Shyaonti Talwar


"I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity. I want this adventure that is the context of my life to go on without end."
- Simone de Beauvoir

Teaching Poetry


- To focus on reading subskills

- To integrate language and literature in the classroom

- To enable practice of productive skills

Step 1 : Show students the following visual and elicit what comes to their mind when they see it.

Likely responses could be: crossroads, two roads, roads diverging, roads going different ways, etc.

Ask: Can you relate the visual to your life?

Have you ever faced something like this?

Allow students to discuss in pairs followed by whole class feedback.

Now ask: Which poem do you think we are going to read today?

Elicit/ present the title of the poem.

Step 2 : Ask students to read the poem individually in silence and come up with an alternative title to the poem.

The Road not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost

Step 3: Elicit alternative titles from the students and then ask students to choose the best title and say why.

Step 3: Put students in 4 groups and allot two to three questions to each group. Ask students to read the poem again, try to answer their question and discuss in groups.

Questions for Groups

1. Which road did the traveler take?
2. What do ‘the first’ in stanza 3 and ‘that’ in stanza four mean?
3. What did the narrator do when he came to the point where ‘two roads diverged in a yellow wood’?
4. How will you describe the narrator’s mood in the poem?
5. Why does the narrator use the word ‘sigh’ in the fourth stanza? What does it imply or indicate?
6. Think of other phrases or combinations of words you can use to describe ‘yellow wood’ or ‘trodden black’?
7. Which road does the narrator choose and why?
8. Do you think he is happy with his choice?
9. Is the imagery used in the poem a metaphor? for what? or What does the visual of a road diverging in a forest make you think of?

Step 4: Do a whole class feedback of the questions allowing each group to present its responses. Consolidate where needed.

Step 5: Ask three students to volunteer. Place three chairs facing the rest of the class and ask the three volunteers to take those chairs facing the class. Now tell the class that these three are the following:

Person A is the road that is usually taken

Person B is the road not taken

Person C is the narrator

Tell the class:

You might have various doubts and dilemas about what you read in the poem. Here are these three people each standing for one aspect or one character in the poem. You can put across your questions to them.

To the three people say:

You need to respond to their questions.

Answer key and consolidation of the lesson plan

Expected responses for questions 1 to 9 (though some are open-ended)
1. The road that was less frequented.
2. ‘The first’ refers to the first road, the road that was the natural choice of most travelers. ‘that’ refers to the narrator’s choice/ decision.
3. He chose the one that was less taken.
4. reflective, contemplative.
5. It could be ‘sigh’ of relief that he made the right choice after all or it could be a ‘sigh’ of regret that he will never be able to go back and see what the other road led to.
6. “a forest in autumn” (open-ended)
7. Which road does the narrator choose and why? (open-ended)
8. Do you think he is happy with his choice? (open-ended)
9. Is the imagery used in the poem a metaphor? for what? or What does the visual of a road diverging in a forest make you think of? (open-ended)


Focus on reading sub skills: By asking the students to come up with and discuss responses amongst themselves before sharing them with the whole class, the teacher is enabling learner autonomy and allowing learners to think.

Some of the questions (like questions 1, 3, 4) focus on reading sub skills like reading for gist, reading for specific information, reading for detail wherein the answer is to be found in the text.

Some like questions 2 and 6 focus on linguistic devices and vocabulary.

Some like questions 7,8 and 9 are more open-ended and are aimed at eliciting subjective responses from the students.


Step 5 is an activity called the hotseat where students from the class are made to take the place of the characters in the narrative. The class prepares questions for them. In this case some of the likely questions could be:

To the narrator: Why did you take the less frequented road?

To the road usually taken: What kind of people usually choose you? OR Who was the last person who chose you? OR Where do you end? OR What do you lead to?

To the road not usually taken: Why do people avoid you?


This activity enables critical thinking as both, the ones who are asking and the ones who are answering the questions are critically engaged. It also looks at ways of addressing the ruptures in any narrative to convey the inherent interpretability and open-endedness of any text.

Activities like these help develop students’ questioning skills, ability to imagine, reconstruct and create besides allowing them to engage in a speaking activity with a fluency focus.

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