Unit

An Exploration of Romanticism Through Art and Poetry

Grades
9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Unit
Estimated Time
Eight 50-minute sessions
Publisher
NCTE
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Overview

In this lesson, students use art and poetry to explore and understand major characteristics of the Romantic period. First, students are introduced to the historical, societal, and literary characteristics of the Romantic period. Next, students deepen their understanding of Romanticism through an evaluation of William Wordsworth's definition of poetry. Students then complete an explication of a painting from the Romantic period, noting its defining characteristics. They use the TP-CASTT method to complete a literary analysis of Wordsworth's poem "The World is Too Much With Us," using their knowledge of Romantic characteristics to classify the poem as Romantic. In the final session, students begin to write an essay showing their understanding of Romanticism.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

In the introduction of his book Reading in the Dark, John Golden observes that students "tend to be visually oriented, able to point out every significant image in a three-minute MTV music video, but when it comes to doing the same with a written text, they stare at it as if they are reading German." Golden goes on to state "the skills they use to decode the visual image are the same skills they use for a written text" (xiii). Golden's book outlines how to use film to help students practice their skills so they can then be transferred to written texts. This lesson is based on the same principle but uses a painting instead of a film to reinforce the skills that students use to analyze a work of literature.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

Printouts

Websites

Preparation

Student Objectives

Students will

  • identify and explain how the characteristics of a literary genre are reflected in a work of art and piece of literature.

  • examine the details in a work of art by sketching and labeling its major elements.

  • synthesize knowledge of the ways that a painting uses subject, symbolism, color and light, composition, movement, and perspective to draw conclusions about the overall tone and theme of a work of art.

  • analyze the overall significance, meaning, and theme of a work of art and literature through an explication of its individual elements.

  • explain how specific elements (diction, symbolism, characterization, tone, and elements of plot) establish the tone and theme of a work of art and a piece of literature.

  • explain how the elements establish both a work of art and a piece of literature as examples of Romanticism.

Session One

  1. Begin the lesson by asking students to write a paragraph response to the following question: What does it mean to call something Romantic? Have students share their responses with the class and discuss how students' answers are similar and different. Write several responses on the board and save them for later.
  2. Display a transparency of the Romanticism Statements, and as you read through them, have students indicate on a sheet of paper whether they personally agree or disagree with each statement by recording "A" for agree or "D" for disagree.
  3. After all students have read and responded to the questions, ask them to total all of their As and Ds. Then have students determine how "Romantic" they are by sharing the following key:

    • 3 or fewer As = "not Romantic"

    • 4 or 5 As = "sort of Romantic"

    • 6 or 7 As = "highly Romantic"

    • 8-10 As = "extremely Romantic"
  4. Explain to students that each of the statements contains a Romantic literary characteristic written in the affirmative. Ask students to review the paragraphs they wrote in step one. Then have students break into small groups of three to five students. In their groups, have students discuss how their understanding of the term Romanticism has changed after taking the quiz.

    • How has your understanding of Romanticism changed?

    • Briefly describe your definition of Romantic.

    • How is your definition of Romantic similar to and different from Romanticism?

Session Two

  1. Pass out the Characteristics of Romanticism handout and discuss the five characteristics of Romanticism. Ask questions such as:

    • What are the five characteristics of Romanticism?

    • What were some of the basic Romantic beliefs?

    • Do you think these beliefs are relevant today? Why or why not?
  2. After a whole-class discussion of these characteristics, break the class into five small groups and have each group discuss one of them. Do group members agree or disagree with the Romantic philosophy on this point? Why? Each group should be prepared to present their position to the class during the next session.

