Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The Inside Story

Dawn Capes
Bay District Schools


When is a door not a door? When it's symbolic of something else! Students study the usage of symbolism in poetry and examine how symbolism can be used to explain their own lives and emotions.


The student uses creative writing strategies appropriate to the format (for example, using appropriate voice; using descriptive language to clarify ideas and create vivid images; using elements of style, such as appropriate tone).

The student uses figurative language techniques to create and comprehend meaning (for example, similes, metaphors, analogies, anecdotes, sensory language).

The student analyzes and describes the use of symbolism and figurative language in fiction or nonfiction.


-Printed copies of the poems, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost and “Somebody Has To” by Shel Silvestein (See Teacher Prep.)
-Transparencies of the poems
-Student copies of the poems
-Copies of the student handout Symbolism (See Associated File)
-Transparencies of pictures of symbols, Examples of Symbolism, and How can we know if a poet is using symbolism? (See Associated File)
-Handout, I’m a Poet and Didn’t Know It- Definitions (From Lesson One, There’s a Writer Waiting Inside Me- See Weblinks)
-Student poetry folders
-Who's Got the Answer: Optional (Associated File)


1. Due to copyright issues, the poems necessary for the unit will need to be downloaded from the Internet by teacher using this unit (See Weblinks).
2. These poems may be available in student literature books. Please check. If they are, then have students bring literature books to class each day of the unit.
2. If poems are not available in literature books, then student copies are allowable by copyright laws; however, copies must be destroyed at unit’s end.
3. Make transparencies of the poems and the teacher handouts pictures of symbols, Examples of Symbolism, and How can we know if a poet is using symbolism?
4. Make copies of the student handout, Symbolism.
5. Have on hand the transparency created in Lesson One- There’s a writer waiting inside me, entitled, What Makes Good Poetry?
6. Decide if you would like to use the Classroom Management Tool for Questioning entitled, Who’s Got the Answer. This can be used to ensure that more masterful students don’t dominate the question/answer periods and that all students get an opportunity to show what they know. (See Associated File)
7. Decide if you would like to have students take notes on the information contained on the transparencies, or if you will just make them copies to keep. Note: if you decide to have them take notes, the lesson time may be longer than anticipated.
8. Be prepared to formatively assess handouts and return the next day. Note: Recaps are opportunities to individually assess student understanding of the concepts. Pay close attention to these and note students who appear to be struggling. These students will need additional assistance, questioning, etc. in the following days.
9. Paper saving ideas! If you will have students use their own paper instead of making copies of the handouts, simply have them include the same information as the handouts. Another paper saving device, make one class set of poems instead of individual poems. Just be aware of your needs and the needs of your students before making any copying decisions.


Day Three of the unit, I'm a Poet and Didn't Know It

Note: There are many opportunities for questioning and answering in this lesson that can in turn be used as a formative assessment opportunity. Note those students who have grasped the concept and ask higher order questions of them. Note those students who are having a hard time with the concept and continue questioning them. Attempt to question everyone at least once during the daily discussions. You may want to use the Classroom Management tool, Who’s Got The Answer.

Note: Throughout the course of this unit, students will be asked their interpretation of various poems. Be careful in your responses to students. The answers suggested in this unit are merely the lesson developers’ explanations of the poems. Responses by students may be different, yet still correct. Be open to students’ interpretations. Exploration and student responses will not occur the teacher tells students, "No, that’s not the right answer."
Have students get poetry folders as they enter the room.

