In this Buried Treasures post, I want to spotlight a powerful little writing exercise you may not have discovered. It’s a sentence-modeling activity that appears in all nine titles of the English Poetry Series, but you can apply it to any writing task that requires text analysis.
In the series, students explore great poems (think Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 or Arnold’s “Dover Beach”). They read and listen to the lines, respond to a visual representation of imagery, and analyze poetic language. All these activities lead to the final modeling activity, and it’s worth a close look.
The assignment asks students to practice writing interpretive sentences about the poem they’ve studied. To do that, they follow three steps.
First, they review the elements of an effective interpretive sentence.
Second, students examine a question about the poem and a sample interpretive sentence that answers it by drawing on information and ideas they could have collected during their analysis. For example, here’s a question about Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium” followed by a model interpretive sentence.
Finally, students use this model, along with the work they completed as they studied the poem, to compose eight original interpretive sentences.
Clearly, this writing exercise guides students who are grappling with the complexities of a Yeats poem. But the model is flexible enough to help younger students who might be getting their first look something more simple, such as at the way O. Henry uses irony in his short stories.
I call that a treasure.
About the English Poetry series
In our series, students explore great poems drawn from each period of English literary history, starting with the Anglo-Saxons and including poems by Chaucer, Shakespeare, Keats, Yeats, and others.
Here's the full list of resources:
English Poetry: The Ruin
English Poetry: Lines from Canterbury Tales
English Poetry: Shakespeare's Sonnets 18 & 55
English Poetry: Sidney's Sonnets 6 & 31
English Poetry: To His Coy Mistress
English Poetry: To Autumn
English Poetry: Dover Beach
English Poetry: Sailing to Byzantium
English Poetry: Siren Song