Even the Best Plans May Fail

Well, I thought my ideas/lesson on Anne Bradstreet poetry were awesome. And I thought the students would hit the small-group presentations on Bradstreet poetry right out of the park! I was wrong.

That’s the thing I’ve learned about being a teacher, sometimes even the best-laid plans can fail.

But the good part is you can always pick up and start where you left off. And with the Bradstreet poetry, I did just that.

For teaching Anne Bradstreet poetry, I did a mini-unit on poetry background, Anne Bradstreet background, and even analyzed a poem, “The Prologue” as a class before setting students off on their own for analyzing and presenting a selected poem. To read about that and see that lesson, click here.

My students were to give a 5-10 minute presentation on their poem, analyzing it and presenting the essential elements to the class. These did not go well. The students pointed out important aspects, such as symbolism or metaphor, but didn’t explain these elements or even show the class where these elements were found. For the most part, I gave out C- or below on presentations. The students were not happy with their grades. I was not happy with their work.

The solution: a 1-2 page paper on their given poem, typed and turned in for the following class period.

Oh boy, were the students mad at me. But I knew I had to do it. I wasn’t, in all honesty, even sure if they had grasped the main concepts of the poems!

The 1-2 page paper would be single-spaced, analyzing the main aspects of the poem, the literary devices, theme, tone, speaker, etc. and would be articulated clearly, using specific lines and line numbers from the poem as support. Here is what the assignment sheet looked like:


These would be turned in the following day, and count as 20 points (of hopefully redemption for poor grades). Though I was disappointed how the presentations turned out, my end goal is for students to understand the connections between Bradstreet’s poetry, Puritanism, The Scarlet Letter, and other pieces from the Colonial Period. Hopefully this paper will fix those problems.

I had to add this excerpt from one of my student’s papers. His word choice is very profound for a tenth grader, and I have to say I was surprised! Despite my frustration with this unit, I think it may have turned out alright in the end!



Leave a Reply