Standard Lesson

Sonic Patterns: Exploring Poetic Techniques Through Close Reading

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five 50-minute sessions
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In addition to developing background knowledge about allusions and the etymology of key words, students use an online tool to examine the relationship between the speaker and his father in Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays." Then students explore how the poet uses consonance, assonance, and alliteration to illustrate this complex relationship. Finally students use the idea of a composed memory and their knowledge of sonic patterns to draft, revise, and share their own original text.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

By connecting an accessible poem with sophisticated reading and literary analysis skills, this lesson is designed to help teachers model the strategies experienced readers and writers use in their approach to poetry.  In With Rigor for All, Carol Jago supports such pedagogy, stating that teachers "need to take the time in class to show students how to examine a text in minute detail: word by word, sentence by sentence." (54)  "Only then," Jago asserts, "will [students] develop the skills they need to be powerful readers" (55).  In his 2008 Research Matters article, Rick VanDeWeghe states that "close reading is not mysterious, not something that only certain kinds  of advanced readers can do. Rather, 'such reading starts with good questions and prompts' ("Radically" 490), and such reading is done for meaning..." (106). This lesson supports such close reading through the teaching of explicit strategies.

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.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of 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.
  • 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 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

  • "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden
  • Colored markers for overhead (optional)
  • Colored highlighters for students (optional)
  • An overhead projector and transparencies or an LCD




  • Prepare copies of necessary handouts as well as overhead transparencies of "Those Winter Sundays" and the Literary Terms Quick Reference sheet.
  • Review the Close Reading Notes for "Those Winter Sundays".
  • Practice reading the poem aloud until you are sensitive to the sonic patterns and are able to present a fluid reading to the class, emphasizing the repeated sounds.
  • Arrange for access to Internet-connected computers for Sessions One and Two.
  • Bookmark the etymology and mythology Websites on student computers for use during Session One.
  • Test the ReadWriteThink Bio-Cube tool on your computers.


Student Objectives

Students will

  • understand sonic patterns and the tools poets use (such as assonance, consonance, and alliteration) to manipulate relationships between sound and meaning.
  • conduct research about etymology and allusion and apply that knowledge to a reading of a poem.
  • learn how to use their own voices as interpretive instruments as they explore and construct meaning aloud.
  • apply knowledge of sonic patterning to compose and revise original texts.


Session One

  1. Begin the session by projecting or distributing copies of Robert Hayden's poem "Those Winter Sundays." 
  2. Ask students to read the poem once silently, and/or ask a student volunteer to perform a first reading aloud.
  3. Distribute the Marking Your Text: The First Reading handout and explain to students the directions for annotating the poem. Give them time to perform their annotations and respond to two of the prompts.
  4. Facilitate a brief discussion of their initial responses.  Assure students that getting a general sense of the scenario in the poem is the purpose of the discussion and that they will have opportunities to validate and build upon these initial responses to the poem through research and further analysis.
  5. Begin the process of more careful study by distributing the Key Word Study handout and explaining the tasks.  Divide the class into groups of four, with each group member being  responsible for researching one of the words in Part One of the Key Word Study handout. Invite students to use the etymology and mythology Websites to research the Key Word Study.
  6. After giving students time to research their words, close the session by asking them to reconvene their groups and share their findings.

Session Two

  1. Ask students to apply their learning from the last session in a new reading of the poem by again projecting the poem or asking students to get out their copies. As students re-read the poem, remind them to pay special attention to the ways their new understanding words from the Key Word Study handout might alter or deepen their thinking from the Marking Your Text: The First Reading handout.
  2. Invite students to take a closer look at the two figures in the poem, the speaker and the speaker's father, using the Bio-Cube tool.
  3. Two members of the group should complete the Bio-Cube for the speaker while the other two group members should focus on the speaker's father. Ask students to complete the section with the term "Significance" on the Bio-Cube by noting the significance their figure has in the eyes of the other figure in the poem.
  4. Give students time to complete the Bio-Cube and then have students print their cubes and bring them back to the group for sharing.
  5. Close the session by distributing homework for the next session, the Close Reading Round Up handout. As you go over the expectations for the assignment, ask students to use their knowledge from the Key Word Study handout and all other activities so far in the lesson to complete it.

