This username and password
combination was not found.

Please try again.

STU Online Education Programs
Hotchalk Global

view a plan

This lesson explores the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson and how they relate


Language Arts  


7, 8, 9  

Title – The Life and Poetry of Emily Dickinson
By – Rhiannon Brownlee
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Grade Level – 7-9

PA Academic Standards:

      1.3.8.A Read and understand works of literature.


      1.1.8.H Demonstrate fluency and comprehension in reading.


      1.6.8.B Listen to others.


      1.6.8.B Listen to selections of literature (fiction and/or nonfiction).


    1.3.8.F Read and respond to nonfiction and fiction including poetry and drama.

Goal of this lesson:

      1. For students to learn that one must first understand the life of the poet in order to fully comprehend their poetry.


    2. For students to be able to interpret poems by Emily Dickinson after being informed of her biography.


      1. Chalkboard and chalk


      2. Picture of Emily Dickinson (visual aid)


      3. Visual aid projector


      4. Pens/Pencils


      5. Notebook Paper


      6. Handout of Poems


    7. Handout of Emily Dickinson’s biography

Clerical/Administrative Tasks:

      1. Make copies of Emily Dickinson’s poems handout.


      2. Make copies of handout of biography of Emily Dickinson


    3. Take roll.

Instructional Objectives:

      1. The students will be able to identify characteristics of Emily Dickinson.


      2. The students will be able to relate identified characteristics of Emily Dickinson in order to interpret her poems inside and outside of class.


      3. The students will be able to read aloud portions of Emily Dickinson’s biography to the class.


      4. The students will be able to listen attentively to each other read aloud the biography of Emily Dickinson.


    5. The students will be able to discuss and analyze the poetry of Emily Dickinson.


      1. Anticipatory Set:

        Present picture of Emily Dickinson to the class. Ask anyone if they know who the picture is of. Write the name of “Emily Dickinson” on the board and ask students to name characteristics of Emily Dickinson that they may already know. Write these characteristics under her name. (2-3 minutes)
        Key Questions:


        1. Does anyone recognize this 19th century poet?


        Answer: Emily Dickinson


        2. Can anyone name any characteristics of Emily Dickinson?


        Answer: I would expect students to name simple characteristics such as, depressed, lonely, hermit.


      2. Teaching to an Objective:

        Explain to the students that they have named a lot of true characteristics of Emily Dickinson but in order to fully understand her poetry, it is vital to first understand her. Explain to students that this is true in all poetry and is extremely important. (2-3 minutes)
        Key Questions:


        3. Can anyone explain why it is important to understand the biography of a poet before exploring their poetry?


        Answer: It is important because most of what a poet writes is reflective of their own lives regardless of whether or not they are the speaker in the poem or not. In order to fully grasp the concepts that the poet is presenting, it is essential to understand the background of the poet.
      Transition: “In order for us to fully understand Emily Dickinson’s life, let us real aloud a short biography about her.” Say this as the biography handout is being passed out.

Developmental Activities:

      3. Presentation of new material or academic input:

        I will pass out the short biography about Emily Dickinson to the class and I will ask for volunteers or pick students to read it aloud. I will then ask students to name more characteristics of Emily Dickinson (characteristics that they learned from the biography) and write those on the board as well. Reinforce to students that understanding and identifying these characteristics is extremely important in order to interpret her poetry. (4-5 minutes)
        Key Questions:


        4. Now that we have read the biography of Emily Dickinson, can anyone name more characteristics that we have not already identified?


        Answer: I would expect them to name characteristics more consistent with those that were presented in the biography such as family oriented, isolated, longing for happiness, not publicly recognized, content with who she was.
        Transition: Pass out select Emily Dickinson poems to the class and instruct students to read the poems silent to themselves and think of what characteristics we identified on the board fit into the poem.


      4. Modeling:

        Read the poem,

I’m nobody! Who are you?

        aloud to the class and explain what characteristics we discussed relate to the poem. Do this for only the first stanza of the poem because the students will be expected to be able to do by themselves for the second stanza. (2-3 minutes)
        Transition: Ask students to silent re-read the second stanza of the poem and to think of characteristics of Emily Dickinson that apply to the poem.


      5. Check for Understanding:

        Re-read the second stanza of the poem,

I’m nobody, Who are you?

        aloud to the class. Call on students/ask for volunteers to name characteristics from the second stanza that apply to the characteristics we wrote on the board. This will help me verbally check to see if the students understand the concepts that I am presenting to them. If they do seem to understand then we will continue on with the second poem. If the students do not seem to understand what I am presenting, I will go over the first poem again and represent the material until they seem like they are catching on. (2-3 minutes)
        Key Questions:


        5. What characteristics of Emily Dickinson are represented in the second stanza of the poem,

I’m nobody, Who are you?



