Frost Madness

As I sit in my office on campus for the first time since the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, it is ironic to re-evaluate my Robert Frost poetry unit and create one that allows students to increase their digital literacy while the halls are metaphorically ringing with the sounds the possibly bring students back on campus soon.

Teaching poetry in high school can be extremely difficult! There are those who love it and would be happy if the class were centered on every famous verse ever written; however, the majority of students hope that they can bypass an English class without their teacher saying that offensive four-word letter – POEM. As I reflected on how my first attempt of a poetry unit went during distance learning, the normal interaction with the text was missing from the students. In order to bring the engagement back to level where I feel students are not only benefiting from understanding Frost’s purpose, but also having some enjoyment in the process, I found many resources that create a NCAA-feel to their poetry unit. With their expertise, I was able to create a Sweet Sixteen body of work from Frost’s poetry (here is the bracket) that students will analyze, create context, debate the strength of writing, and ultimately crown one of his poems Champion of the tournament.

Chronologically, Robert Frost’s poems fall into the era known as American Industrialization.  Among many other diverse voices, his words plead with his audience to consider the simple things in life such as rivers without impediments, neighborly relations, decisions to walk along the well-worn path, etc.

This unit will address ISTE Standard 1: Empowered Learner: Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving, and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences; ISTE Standard 3: Knowledge Constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others; ISTE Standard 4: Innovative Designer: Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identity and solve problems by creating new, useful, or imaginative solutions (especially 4d: Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance, and the capacity to work with open-ended problems; and ISTE Standard 6: Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats, and digital media appropriate to their goals.


G – The goal of analyzing poetry to discuss the poet’s writing choices.  This includes the structure of his/her work as well as understanding the literary devices and connotations of the words used.  To do this, I will address the following Common Core Standards for 11-12 grade ELA:

Craft and Structure:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.4 [(Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)]

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.5 [Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.]

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.6 [Analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).]

Q – Essential Questions

There are many questions to explore when studying poetry.  The essential questions that I usually ask involve delving into the structure, speaker, audience/purpose, literary elements, and context.  Some examples will be:

How do the writing choices (figurative language and sensory language) engage the reader?

How does reading shape our writing?

How does Frost’s poetry differ from those studied earlier in the year?

How does the historical context affect the writing choices of Frost?

How do poets create a voice for society?

How does analyzing poetry differ from analyzing prose?

How does one defend the strength of literary choices of a poet?

U – Students will understand that…

…word choice is important.

…structure creates meaning.

…every reader has a different response.

K – Knowledge: Students will know that…

…literary devices are distinguishable and purposeful.

…poets have a voice for social justice, for change, for a purpose.

…context is essential to understanding.

S – Skills: Students will be able to annotate poetry through the lenses of culture and context, in addition to finding meaning through the structure and language.


When looking at assessment evidence, I used a template what would give me an idea of how each task would bring about student assessment and reflection.


Whereto: Due to the timing of this unit, I have already set up the expectations in annotating and analyzing poetry.  What makes this unit different, is that the sheer number of poems we will consider as a body of work and the possibility of creating one voice from the speakers of Frost’s poems.

The objectives for this unit include:

  1. After full class literary analysis, students will be able to independently read one of Frost’s poems.
  2. Students will be able to evaluate the strength of Frost’s voices during the time of the Industrial Revolution.
  3. Through collaboration, students will be able to defend their decisions on the strength of Frost’s poetry.

wHereto: As mentioned before, this unit will be set up like the NCAA March Madness Tournament to entice students into interacting with Frost’s poetry as well as each other in order to analyze, evaluate, and ultimately defend what poem is the strongest in this body of work. In working with the Unit Objectives, Common Core Standards, and ISTE Student Standards, here is an outline of Activities to engage in the key ideas of Frost’s poetry.

 whEreto: Because of an earlier unit, students will have the terminology to help their success in writing strong analysis.  In addition, I will also instruct them in:

Distinguishing a speaker’s voice within a poem.

Appreciating the importance of culture and context when looking at poetry.

Literary terminology that is required when explicating poetry (a review).

Creating a strong and persuasive voice through writing and verbal debate techniques.

wheReto: As the “tournament” progresses, students will be able to re-evaluate their annotations to create a strong argument for the final four and champion poem/s. Through this process, students will revise their explications and analytical writing.

whereTo: Through the unit, students will meet with me during the annotating and analytical writing process. These meetings will establish their understanding and allow me to redirect and give feed-forward remarks.

wheretO: This will be a three-week unit.

The beginning will establish the rules (aka bracket) for the tournament.

Throughout the competition, there will be direct instruction as well as small group/individual work time.

During the third week, students will prepare and present their individual or small group defense of the Elite Eight, the Final Four, and ultimately the Champion poem.


The technology is not specifically linked to any one task or goal because its use will be fluid throughout the unit. My expectations are to use Zoom as a meeting platform for students who are synchronous as well as asynchronous. This allows students who are “roomies” as well as “Zoomies” (coined from one of my union reps :D) to interact with one another in their discussions on the culture and context of Frost’s poem, his language choices, and create paired debate information to defend the winning poems along the way. I will also use Flipgrid to facilitate students’ analysis in a way that helps them gain in their poetry annotation skills as well as verbal communication skills. Using Flipgrid will help me give quick feedback as well as give students the platform to speak about poetry. Students will use approved data bases, virtual “museums,” and academic websites to create context for the poetry before their analysis. Students will keep the record of their small group discussions on either shared MS Office platforms such as PowerPoint, Word, etc. or Google Docs/Slides so that I can monitor the progression of their analysis as well as keep them on task.


I am excited to pilot this lesson plan for my upcoming juniors in the Fall of 2021. I believe presenting it in a way that is engaging, such as the NCAA March Madness Championship, will help make poetry accessible to even my most reticent poetry people!

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