Session Three

  1. Ask students to get out their completed Close Reading Round Up handout.  Facilitate a discussion of the reasons for the conflict they identified by having each student share one of their reasons.
  2. Then have students return to their groups to share their responses to the questions at the bottom of the Close Reading Round Up handout. Remind students that this is not a time to worry about "correct" or even complete answers, but rather a chance to continue their thinking about the text.
  3. Inform students that you will be offering them another way of thinking about the poem by briefly introducing the terms on the Literary Terms Quick Reference handout, placing it on the overhead and reading through and discussing the examples. Explain that they will use these terms to describe the sonic patterns Hayden uses in the poem.
  4. Place the transparency of the poem on the overhead and present a read aloud that highlights the repetition of sounds.
  5. Then ask students to take a few moments to read through the first stanza aloud, looking for examples of consonance. (Students will immediately find the repetition of the k sound.)
  6. Have a few groups share their responses to the first stanza and highlight the k sound (or whatever sound they have identified) with a colored highlighter.
  7. Lead the entire class through the process of highlighting, in different colors, the other dominant sounds in the first stanza. Encourage them to use the appropriate literary terms as they share their responses with the whole group.
  8. After working through the first stanza, have the groups use different colored highlighters to complete this analysis on the rest of the poem. If colored highlighters are not available, use other ways of marking, such as underlining or drawing circles, boxes, or other shapes, to identify different sounds.
  9. As groups work, circulate the room to answer questions and coach students through their analyses.
  10. After allowing students time to complete the analysis of Hayden's use of sound, distribute the Sonic Patterns Quickwrite page and ask students to answer the questions for homework.

Session Four

  1. Begin the session by leading students in a whole group discussion about their observations from Sonic Patterns Quickwrite. Highlight the artistry of the poem, pointing out Hayden's multi-layered, artistic development of the relationship between father and son. (Refer to the Close Reading Notes for "Those Winter Sundays" as necessary).
  2. During the discussion, remind students to use the appropriate literary terms as they describe the poet's work and delight in Hayden's connections between sound and sense.
  3. Tell students they will be experimenting with their own use of sonic repetition in an original piece of writing. Students who are apprehensive about this can be reassured that their original piece need not be a poem; it may be a brief piece of prose.
  4. Hand out copies of the "I Remember You" Composition Activity. Go over the directions and model the sentence starter exercise on sensory images using an overhead. Use a memory of your own or use the poem itself and have students find examples of sensory images.
  5. Have students use a writing journal or another blank sheet of paper to record their imagery. Give students plenty of silent writing time.
  6. Circulate the room to make sure everyone is writing, encouraging students to keep writing, even when they think they have finished providing a sensory image for each prompt. Tell them to imagine a persistent friend who keeps asking, "What was that like?" after each sensory description.
  7. For homework, have students bring a completed first draft of a poem or a prose vignette to the class meeting in which they will complete the workshop session. They should have completed both the Image Generator work and the Revision Strategy work from the "I Remember You" Composition Activity before the next session.

Session Five

  1. Start the session by distributing the Sharing Out Loud—A Workshop Guide and going over the expectations for the activities in this session.
  2. Have students join their group members and follow feedback directions for the workshop using the Sharing Out Loud—A Workshop Guide.
  3. Students should complete an entry after each reader shares his or her piece, following clear workshop guidelines:
    • Students should share their feedback with the writer in a respectful and encouraging way.
    • The writer should thank readers and refrain from defending his or her choices.
    • The feedback the writer receives may or may not guide his or her revision choices.
    • A writer may choose to take a pass on the suggestions of his or her peers.
  4. Once all the workshops have been completed, have a few students share their pieces for the whole group.
  5. Close the lesson by having the class determine collectively how much time should elapse before their revised pieces are ready for submission.


  • Use the Further Exploration of Allusions handout to facilitate a deeper understanding of the allusions to Kronos and Christianity after the study of key words after Session One.
  • Consider using the companion lesson, Speaking Poetry: Exploring Sonic Patterns Through Performance, in which students engage in a number of sound and vocalization exercises in preparation for performing a recitation of "Those Winter Sundays."
  • Many other poems capitalize on the use of sonic repetition. Have students explore books of poetry and the The Poetry Foundation site, finding examples of sonic repetition. Other poems that would be ideal for this exercise include, "Let Evening Come," "Blackberry Picking," "Dulce et Decorum Est," "Suzie Asado," and "We Real Cool."
  • Have students prepare a prose passage for performance. An alternative to an essay may be a recorded performance of a prose selection that demonstrates an understanding of the author's use of sonic repetition.

Student Assessment / Reflections

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