Practices in Pedagogy

"To Teach is to Learn Twice Over"

Complete Lesson (Parts 1-7 of SPU Template): “Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry”

Complete Lesson Plan: “Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry”



“Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry” (Lesson Plan)

“Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry” (PP Presentation)

“Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry” (Artifact #1)

“Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry” (Artifact #2)

“Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry” (Artifact #3)


The purpose of this lesson is to prepare and equip me with the knowledge and experience needed to successfully complete my student teaching internship and the Teacher Performance Assessment. First and foremost, the assignment provides me with the opportunity to practice completing a lesson plan—using the Seattle Pacific University Long Template—that is both accurate and relevant to the work I will be doing in the classroom. Secondly, the assignment initiates thoughtful, pertinent reflection on standards-based instruction. The process of planning, performing, critiquing, revising, and finishing, has allowed me to be actively engaged in my development as a better teacher. I have been blessed with the chance to take risks in my planning, receive constructive criticism from my peers, and improve my work dramatically. Finally, I have been able to practice the processes associated with the TPA. I have been planning to teach, teaching, and reflecting on my teaching, all in the hope that when I am assessed later in the year, I will already know what is expected of me.

The assignment in itself is a completed plan for a lesson entitled “Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry.” Intended for a high school freshmen English classroom, the lesson is centered on practicing close reading strategies, critical thinking, and making and defending interpretive claims. The lesson focuses on two main standards: the student understands and uses different skills and strategies to read (Reading 1) and the student understands the meaning of what is read (Reading 2). Therefore, by the end of the lesson, students should be able to read closely and pull main ideas from a given poem. This will be done through independent reading, rereading, public reading, marking/highlighting the text, talking to fellow students and the teacher, and a group drawing activity. Students should be able to see what Emily Dickinson is trying to say (answer to the riddle, main idea, etc) and provide an accurate, thoughtful defense of their interpretation (using imagery, symbols, descriptions, illustrations). For the purposes of the lesson, we will be using a riddle called the “River Crossing Problem” and Emily Dickinson’s “I like to see it lap the miles.” These two works are similar in that they are both complex riddles, and are wonderful examples of the correlation between solving riddles and explicating poetry. Employing creativity, engaging activities, and collaboration, this lesson will encourage students to not only learn, but also be excited about their learning.

This assignment demonstrates my competency in Standard O2 because of its foundation in planning and adapting curricula. Standard O2 states, “Teacher Candidates offer appropriate challenge in the content area. Teacher-candidates plan and/or adapt curricula that are standards-driven so students develop understanding and problem-solving expertise in the content area(s) using reading, written and oral communication, and technology.” Breaking this over-arching statement down into a simpler form, it mainly speaks to teacher candidates’ ability to complete three different goals: create adaptive/student-centered curricula, facilitate standards-based learning, and use the four components of literacy (reading, writing, oral communication, and technology).

The first aspect of Standard O2 details how teacher candidates are able to plan, implement, and adapt curricula in order to provide students with a better understanding of the content area. So, because this assignment is completely focused on creating a lesson plan, teaching the lesson, receiving constructive criticism from peers, perceiving my students’ success or failure to grasp the concept (based off assessments), and revising my plan in order to better teach my students, it absolutely coincides with Standard O2. After teaching the lesson the first time, I realized that my initial entry task took far too much class time to complete. It was a waste of precious class time and problematic to my students’ learning. Therefore, in my revision of the lesson plan, I elected to shorten the entry task by 5 minutes. Similarly, during my initial teaching performance, my peers reflected on my consistent lack of professionalism in front of the class as a clear obstacle to student learning. Instead of speaking formally, I repeatedly spoke with “umm’s” and “you guys,” which severely undermined the maturity of my teaching. Instead of being professional and having everything ready by the beginning of the lesson, I had to stop at different points in order to pass out worksheets and set up my Power-point presentation. Once again, I fixed these issues and found success in my second teaching of the lesson. Completing an adaptive assignment—where my work is changed in order to better adhere to the needs and abilities of my students—I have shown how my teaching is always student-centered.

