• Symmetry in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

    "Sir Gawaine the Son of Lot, King of Orkney" from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights

    King Arthur, Camelot, Gawain, a bold challenge, a perilous journey, a beheading, an enchantment, and a shape-shifter are the ingredients of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. For the modern reader, Sir Gawain's tale is riveting even without understanding its symmetry or cultural and historical context. Viewed through the lens of the medieval thinker, reading this Arthurian tale becomes a rich, multi-layered experience.

  • Recognizing Similes: Fast as a Whip

    American poet ee cummings made vivid use of similes in his work.

    Similes are used often in literature, appearing in every genre from poetry to prose and from epics to essays. Utilized by writers to bring their literary imagery to life, similes are an important component of reading closely and appreciating literature.

  • "Animal Farm": Allegory and the Art of Persuasion

    George Orwell, author of 1984.

    Allegories are similar to metaphors: in both the author uses one subject to represent another, seemingly unrelated, subject. However, unlike metaphors, which are generally short and contained within a few lines, an allegory extends its representation over the course of an entire story, novel, or poem. This lesson plan will introduce students to the concept of allegory by using George Orwell’s widely read novella, Animal Farm, which is available online through the EDSITEment-reviewed web resource Internet Public Library.

  • Lesson 1: Understanding the Context of Modernist Poetry

    Planes, (subway) trains, automobiles and World War I

    Understanding the context of literary modernism (specifically, modernist poetry) is important for students before they analyze modernist texts themselves. To that end, this lesson enables students to explore and consider the forces that prompted such a “fundamental change” in human nature.

  • Browning's "My Last Duchess" and Dramatic Monologue

    Robert Browning (1812–1889).

    Reading Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess,” students will explore the use of dramatic monologue as a poetic form, where the speaker often reveals far more than intended.

  • Introducing Jane Eyre: An Unlikely Victorian Heroine

    Charlotte Brontë

    Through their interpretation of primary documents that reflect Victorian ideals, students can learn the cultural expectations for and limitations placed on Victorian women and then contemplate the writer Charlotte Brontë's position in that context. Then, through an examination of the opening chapters of Jane Eyre, students will evaluate Jane's status as an unconventional Victorian heroine.

  • Death in Poetry: A.E. Housman's "To an Athlete Dying Young" and Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night"

    Dylan Thomas and A.E. Housman each wrote poems about death that were very  different from each other.

    In this lesson, students analyze, compare, and contrast two famous but different poems about death. Students will study poetry form (elegy and villanelle) and poetic devices such as repetition and tone.

  • Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice": The Novel as Historical Source

    A contemporary portrait of Jane Austen based on an original drawing by Jane's  sister Cassandra.

    Jane Austen's classic novel offers insights into life in early nineteenth-century England. This lesson, focusing on class and the status of women, teaches students how to use a work of fiction as a primary source in the study of history.

  • Preparing for Poetry: A Reader's First Steps

    William Shakespeare

    Students are often gleeful to discover that their reading homework involves only a few short poems. Yet the attentive student realizes that carefully reading a poem involves as much work as reading a short story, article, or passage from a novel. This lesson teaches students how to read a poem so that they are prepared, rather than simply present, for class discussion.

  • William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream": Conflict Resolution and Happy Endings

    Shakespeare Puck

    The activities in this lesson invite students to focus on the characters from A Midsummer Night's Dream, to describe and analyze their conflicts, and then to watch how those conflicts get resolved.