Beacon Lesson Plan Library

An Explication of Death

Cheree Brown


In groups of three, the students will explicate 'Thanatopsis.' During this explication they will identify poetic elements as well as sound effects in the poetry.


The student selects and uses prereading strategies that are appropriate to the text (such as discussion, making predictions, brainstorming, generating questions, and previewing) to anticipate content, purpose, and organization of a reading selection.

The student selects and uses strategies to understand words and text, and to make and confirm inferences from what is read, including interpreting diagrams, graphs, and statistical illustrations.

The student understands the subtleties of literary devices and techniques in the comprehension and creation of communication.


-A copy of 'Thanatopsis' by William Cullen Bryant for each student


1. Make copies of 'Thanatopsis' for each student if the poem is not in their literature book.
2. Make sure you have a complete understanding of the poem before you begin the explication. Your students will more than likely have trouble explicating this poem without your help.


1. Review poetic elements and sound effects with your students before beginning this poem.

2. Have a student read 'Thanatopsis' out loud to the class.

3. Divide the class into groups of three.

4. Tell the students that they are going to explicate this poem line by line.

5. Instruct the students to look for any poetic elements and/or sound effects that are found in the poem.

6. Divide the poem into even parts and assign a section to each group. In a class of thirty this usually works out to be about 10 lines per group.

7. Walk around the classroom to offer any help possible for the students. Most students will find this difficult.

8. After each section has been explicated, start with the group that has the first lines of the poem, and have that group present to the class their explication of their lines.

9. Discuss each section of the poem as the students explicate it.

10. Do this for each group of students. Be sure that the students present their sections in sequential order.

11. Once the entire poem is explicated, have a brief discussion where the entire poem is briefly summarized as a complete poem.


Each group is given a group participation grade for this assignment. Have each person in the group responsible for a few lines or finding poetic elements, etc. to assure that each student is actively participating in the assignment.
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