Session Three

  1. Have each of the five groups from Session Two present the results of their discussion to the whole class. Review the characteristics of Romanticism with students before moving on to the next activity.
  2. Write the phrase "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" on the board. Introduce the concept by explaining that it is from an introduction William Wordsworth wrote for a book of poems titled Lyrical Ballads. Explain that the book, published in 1802, contains poems written by Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge, and is considered by many to be the beginning of the Romantic Movement in literature.
  3. Pass out the Wordsworth Quote Word Web handout to students. Use the handout to lead a discussion of how Wordsworth's statement corresponds with the characteristics of Romanticism. Students can refer back to the Characteristics of Romanticism handout, if necessary. You might also wish to review connotation and denotation before students complete this activity.
  4. First have students identify the denotative meanings for the words "spontaneous," "overflow," "powerful," and "feelings." Have students refer to classroom or online references such as Merriam-Webster Online as needed.
  5. Have students record their responses on the Wordsworth Quote Word Web handout. Use the notes on the Wordsworth Quote Word Web Teacher Copy to guide students' responses.
  6. Then ask students to suggest some possible connotative meanings for the words on the Wordsworth Quote Word Web. Encourage students to consider both positive and negative connotations of the words. For example, a "spontaneous" person can be seen as both exciting and interesting, as well as disorganized. Make a list of students' responses.
  7. Then ask students to consider both the denotative and connotative meanings and describe how all of these words connect to one or more of the characteristics of Romanticism.

Session Four

  1. Display an image of Théodore Géricault's painting The Raft of the Medusa. Discuss the historical background of the painting with students and how the painting represents the plight of the passengers and crew of the ill-fated French ship Medusa in 1816. Wikipedia offers more information about this event. Ask students to comment on and describe what they see in the painting.

    • What images do you see in Géricault's painting?

    • What do you think Géricault's purpose was in depicting this event?

    • What do you like about the painting? Why?

    • What don't you like about the painting? Why?
  2. Then have students visit the ReadWriteThink The Raft of the Medusa interactive. Review how this tool is used, and then allow enough time for students to explore the painting. They should click on each highlighted area to learn more and respond to prompts about the painting. Have students print out their work when they are finished.

  3. Bring the class back together and ask for volunteers to share some of the interesting elements in the painting. Some of these elements include:

    • A "pyramid of hope" is created in the center of the painting by dead figures at the bottom, dying figures in the middle, and a topmost figure waving a rag at the top.

    • A large wave in the mid-left side of the painting threatens to break on the raft.

    • Rays of sunlight breaking on the horizon at the top of the painting.

    • On the right side a tiny image of a rescue ship can be seen on the distant horizon.

    • In the far right hand corner of the raft is a bloodstained axe.
  4. After students have completed the interactive activity, distribute the Artwork Explication: The Raft of the Medusa handout. Have students work on completing the sheet with a partner or in small groups during the rest of this session. Students should then complete this activity for homework.

Session Five

  1. Review students' completed Artwork Explication: The Raft of the Medusa sheets. Take time to answer any questions students have about the assignment before moving on to the next step.
  2. Review with students the five primary characteristics of Romanticism. Then distribute the Is It Romantic? handout. Have students complete the chart by recording examples from the painting that illustrate characteristics of the Romantic period in the first column. In the second column they should explain how each example fits the Romantic characteristic.
  3. After students complete the handout, discuss the following question as a class or in small groups: What characteristics of the painting The Raft of the Medusa qualify the work as Romantic? If students work in small groups, have them record their responses and report back to the class. Circulate among the groups as well, in order to monitor students' understanding of the task. Examples of possible student responses can be found on the The Raft of the Medusa Romantic Characteristics sheet.

Session Six

  1. Introduce the TP-CASTT method to students by sharing the Poetry Analysis—TP-CASTT handout with students. Before moving to the next step, students should understand the basic steps in using this technique:

    • Title: Ponder the title before reading the poem.

    • Paraphrase: Translate the poem into your own words.

    • Connotation: Contemplate the poem for meaning beyond the literal.

    • Attitude: Observe both the speaker's and the poet's attitude (tone).

    • Shifts: Note shifts in speakers and in attitudes.

    • Title: Examine the title again, this time on an interpretive level.

    • Theme: Determine what the poet is saying.
  2. Distribute copies of the poem "The World Is Too Much With Us" by William Wordsworth as well as the Poetry Analysis—TP-CASTT handout. On the first page of the handout are analysis questions to help guide students in using the steps in the TP-CASTT method to complete an analysis of the poem. Students will use the answers to the analysis questions to complete the blank TP-CASTT chart on the second page of the Poetry Analysis—TP-CASTT handout.
  3. Begin by projecting the text of the poem using an overhead projector. Model the process with students by completing the title step in the following manner:

    • Circle the projected image of the following words in the poem's title: "World," "Too Much," "Us."

