Thursday, May 27, 2010

Teaching tone in poetry

by Tara Seale

Before my 9th grade students tackled Shakespearean sonnets, we started with a simple poem from a popular teen movie released in 1999. Although the movie was dated by their standards, they all knew the lead male actor, Heath Ledger, which provided some connection and interest.

You may be familiar with the movie, 10 Things I Hate About You. It is a modern day remake of Taming of the Shrew, so that was helpful in making the jump to Shakespeare later. In the movie, the heroine, Kat, is the shrew. She writes a sonnet to her love interest, played by Ledger, and reads it aloud in English class.

Actually, I did not provide this background information before we read the poem. Instead, I passed out the poem and asked my students to work with a partner to label the tone of the speaker in the beginning of the poem, draw a line at the tone shift, and label the tone of the speaker at the end of the poem.

See the poem below:

I hate the way you talk to me
And the way you cut your hair
I hate the way you drive my car
I hate it when you stare

I hate your big dumb combat boots
And the way you read my mind
I hate you so much that it makes me sick
It even makes me rhyme

I hate the way you're always right
I hate it when you lie
I hate it when you make me laugh
Even worse when you make me cry

I hate the way you're not around
And the fact that you didn't call
But mostly I hate the way I don't hate you
Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.


I walked around as students argued with their partners over tone words. When everyone agreed that they understood the poem and could explain the tone and the shift, we shared our thoughts.

Students discovered that when they picked different tone words from another group of students, they also had different ideas about the overall intent and meaning of the poem. Students began to realize that if they didn't catch the tone of the speaker, then they would not be able to fully comprehend the meaning either.

We discussed how it is more difficult to understand written tone versus spoken. Some students shared stories involving misunderstandings because friends misread the tone of a text message, which we decided could easily happen due to the brevity of that type of communication.

Fortunately, the video clip of this poem is on YouTube and can be downloaded or embedded to show to a class.




Students watched the clip from the movie, and then they re-evaluated and relabeled the tone of the poem.

After discussing the poem, students were curious and asked about the movie. It was a perfect opening for introducing Shakespeare and his sonnets.


Tech Tip for Downloading from YouTube:

If your school blocks YouTube and you want to use this clip, you can download it using Zamzar.
Step 1, click on the words URL. Next go to the URL, web address, and copy and paste the URL into the box in Step 1.
Step 2, select the format. Scroll down and select wmv for Windows Media Player and mp4 or mov for a mac or Quicktime.
Step 3, provide your email address.
Click Convert, and then Zamzar will email you the converted file.

1 comment:

bastibueno said...

This is a really good lesson. I like that you used something that the students identify with and own, but I have to disagree with your point about a shift in the speaker's tone. there is no shift. she is truly in love with him from the start. she makes an effort to list a number of things about him that she has obviously taken the time to notice. if we were to replace "hate" with "love" in the first three stanzas, it would still have the same tone (in third stanza, replace "even worse" with "even more"). I am going to use this in the classroom, but i will ask if they think whether or not the speaker's tone shifts. in addition, ask them to explain if she truly "hate[s]" him. thanks for the post!