        Answer: Alone, isolated, lonely, content with who she was.
        Transition: “Now that we understand the importance of linking the poet to his/her poems, let us continue on with another poem to expand our perspective on this concept.”


      6. Guided Practice:

        A. Have a volunteer read the second poem,

Pain has an element of blank

        to the class. Instead of directly telling the students what characteristics fit/do not fit, let them respond to questioning without any leading. Mainly let the students interpret the poem for themselves yet pay close attention to any problems that students may have. I want to interpret this poem as a class in case any students did not fully understand what we were trying to accomplish in the first poem. (4-5 minutes)
        Key Questions:


        6. What characteristics of Emily Dickinson are represented in the poem,

Pain has an element of blank



        Answer: alone, isolated, lonely, longing for happiness, depressed.
        B. As a continuance, I want the students to split off into groups for a more indirect approach to guided practice. In this group work session, students will split into groups of 3 and interpret the Emily Dickinson poem,

My Life Closed Twice before it Closed

        . I will monitor the progress of the students by walking around the classroom and paying close attention to see if the students are grasping the concept of poem interpretation through the poet’s biography. (15-20 minutes)
        If Time Permits:


      If there is still time left over in the period, I will instruct students to break away from their groups and work individually on the 4th poem on their poetry handout entitled, “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain.” I will instruct them that I want them to interpret the poem the same way they did the other three but this one will be graded to be especially careful to interpret all lines of the poem and link them to the biography that I presented them. (8-10 minutes)


      Independent Practice:

        A. If we did not have enough time for the “If time permits” activity, then that will be how I will formally assess the students outside of the classroom. I will collect this homework assignment the next day and formally grade it.
        B. If we did have enough time to cover the “If time permits” activity, then I will assign a completely different homework assignment to the class in order to evaluate their understanding of the material we covered. For this homework assignment, I would expect the students to write a short biography about their own lives (only about 3-4 paragraphs) and then write a 2-3 stanza poem that is reflective of their own lives. This will be collected at the end of the week because I would expect it to be done properly and therefore could be rather time consuming.



      Have students return back to their original seats and either briefly explain to them the homework assignment that they have. This will either be A or B of the Independent Practice, depending on what and how much we got accomplished in class. Either one of these assignments will be explained to the class. (3-5 minutes)

for Students with Special Needs:

    In order for this special needs student to most advantageous in the classroom, I would position them so they are not near any windows or doors that could be an easy distraction to them. This would help them focus more on the material that they are supposed to be doing. In order for them to closely follow along to the lesson that I am presenting, I would provide them with an outline of what we would be doing in class that day. I would expect the student to put a check mark in the boxes beside what we have accomplished. I will monitor this student by evaluating whether or not they are checking the boxes which would mean they are closely following the lesson. Since note taking does not seem effective with this student, I will provide the notes for them and expect them to follow along by checking off our class progression on the provided outline. While the student is in group work, I will provide them with a group who I know values staying on task and therefore will influence the special needs student to do the same. At the end of the lesson, I will write a special note to the student which details their homework for the night. I would expect this note to be signed by a parent/guardian (this would not be new to the student because I would have been doing this all year long) and turned back into me with the completed homework attached.

Technology Integration:

      1 computer scenario:

        a. Replace lecture with a power point presentation where the students would be able to see the words that you are saying.


        b. Use a basic word processor / screen method to type up brainstorming characteristics of Emily Dickinson before and after I provided the biography handout (this handout also could turn into part of the power point presentation).


      6 computer scenario:

        a. Using cooperative learning, I would send 2-3 students together in groups to the computer to look for 2 extremely different interpretations of and Emily Dickinson poem. I would then expect them to copy this information into a word processor and then write a page write-up about what interpretation they find to be more “truthful”.
        Suggested websites:

        b. Using cooperative learning, I would send 2-3 students together in groups to the computer to look up interesting facts about Emily Dickinson (other than the ones provided in class) and then write these characteristics in paragraph form in a word processor.


    Complete classroom of computers scenario:

      a. I would have the students do similar activities as in the “6 computer scenario” but instead of using cooperative learning/group work, I would want the students to operate individually.

E-Mail Rhiannon Brownlee !

Print Friendly