    • Ask students to identify the denotative and connotative meanings for each of the circled words.

    • Demonstrate how students should mark up the copy of their poem with notes about the connotative and denotative meanings of the words in the title.
  4. Use the image of the text projected onto a white board as a tool to help guide students through each step of the TP-CASTT process. As you work through each step, have students record their responses on the blank TP-CASTT chart. Alternately, you may wish to complete the first one or two steps as a group and then have students work in small groups to compete the chart.

Session Seven

  1. Review with students the five primary characteristics of Romanticism. You may wish to have students refer back to the Characteristics of Romanticism handout.
  2. Distribute the Is It Romantic? handout. Have students complete the chart by recording examples from Wordsworth's poem "The World Is Too Much With Us" that illustrate characteristics of the Romantic period in the first column. In the second column they should explain how each example fits the Romantic characteristic. Encourage students to use the notes that they created in the previous session to help them complete the chart. Wikipedia provides additional background information on Proteus and Triton, references Wordsworth uses in the poem. You might want to share this information or have students read these pages as an additional tool in classifying this poem as Romantic.
  3. After students complete the handout, discuss as a class or in small groups the characteristics of the poem "The World Is Too Much With Us" that qualify the work as Romantic. If students work in small groups, have them record their responses and report back to the class. Circulate among the groups as well, in order to monitor students' understanding of the task.

Session Eight

  1. Have students begin to apply their new learning by beginning to write an essay using one of the options on the Essay Assignment sheet. Allow students time in class to begin their essays.
  2. Students may complete the essays for homework, if necessary. Share the Romanticism Essay Rubric with students to use as a guide before they begin to write and allow time for student questions about the assignment and rubric.

Extensions

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Evaluate the thesis statement, organization, supporting evidence, analysis, fluency, and mechanics of students’ essays using the Romanticism Essay Rubric. Provide feedback to students based on the rubric evaluation.

  • Informally assess students’ participation in whole- and small-group activities. Did students participate fully in discussions and other activities? Did students freely share ideas and opinions? How well did students work cooperatively within their groups? How well did students demonstrate an understanding of Romanticism and Romantic characteristics?

  • Use students’ Is It Romantic? sheets to check for their understanding of the Romantic characteristics of The Raft of the Medusa and “The World Is Too Much With Us.”

