboard.

Step 4: Presenters responsible for those particular points present.

Student Independent Practice

In a small group, discuss one of the poems based on the task:

Your Task: In the two poems below, Keats and Longfellow reflect on similar concerns. Read the poems carefully. Then write an essay in which you compare and contrast the two poems, analyzing the poetic techniques each writer uses to explore his particular situation.

  • During your group discussion, apply some of the strategies we have discussed today.
  • Most importantly, identify the abstract concept in the task.
  • To demonstrate your understanding of the concept, which words/phrase can you use to replace the concept?
  • When discussing the poem, be sure to identify examples that describe the concept as well as reveal the poet’s point of view toward the concept.

Groups 1 & 3: “When I Have Fears” by John Keats

Groups 2 & 4: “Written at Boppard on the Rhine August 25, 1842, Just Before Leaving for Home-Mezzo Cammin” by Henry Longfellow

Expected Outcome by the end of the discussion:

  • replace the abstract concept ” particular situation” with a more specific phrase that reflects your understanding of the poem or the author’s point of view
  • create a complex thesis statement
  • select precise evidence that supports your interpretation of the concept ” particular situation”
  • identify and interpret two examples of poetic techniques that you will use to illustrate your thesis.

When I Have Fears
by John Keats

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love; – then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Mezzo Cammin

  1.               Half of my life is gone, and I have let
  2.               The years slip from me and have not fulfilled
  3.               The aspiration of my youth, to build
  4.              Some tower of song with lofty parapet.
  5.               Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret
  6.               Of restless passions that would not be stilled,
  7.               But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,
  8.                Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;
  9.               Though, half-way up the hill, I see the Past
  10.                Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights, —
  11.                A city in the twilight dim and vast,
  12.             With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights, —
  13.               And hear above me on the autumnal blast
  14.               The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.

1] The title means “midway through the journey” and comes from the first line of Dante’s Divine Comedy: “Nel mezzo delcammin di nostra vita.” Longfellow was 35 when he wrote this poem, halfway through the scriptural lifespan of 70 years.
7] possibly the death of Longfellow’s first wife in 1835.

Homework: Write a brief analysis of the poem you discussed in class by focusing on the specific task provided above. Be prepared to share your understanding of the poem tomorrow in your group.


Agenda for 3/9

  1. share analysis of one of the poems
  2. synthesize the claims on each poem
  3. as a class, create a thesis statement
  4. as a class, compose a paragraph to compare or contrast
  5. Review 2008 scoring guidelines
  6. review the common errors on this task
  7. critique the sample essays in College Board

Mini Lesson on the prose of 2008

Homework: Complete the prose analysis essay. Evaluate your essay with the scoring rubric.