Simultaneously, my lesson plan was constantly, unceasingly contoured to State Standards—the second aspect to Standard O2. No matter how much certain aspects changed, such as the length of my entry task, the goals of my lesson remained unchanged. The lesson was always focused on Washington State Reading Standards 1 and 2, which say, “the student understands and uses different skills and strategies to read (Reading 1) and the student understands the meaning of what is read (Reading 2).” These standards produced two goals for the lesson: practice several close-reading strategies and use critical thinking skills in order to produce thoughtful interpretations. Students were made aware of these two goals at the beginning of the lesson, and were continually encouraged to work towards them.

I displayed my fulfillment of Standard O2’s final attribute: using reading, writing, oral communication, and technology to encourage student expertise in the content area in several ways. My students practiced guided, close reading a total of seven times! They worked through a complex riddle in three different segments, each encompassing a different close-reading strategy. Then, students read through the Emily Dickinson poem four different times: once with the teacher reading aloud, a second time with the teacher reading aloud and the students following along, a third time with each student reading on their own, and finally a fourth time reading the poem within a group. Students also were given several opportunities to utilize writing in order to aid them in their expertise of the content area. In the entry task, students were encouraged to write out a brief interpretation of the riddle. During their reading of the poem, students were asked to write out—after each segmented reading time—an interpretation of the poem. Finally, the collaborative illustration activity provided students an opportunity to write out, and draw, images and interpretations based off their group’s discussion. In all of these activities, students were allowed the chance to practice solving problems in the content area through their writing. Oral communication was prominent in the many teacher-led discussions as we read the riddle and poem as a class. It was also a vital factor in the group illustration activity, for students were required to discuss and synthesize their thoughts on the poem within their group. They were encourage to debate, ask questions from one another, and most importantly, to develop a compromising interpretation in their pursuit of the knowledge in the content area. Technology was the least used component in the lesson. However, even it was utilized to some significant degree. I employed the use of Power-point presentation in order to help facilitate and lead my students in the lesson. Without this technology, the lesson would not have been nearly as effective.

In one last final note, this lesson reflects a great deal about the types of knowledge, teaching, and literacy I employ in my teaching. My lesson is primarily pertaining to soft, pure knowledge. Soft knowledge means that interpretation is the central problem, where debate and reinterpretation are necessities.  Pure knowledge is theoretically oriented and abstract. Therefore, as my lesson is founded on creating and revising interpretative claims based off abstract ideas expressed in poetry, it is quite clearly utilizing soft, pure knowledge. My teaching in this lesson is primarily telling and controlling, meaning that the learning is mainly achieved through teacher-led discussions. Although there are hints of a deeper teaching style present in the lesson, such as the emphasis placed on developing personalized interpretations of the poem, the lesson functions predominantly as an avenue by which my knowledge of poetry explication is transmitted to the students through dialogue. Finally, the style of literacy evident in this lesson is undoubtedly adaptation. The lesson emphasizes the functionality of literacy skills by showing how close-reading and critical thinking techniques are essential to comprehension. By practicing skills such as rereading, collaborative reading, and illustration, students are encouraged to see to the necessity of literacy in our world today. These styles, or metaphors, are incredibly beneficial to recognize, for they encourage me to reflect and improve my teaching. I someday want to incorporate all possible teaching styles into my own, making me that much more of an effective instructor for my students. The more diverse my teaching, the more my students will learn.


* To see a video of my lesson taught in a classroom, follow the link below to



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One thought on “Complete Lesson (Parts 1-7 of SPU Template): “Unpacking Dickinson’s Riddle Poetry”

  1. Kris Gritter on said:

    I think this is a strong lesson. 1.7 and 1.8 should be a priority in your internship because what you know about students will help you plan and assess better.

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