Syntax Lesson

Objectives: Students will be able to evaluate in a well-developed paragraph or self-recorded podcasting how syntax used in the poem, ” love is a place” by E.E. Cummings, contributes to the overall meaning of the poem by examining the use of punctuation, capitalization and parenthesis in a small group setting.



Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text  contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.

Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis.

Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue;

Content: Students are provided with a laptop to help them with unfamiliar vocabulary.

Process: Instructions are scaffolded ( guided comprehension questions & graphic organizer) for students to follow. Handouts and other lesson tools are provided for students to respond to the text. Students are grouped according it their individual abilities, which are designed to enhance their learning.

Products: Choices are provided to help students complete the lesson task based on their individual abilities.

Do Now: Create an expression by only using punctuation, ampersands(&) , parenthesis( ) or brackets  to describe how you feel at this moment. Use a personal whiteboard to show your expression.

Share in your small group. What is your observation from this activity?

Mini Lesson

Randomly put the sentence strips on the whiteboard. Ask a lead student to come to the whiteboard and lead the class to construct a poem in two stanzas using the sentence strips.

Reveal the 1st stanza of the original poem and ask students to construct the 2nd stanza.

  • Ask students to jot down one observation they have made during the process.
  • Ask students if they have any immediate questions that need an answer to.
  • Further elaborate on student observations and answer questions.

The two stanzas follow a parallel structure.

Parallel structure refers to a grammatical or structural similarity between sentences. It involves an arrangement of words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs so that elements are similarly phrased.

  • Look at the two stanzas. Note two elements in the stanzas that follow the same arrangement or grammatical pattern
  • What does the fact that the stanzas are parallel say about how the poet feels about the concepts of “love” and “yes?” Explain.

Guided Practice

Guide students to respond to the following:

  • 1. How many complete sentences do you find in this poem?
    2. Place a slash mark (/) at the end of each complete sentence.
    3. In each sentence, underline the subject(s) once and the verb(s) twice.
    4. If Cummings had followed the rules of punctuation, where would he have put commas in this poem?
    5. Are these sentences simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex? How do you know?
    6. In the space below, write any independent clauses that are in inverted order( An inverted sentence is a sentence in a normally subject-first language in which the predicate (verb) comes before the subject (noun). Down the street lived the man and his wife without anyone suspecting that they were really spies for a foreign power.), or in which the verb is placed before the subject.
  • 7.Rewrite each of these clauses in natural order, or in which the subject is placed before the verb.
    8. How do these changes affect the
    ●sound of the poem?
    ●feeling of the poem?
    ●meaning of the poem?

Check for understanding: Students form two circles facing each other. Use speed dating activity to share responses to all 7 questions.

Independent Practice:  Punctuation and Syntax Analysis

Three groups work on the ” ampersand” analysis and the other three on parenthesis.

Answer the questions below:

  1. The poet uses two ampersands (&) in the poem.
    a. What is an ampersand and what is its job in a sentence?
    b. Why do people use ampersands and other symbols rather than words when they are writing?
    c. Does the feeling, or tone, of the poem change if you remove the ampersand and replace it with a connecting word? Why do you think the poet uses ampersands instead of conjunctions?
  2. The poet also uses parentheses in the poem.
    a.What are parentheses and what is their job in a sentence?
    b. Look at the words that Cummings encloses in parentheses in the first stanza. What feeling do these words create?
    c. Now, read the first stanza without those words. Would the feeling of the first stanza change if the parenthetical words were removed? Explain your answer.
    d. Look at the words in the parentheses in the second stanza. What feeling do these words create?
    e. Now, read the second stanza without the parenthetical words. Would the feeling of the second stanza change if the parenthetical words were removed? Explain your answer.

Use ” Fish Bowl” to assess understanding: Ask one of the groups from each question to share their response in a fishbowl while all the other groups listen and take notes.

Lesson Assessment( Refer to the AP 9-Point Rubric): 

Tone is the writer’s attitude toWard a subject, character, or audience. It is conveyed primarily through the writer’s choice of diction, imagery, figurative language, and syntax. Tone can be serious, humorous, sarcastic, indignant, joyful, etc. Individually,
1. Notice that, in each stanza, the parenthetical words come between a verb and its subject. What effect does the placement of these parenthetical phrases have on your understanding of the poet’s attitude about the concepts of “love” and “yes”?
2.List two words you might use to describe the tone of this poem( use the tone word list).
3. In a single, well-developed paragraph, discuss how Cummings creates a specific tone in “love is a place” through his use of punctuation and grammatical patterns.

Hand in the Lesson Assessment by the end of the class.

Homework: Compose a short poem in which you intentionally use syntax and punctuation to express a feeling or meaning.

AP 9-Point Essay Rubric

 9-8: Superior papers specific in their references, cogent in their definitions, and free of plot summary that is not relevant to the question. These essays need not be without flaws, but they demonstrate the writer’s ability to discuss a literary work with insight and understanding and to control a wide range of the elements of effective composition.  At all times they stay focused on the prompt, providing specific support–mostly through direct quotations–and connecting scholarly commentary to the overall meaning. Essays scored a nine (9) reveal more sophisticated analysis and more effective control of language than do essays scored an eight (8).

7-6: These papers are less thorough, less perceptive or less specific than 9-8 papers. They are well-written but with less maturity and control. While they demonstrate the writer’s ability to analyze a literary work, they reveal a more limited understanding and less stylistic maturity than do the papers in the 9-8 range. Essays scored a seven (7) present better developed analysis and more consistent command of the elements of effective composition that do essays scored a six (6).

5: Safe and “plastic,” superficiality characterizes these essays. Discussion of meaning may be formulaic, mechanical, or inadequately related to the chosen details. Typically, these essays reveal simplistic thinking and/or immature writing. They usually demonstrate inconsistent control over the elements of composition and are not as well conceived, organized, or developed as the upper-half papers. However, the writing is sufficient to convey the writer’s ideas, stays mostly focused on the prompt, and contains at least some effort to produce analysis, direct or indirect.

4-3: Discussion is likely to be unpersuasive, perfunctory, underdeveloped or misguided. The meaning they deduce may be inaccurate or insubstantial and not clearly related to the question. Part of the question may be omitted altogether. The writing may convey the writer’s ideas, but it reveals weak control over such elements as diction, organization, syntax or grammar. Typically, these essays contain significant misinterpretations of the question or the work they discuss; they may also contain little, if any, supporting evidence, and practice paraphrase and plot summary at the expense of analysis.

2-1: These essays compound the weakness of essays in the 4-3 range and are frequently unacceptably brief. They are poorly written on several counts, including many distracting errors in grammar and mechanics. Although the writer may have made some effort to answer the question, the views presented have little clarity or coherence.

For the purposes of our AP Literature and Composition course, the above AP Scoring Rubric will be converted using the below 100 point scale. 

 9=90%-100%   8=85%   7=80%   6=75%   5=70%   4=65%   3=60%   2-1=55-