Boardworks Yeats Lesson Ideas

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Ideas for teaching the poetry of
William Butler Yeats
Lesson ideas provided by Stephanie Signorile
Background
Yeats is considered one of the greatest twentieth-century poets and yet his poetry is often
overlooked in secondary schools now.
I highly recommend his works for regular classroom teaching, but also for independent
stretching of gifted and talented students.
His poetry is passionately personal and political, and much of it is very accessible. It can
be used as a great vehicle to explore history and mythology (including the Bible) as well
as universal human experience of love and loss. His language also lends itself to rich
exploration of literary devices.
Some key poems to consider:
‘The Second Coming’
‘The Song of Wandering Angus’
‘Sailing to Byzantium’
‘Easter 1916’
‘An Irish Airman Forsees His Death’
‘When You Are Old’
‘No Second Troy’
‘Aedh Wishes for the Clothes of Heaven’
‘Lake Isle of Innisfree’
‘The Magi’
Great weblinks:
Link to collected works: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/y/yeats/william_butler/y4c/index.html
Biography and works: www.online-literature.com/yeats/
Wonderful website with multimedia links – images, videos, photographs, manuscript
copies, etc: www.nytimes.com/2008/07/20/arts/design/20dwye.html?pagewanted=all
Lesson ideas:
1. Research Yeats’ mystical theory of the cycles of the universe, then read ‘The Second
Coming’. Explain how the poem reflects Yeats’ theory. Explore world events since the
year 2000 that support his theory. Display your findings in the format of a poster or
collage, combining relevant images as well as lines or phrases from a variety of Yeats’
poems.
Or
Boardworks Ltd
The Gallery
54 Marston Street
Oxford, OX4 1LF
d
r FREE Sampl
You
eD
r
e
i
sc
t: 0845 0 300 400
f: 0845 0 300 200
[email protected]
www.boardworks.co.uk
Ideas for teaching the poetry of
William Butler Yeats
2. Research the conflict between Protestants (British) and Catholics (Irish) in the early
twentieth century. Read relevant Yeats’ poems, including ‘Easter 1916’ and explore how
he portrays the Irish experience of this conflict. Present your findings as a photo/image
essay.
Weblinks:
www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b009twvd (Audio: Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Yeats
and Irish politics)
www.sparknotes.com/poetry/yeats/themes.html
3. Research Yeats’ personal life, in particular his unrequited love for Maude Gonne. Read
a selection of his love poems, with a special focus on ‘When You Are Old’ and ‘No
Second Troy’, and explore the way he uses language and imagery to convey feelings
of deep love. Look also at how he uses his personal, particular experience to convey
universal experiences of love. Present your ideas in the form of a personal response or
structured analytic essay.
Weblinks:
www.nytimes.com/2008/07/20/arts/design/20dwye.html?pagewanted=all
http://archive.suite101.com/article.cfm/travel_in_ireland/98478
4. Read Yeats’ poems centred on mythology. Research the myths and mythological
creatures that feature in these poems. Write your own poem or series of poems based
on your favourite myth or mythological character(s). Illustrate with found or drawn
images.
Weblinks:
www.gradesaver.com/poems-of-wb-yeats-the-rose/study-guide/section24/
http://writing.colostate.edu/gallery/phantasmagoria/bell.htm
www.sparknotes.com/poetry/yeats/themes.html
5. Choose 10 poems by Yeats. On a sheet of A3 or sugar paper, write out 10–20 lines
or phrases you feel are powerful (because they evoke strong emotions or images).
Annotate the language devices used. Find or draw images to illustrate the lines and
phrases.
Or
Boardworks Ltd
The Gallery
54 Marston Street
Oxford, OX4 1LF
d
r FREE Sampl
You
eD
r
e
i
sc
t: 0845 0 300 400
f: 0845 0 300 200
[email protected]
www.boardworks.co.uk
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