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Lesson Plan

Thinking Inductively: A Close Reading of Seamus Heaney's "Blackberry Picking"

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Thinking Inductively: A Close Reading of Seamus Heaney's "Blackberry Picking"

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lane Dye

Lane Dye

Kennesaw, Georgia


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



This lesson uses Seamus Heaney's "Blackberry Picking" to ease students' fear of analyzing poetry by teaching them an inductive strategy to unlock meaning. First, students list and look for patterns among the images, diction, and figurative language they notice in the poem, and then "lump" list items into categories. They then apply these categories to the poem's structure to determine meaning. Next, students use an online tool to create graffiti drawings that represent the poem's message, supporting their conclusions with specifics from the poem. Once discussion of the poem is complete, students realize that they have just demonstrated their ability to explicate a poem in order to support a theme statement if asked to write about a poem's meaning.

This lesson plan was developed as part of a collaborative professional writing initiative sponsored by the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project (KMWP) at Kennesaw State University.

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Literary Graffiti Interactive: Using this online tool, students draw images about a text they are reading. They can also write a summary of the text, an explanation of their drawing, and how the drawing is significant to the text.

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In his article "The First Shall Be Last: Writing the Essay Backwards," Jeff House reminds us that "we cannot begin with the very thing we are trying to end with. We must tease out the answer, allowing the mind to go through its natural, and logical, procedure." If we expect students to determine a general statement themselves, they need to be taught how to "tease out the answer" by using what they do know as the key to unlocking what they don't know.

When students are taught to read an unfamiliar poem inductively, they notice patterns emerge among the imagery, details, and figurative language, and when considered along with the poem's structure, these specifics lead to the theme. The analytical skills taught through this strategy not only enable students to make a theme statement and support it with specifics from the poem but also, as House states, "increase [a student's] ability to grasp the inner working of an artistic piece."

Further Reading

House, Jeff. "The First Shall Be Last: Writing the Essay Backwards." English Journal 82.6 (October 1993): 26-28.

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