Close-Reading of Poetry

Essential Question

How do authors use writing strategies to develop central idea?

This unit introduces students to poets in conversation, and encourages students to make connections across thematically related texts.

Common Core Standards

CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions, of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone.
RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
L.9-10.4.a Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9–10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
a. Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence, paragraph, or text; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
L.9-10.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
W.9-10.2.a-f Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
L.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
L.9-10.1.Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Suggested Student Objectives

Students will be required to:
1) Read closely for textual details
2) Annotate texts to support comprehension and analysis
3) Engage in productive evidence-based discussions about text
4) Collect and organize evidence from texts to support analysis in writing
5) Make claims about and across texts using specific textual evidence
6) Develop and incorporate domain specific vocabulary in written and verbal responses

Thematically related Poetry
1. “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” by Christopher Marlowe “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd,” by Sir Walter Raleigh and “Raleigh Was Right” by Carlos Williams
2. “Lineage” by Margaret Walker, Combing Combing” by Gladys Cardiff, “The Courage My Mother Had” by Edna Vincent Millay
3. “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, “If” by Rudyard Kipling, and “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes
4. “My Mother Pieced Quilts” by Teresa Acosta, “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon, “The Father’s Song” by Simon J Ortiz
Additional Poems

  1. “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodre Roethke
  2. “Grape Sherbet” by Rita Dove
  3. “The Father’s Song” by Simon J Ortiz
  4. “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes
  5. “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
  6. “Oranges” by Gary Soto
  7. “Young” by Anne Sexton
  8. “Hanging Fire” by Audre Lorde
  9. “A Pair of worn In, Beat Up Converse Sneakers, Size 7” by Joyce DeFilippo

Resource Links

Found on
Analyze nonfiction: Central and main Ideas
Identify and infer character traits pdf
Inferring traits and supporting with evidence pdf
Answer the BIG Question with Examples and Evidence pdf
“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” by Christopher Marlowe
“The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd,” by Sir Walter Raleigh
Video: Professional Development Series Making a Claim Using Two Texts with Similar Themes


Fishbowl protocol:Activity 5: Fishbowl Discussion
The fishbowl discussion is designed to mimic real-life interactions, where people move in and out of conversations as contributors or as recipients of information. The activity promotes active listening for students and allows them to join and contribute as they feel comfortable. The purpose of the fishbowl discussion is to facilitate student discussion around the two “Mr. Julius Caesar” competitions in a structured manner. Arrange the students into two mixed groups: an inner Group (A) and an outer Group (B).
Explain that as Group A discusses questions posed by the teacher, Group B observes and listens to Group A’s discussion.
When a member of Group B wants to join Group A’s discussion, students should tap a Group A classmate and they trade places. Explain that all students should be in Groups A and B at some point during the discussion.

  • Ø Students listen.
  • Ø Arrange the desks in two concentric circles. Members of the inner circle discuss questions posed by the teacher. Members of the outer circle listen, observe, and decide when they would like to swap places in order to contribute to the discussion taking place.
  • Ø Teachers may wish to set up parameters for this task (e.g., time limits, number of student swaps, number of student swaps per discussion question) so that the flow of student discussion is not disrupted in a way that curbs the quality of the conversation.
  • Ø Depending on class size, there may be more than one fishbowl at a time. In this situation, the teacher may want to solicit note takers to keep track of the ideas being expressed. Note takers can share after the fishbowl discussion.

Video: Fishbowl protocol in a 10th grade ELA class
A protocol for citing evidence from informational text from expeditionary learning

Activity 1: Art/Class

Stay and Stray

The teacher will divide the class into groups of four or five students, with each group getting a poem and/or piece of artwork, an oversized sheet of paper, and markers. Within the groups, the students will analyze the poem/artwork that was assigned to them and discuss their thoughts and feelings relating to the work. The group will then use the oversized sheet of paper and markers in order to create a visual presentation of their discussion. At the end of the group activity, one student will volunteer to be the presenter while the other members of the group will watch the presentations of the other groups. The students watching the presentations will have a short period of time to read the poem assigned to the other group or view the piece of artwork. The presenters will then discuss what their group thought and explain the work that was completed.

Table Text

The teacher will divide the class into groups of four or five students. Each group will receive a poem along with a worksheet presenting four to five questions (enough for each student in the group to always have a question to answer). The students will read the poem, then answer the first question on their worksheet. After a predetermined time interval, the students will switch worksheets and then answer the next question. Once all the questions on the worksheet have been answered, the students will then have a group conversation based on their thoughts and the answers of their classmates.

Poetry Reading Exercises/strategies

  • Close Reading – Access small sections of a poem (several lines or a stanza) for the students to read. Then have the students re-read, mark, and annotate the key passages word-by-word and line-by-line.
  • Marking the Text – Selecting text by highlighting, underlining, and/or annotating for specific poetic elements.
  • Visualizing – Forming a picture (mentally and/or literally) while reading the text.
  • Free Writing – Using a fluid brainstorming process to write without constraints in order to solidify and convey the writer’s purpose.
    (This may also be incorporated into poetic writing by providing the students with a writing prompt and having them write without worrying about format, grammar, or any particular rhyme scheme.)
  • TWIST Analysis – Analyzing a poetic work by looking at the following literary elements: tone, word choice (diction), imagery, style, and theme. The analysis can be done as a chart and/or written response.
  • Choral Reading – Reading text lines aloud individual and/or in student groups to present an interpretation. (This can also be coupled with oral interpretation – reading a text orally while providing the necessary inflection and emphasis that demonstrate an understanding of the meaning of the poem.)

Think-Pair-Share Considering and thinking about a topic or question and then writing what has been learned; pairing with a peer or a small group to share ideas; sharing ideas and discussion with a larger group To construct meaning about a topic or question; to test thinking in relation to the ideas of others; to prepare for a discussion with a larger group
Discussion Groups Engaging in an interactive, small group discussion, often with an assigned role; to consider a topic, text, question, and so on To gain new understanding or insight of a text from multiple perspectives
Quick Write Responding to a text by writing for a short, specific amount of time about a designated topic or idea related to a text To activate background knowledge, clarify issues, facilitate making connections, and allow for reflection.


Unit 1 Writing prompts:

  • How does the structure of Marlowe’s poem develop a central idea of the text?
  • Identify Marlowe’s use of alliteration, specifically the repetition of the “L” sound, as a structural choice that Marlowe makes in his poem.
  • Explain how Marlowe’s alliteration develops a central idea of the poem by linking the concepts of living and loving with the “delights” of the natural world.
  • How does the language of Marlowe’s poem evoke a sense of time and place? How does this time and place develop a central idea of the text?
  • Consider how the time and place Marlowe establishes further develops a central idea in the poem (such as the harmonious relationship between humans and nature).

Post Unit Assessment
Unit 1: How does Williams draw upon and transform the themes established by Marlowe and Raleigh?