  • Review students’ answers to the Artwork Explication: The Raft of the Medusa handout to check how well they have analyzed the piece of art for diction, characterization, imagery, symbolism, tone, plot, and theme.
Crystal Graffius
K-12 Teacher
I came across your Romanticism unit while I was researching some new ideas for my 9th grade English class. I absolutely love your unit plan! I will be teaching this unit in two weeks and I will let you know how it goes. Thank you for sharing your amazing ideas!
Threasa Lightning
K-12 Teacher
I can't wait to use your materials to introduce the Romantic Period characteristics, and how this term came to be. My search for interesting material to introduce this genre, led me to your information.
Threasa Lightning
K-12 Teacher
I can't wait to use your materials to introduce the Romantic Period characteristics, and how this term came to be. My search for interesting material to introduce this genre, led me to your information.
Stacey L
K-12 Teacher
Fabulous unit! I am adapting for my 10th grade English class.Thanks for sharing this great material!
Brenda M
K-12 Teacher
Fabulous ideas. I wanted to bring poetry, art and music together, and this will help jump start that idea. Thanks for sharing.
Renee
K-12 Teacher
This just saved my life! I've been struggling to find a way to introduce this concept. Thanks!
Brenda M
K-12 Teacher
Fabulous ideas. I wanted to bring poetry, art and music together, and this will help jump start that idea. Thanks for sharing.
Kara Hettinger
Preservice Teacher
In one of my classes, I am developing a three-day lesson on Romanticism and how to analyze with Romantic characteristics in mind. I knew what I wanted to do but couldn't seem to put it on to paper in an organized fashion. This plan is great! It incorporated everything I wanted to do without going overboard or creating a convoluted scheme. Thanks for your ideas!
Peter Kalfas
K-12 Teacher
A wonderful platform from which to springboard into the Romantic poets. I will endeavour to use the material as an adjunct to Jane Campion's remarkable film on Keats - 'Bright Star'. Thank you for a tremendous unit that has proven to be invaluable to my students. I did not ever consider incorporating Romantic art into my Year 10 English planning. A joy to teach.
Kara Hettinger
Preservice Teacher
In one of my classes, I am developing a three-day lesson on Romanticism and how to analyze with Romantic characteristics in mind. I knew what I wanted to do but couldn't seem to put it on to paper in an organized fashion. This plan is great! It incorporated everything I wanted to do without going overboard or creating a convoluted scheme. Thanks for your ideas!
Crystal Graffius
K-12 Teacher
I came across your Romanticism unit while I was researching some new ideas for my 9th grade English class. I absolutely love your unit plan! I will be teaching this unit in two weeks and I will let you know how it goes. Thank you for sharing your amazing ideas!
Catherine G.
K-12 Teacher
My students and I greatly enjoyed using the ideas of this lesson, even though we selected a variety of poems to analyze, in place of the one suggested here. Wordsworth's "Daffodils" works great here. Unfortunately, the suggested TP-CASTT material are no longer available.
Threasa Lightning
K-12 Teacher
I can't wait to use your materials to introduce the Romantic Period characteristics, and how this term came to be. My search for interesting material to introduce this genre, led me to your information.
Catherine G.
K-12 Teacher
My students and I greatly enjoyed using the ideas of this lesson, even though we selected a variety of poems to analyze, in place of the one suggested here. Wordsworth's "Daffodils" works great here. Unfortunately, the suggested TP-CASTT material are no longer available.
Stacey L
K-12 Teacher
Fabulous unit! I am adapting for my 10th grade English class.Thanks for sharing this great material!
Renee
K-12 Teacher
This just saved my life! I've been struggling to find a way to introduce this concept. Thanks!
Brenda M
K-12 Teacher
Fabulous ideas. I wanted to bring poetry, art and music together, and this will help jump start that idea. Thanks for sharing.
Stacey L
K-12 Teacher
Fabulous unit! I am adapting for my 10th grade English class.Thanks for sharing this great material!
Renee
K-12 Teacher
This just saved my life! I've been struggling to find a way to introduce this concept. Thanks!
Kara Hettinger
Preservice Teacher
In one of my classes, I am developing a three-day lesson on Romanticism and how to analyze with Romantic characteristics in mind. I knew what I wanted to do but couldn't seem to put it on to paper in an organized fashion. This plan is great! It incorporated everything I wanted to do without going overboard or creating a convoluted scheme. Thanks for your ideas!
Peter Kalfas
K-12 Teacher
A wonderful platform from which to springboard into the Romantic poets. I will endeavour to use the material as an adjunct to Jane Campion's remarkable film on Keats - 'Bright Star'. Thank you for a tremendous unit that has proven to be invaluable to my students. I did not ever consider incorporating Romantic art into my Year 10 English planning. A joy to teach.
Peter Kalfas
K-12 Teacher
A wonderful platform from which to springboard into the Romantic poets. I will endeavour to use the material as an adjunct to Jane Campion's remarkable film on Keats - 'Bright Star'. Thank you for a tremendous unit that has proven to be invaluable to my students. I did not ever consider incorporating Romantic art into my Year 10 English planning. A joy to teach.
Crystal Graffius
K-12 Teacher
I came across your Romanticism unit while I was researching some new ideas for my 9th grade English class. I absolutely love your unit plan! I will be teaching this unit in two weeks and I will let you know how it goes. Thank you for sharing your amazing ideas!
Catherine G.
K-12 Teacher
My students and I greatly enjoyed using the ideas of this lesson, even though we selected a variety of poems to analyze, in place of the one suggested here. Wordsworth's "Daffodils" works great here. Unfortunately, the suggested TP-CASTT material are no longer available.

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