1. First ask who brought in poems to share. Share one. NOTE: You may want to choose a student who will willingly be the first guinea pig as the guiding question may hurt the feelings of some students who are sharing their example of good poetry. (More will be shared at the beginning of each lesson.) Then, ask the guiding question again, “Is this good poetry?” After students have had an opportunity to quickly discuss, place poetry example on the bulletin board.
2. Begin guiding students towards an understanding that “good” poetry is rather subjective. What is good poetry to one person may not be good poetry to another. Like music, everyone reads poetry with their sense of likes and dislikes. (Some people love pop music like N*Sync and Britney Spears; however, some would rather stick a sharp stick in their eye than have to listen to it!) There are some aspects on which most people agree. We will be studying those aspects in this poetry unit.
3. Put up the transparency of the symbols. Cover them so only one shows at a time. Ask students what each symbol means. These are relatively easy symbols and they should be able to interpret them quickly.
4. Make the connection that poetry can also contain symbols. Some symbols are quite clear in what they mean, while other symbols are still being argued long after the poet has died! Using the handout, I’m a Poet and Didn’t Know It- Definitions, go over the definition of symbolism.
5. How can we know if a poet is using symbolism? Display the transparency, How can we know if a poet is using symbolism? Go over the items listed.
6. Go over some accepted forms of symbolism. Display the transparency- Examples of Symbolism.
a. Colors can be symbolic. Black generally means death. White means purity or newness. However, in Asian societies, white is symbolic of death. Go over other forms of color symbolism. (Yellow, red, gray)
b. A lion can be symbolic of courage. What other animals have symbolism tied to them? (Unicorns, turtles, weasels, snakes)
c. A voyage or journey can be symbolic of life. What else can be symbolic of life? (Roads, doorways, anything that shows the cycle of life-circles)
7. Display transparency of the poem “Somebody Has To” by Shel Silverstein and pass out student copies.
8. What could the stars be symbolic of? Allow students time to Think-Pair-Share. They should attempt to answer what the poem is stating about everyday life. Give students 3-4 minutes to discuss then have volunteers share their findings.
9. Suggested answer- Silverstein is writing about things that are difficult. People are complaining about things and they want someone else to do the dirty work. What could he be referring to? He could be using the stars to be symbolic of the hard things in life. Somebody has to do the tough stuff because others won’t.
10. Ask if this is a good poem. Why? You may even want to poll students and ask them to vote who thinks “Somebody Has To” is a good poem. Ask a few students to share their reasons.
11. Share the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.
First do an overall questioning of the poem: (Note- remember to spread out the questioning so many students are involved in the activity.)
a. What is the road symbolic of? Remind students of the accepted form of symbolism for life. (A voyage or journey can be symbolic of life.) Isn’t a journey being taken here?
b. Ask what does the reader have to choose? (Whether or not to take the road everyone else does or go his own way.)
c. What do the last two lines explain? (The writer took the path that was different than everyone else and that has made all the difference in his life.)
d. Ask students to put this into their own language. (The writer has to decide if he will submit to peer pressure and do what everyone else is doing.)
Then, lead students to understand that in symbolism, there is a literal meaning to what is going on in the poem, and then there is the metaphorical.
e. In stanza one, why did the author stand there a long time? (Literal- he was looking down the road that many have traveled. Metaphorical- in life many times you want to do what everyone else is doing.)
f. In stanza one, why did the road bend? (Literal- roads often curve and bend around trees and around undergrowth. Metaphorical- in life you can’t see the future.)
g. In stanza two, what does he mean by "wanted wear?" (Literal- the second road was grassy and looks more inviting, adventurous because no one had traveled it. Metaphorical- in life, decisions that the group does not choose can be exciting and adventurous.)
h. In stanza three, why didn’t he think he could come back and take the other road? (Literal- maybe he would be too far down the other path to want to come back and explore the other one. Metaphorical- once you make a decision in life, it’s made.)
i. In the last stanza, what difference is he referring to? (Literal- By taking the road that others did not take, he has seen more, made his own decisions, etc. Metaphorical- In life, when you choose to be different, or make your own choices, you cannot succumb to peer pressure, live your own life, make your choices.)
12. Ask if this is a good poem. Why? You may even want to poll students and ask them to vote who thinks “The Road Not Taken” is a good poem. Ask a few students to share their reasons.
13. Now it’s time for students to work. Handout copies of the student handout, Symbolism and Recap. Allow students time to come up with ideas for their own poetry and answer the questions.
14. Display the transparency of What Makes Good Poetry and ask students if there are any additions they want to make.
15. Have students turn in work and formatively assess.
16. Have students place today’s work in their poetry folders and return to secure location.


Formative assessment occurs during the question answer aspects available throughout the lesson.
Teachers can choose to use the Classroom Management Tool, Who’s Got the Answer, to ensure that all students are getting an opportunity to answer questions and show what they know.

Individual formative assessment occurs when students turn in their work at the end of the class. Check to ensure that students have attempted to use figurative writing strategies (IE symbolism) in their own idea generation. Then, check to ensure that they have effectively explained symbolism in questions 1-3.


1. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, Associated Files. This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

2. You may wish to use other discussion strategies instead of just whole group discussion. Think-Pair-Share is an excellent way to encourage students to share their thoughts and opinions. Use the Just Read Now site (see Weblinks) to learn more about Think-Pair-Share and other discussion strategies.

3. Using a Word Wall may help students remember some of the complex vocabulary used within the unit. Simply use a blank section of the wall to post vocabulary words or other troublesome words written on construction paper. Remove words prior to the summative assessment.

Web Links

Use this link to obtain a printable copy of the poem.
Somebody Has To

Use this link to obtain a printable copy of the poem.
The Road Not Taken

Use this link to obtain more information about Think-Pair-Share.
Just Read Now

Use this link to obtain the handout, I'm a poet and didn't know it, definitions.
Lesson One, There's A Writer Waiting

Attached Files

Handouts for The Inside Story     File Extension: pdf

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