Shakespearean Sonnets and Other Stories

Ah, the sonnet. For my English literary history class near the end of my undergrad I had to write a sonnet. According to my professor, the sonnet was the tweet of the Elizabethan age. I’m not on Twitter, but I imagine 140 non-rhyming, non-metrical characters would be easier to write than a sonnet. But that’s just a guess.

Today’s post comes to us from ReadWriteThink, which has a plethora (yes, I said plethora) of lesson plans and other resources for the English teacher of any grade level. Discovering Traditional Sonnet Forms by Jaqueline Podolski is one of their better examples. This lesson plan is set up for three 50-minute class periods, and has students read, analyze and write sonnets. Her step-by-step instructional plan is very detailed, allowing even for teachers less than fluent with the form to intelligently and creatively teach the sonnet.

What I really like about Podolski’s lesson plan is her use of sonnets from many different eras, like Gwendolyn Brooks’ “the sonnet-ballad” from 1949, which is used to initially introduce the form of the sonnet. Shakespeare, of course, is the king of the form, but using more modern bards will show students that it isn’t quite dead.

However, I was most impressed with Podolski’s method for introducing the sonnet’s poetic formula – she doesn’t. The entirety of the first class period has the students in groups looking at three different sonnets, and discovering for themselves what rules the form entails. Students might actually remember what the rules are if they have to work to figure them out, instead of simply glancing at a handout or powerpoint! Genius!

Here’s the link again. Enjoy!


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