Overview/Rationale for Lesson:
High school students and elementary school students meet in a garden to read an Emily Dickinson poem about nature and write their own poems inspired by her model and informed by direct sensory observations.
Grade Level: 3 to 5, 9 to 12
Developed by Suzanne Strauss & Susan Ebitz, Northampton High School & Jackson Street School, Northampton, MA, and used in Grade 4 and High School
- Students will read and discuss nature imagery in a poem by Emily Dickinson.
- Students will write a poem based on direct observation and inspired by the format, imagery and graphic conventions of Dickinson’s poem.
- Students will make oral presentations of their poems to the group.
Lesson Plan Procedure:
Time: 10 minutes (plus travel time to outdoor setting)
Note: Students meet in an outdoor setting (this lesson took place at the Rose Garden at Child’s Park in Northampton).
Step 1. Introduce the nature poetry session. 5 minutes.
- Gather students in a circle, explain that they will be reading and writing nature poems outdoors in the garden and set guidelines and expectations.
- Distribute and read aloud a poem on the theme of nature written by Emily Dickinson: “This is my letter to the World” (downloadable from Materials Checklist). 5 minutes.
Time: 40 minutes
Step 2. Read aloud, “Nature is what We see” (downloadable from Materials Checklist), and give directions for poetry writing activity. 10 minutes.
- Hand out poem, writing directions (downloadable from Materials Checklist), clipboard, lined paper and pencil to each small group.
- Read aloud poem several times, inviting students and/or other adults to read aloud individual stanzas.
- Review directions and expectations for writing a poem inspired by Dickinson’s poem.
Step 3. Students work in small groups, spreading out around the outdoor area, first completing the handout and then composing a poem on lined paper. 30 minutes. (Download sample student poems from Materials Checklist.)
Conclusion/Follow-Up to Activity:
Time: 15-20 minutes
Step 4. Students gather in a circle and do a poetry reading. 10-15 minutes.
Step 5. Whole group does a choral reading of “Nature is what We see.” 5 minutes.
Additional Notes on Lesson Plan:
This lesson is the culmination of “Emily Dickinson: Person, Poetry and Place,”a sequence of collaborative lessons for high school students and 4th graders. See Emily Dickinson: Close Reading for background.
- Handout: Two Emily Dickinson poems
- Handout: Directions for writing nature poem
- Sample Student Poems
- Clipboard, lined paper, pencil (1 per group)
Emily Dickinson Museum Website:
- Thinking About Place – Lesson Idea
- Emily Dickinson and Gardening
- Tips for Reading Emily Dickinson
- Major Characteristics of Dickinson’s Poetry
Students re-write final draft of poem on paper with pressed flowers. (See Sample Flower Paper.)
ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS (Connections to the Common Core State Standards, http://www.corestandards.org):
Reading: Literature » Grade 4 & Grade 9-10
Text Types and Purposes
- MA.3.A. Write stories, poems, and scripts that use similes and/or metaphors.
Key Ideas and Details
- RL.4.1. Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the 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.
Craft and Structure
- RL.4.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean).
- 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 (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
Writing » Grade 4 & Grade 9-10
Research to Build and Present Knowledge
- W.4.9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Range of Writing
- W.4.10. & W.9-10.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Language » Grade 4 & Grade 9-10
- L.4.5. Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
- Explain the meaning of simple similes and metaphors (e.g., as pretty as a picture) in context.
- L.9-10.3. Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
- L.9-10.5. Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
- Interpret figures of speech (e.g., euphemism, oxymoron) in context and analyze their role in the text.
- Analyze nuances in the meaning of words with similar denotations.