Enjambed Lines and Word Placement
Students will look at a poem with altered word placement and determine if the alteration changes the poem’s meaning.
Reading Standards for Literature 7-12
7th/8th grade Craft and Structure, number 4
7th/8th grade Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity, number 10
9th/10th and 11th/12th grade Craft and Structure, number 4
9th/10th and 11th/12th grade Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity, number 10
• Class sets of note sheets to help students follow lesson (distributed earlier)
• A chalkboard, overhead transparency, Elmo or Smart Board to help with note-taking
• Copies of the poems
Pass out note-taking materials.
Review the lesson about repetition by reminding students of “The Highwayman.” Ask them to explain the effect of the repeated beginning and closing stanza. (Suggests the meeting continues to happen in a haunting way.)
Define enjambed lines as lines that end physically before the meaning ends. Show a simple rhyme on the board such as the following:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Sugar is sweet
And so are you.
Point out that each line physically ends at the end of that line’s meaning. Then write the rhyme as follows:
Red violets are
Blue sugar is
Sweet and so
Does it make the meaning less clear? Can it be interpreted in a different way now? Does the reading of it change in beat and rhythm? That is the effect and power of an enjambed line.
Explain that word placement can work in the same way. Reread the poem “Strong Iron Hands.” What is the assumed purpose of the placement of the last line? (We cannot be sure. Answers are good when students can justify them with reason.)
Read “The Dance” by William Carlos Williams to the class. Explain that Pieter Breughel was a great painter who made dry color on stretched cloth actually seem to move. Williams wanted to make the words describing the dried color on stretched cloth so good that they seemed to move, too. Show a picture of the painting, then read the poem. Have students pick out words chosen specifically for their connotations (example: bellies adds and the word abdomen takes away) and sound qualities (example: tweedle and blare). Have students also comment on the purpose of the repeated line. (Continuation — when you reach the bottom you’re already at the top and dancing again.) Then discuss the purpose of the enjambed lines. (Speed — try to read it dropping the voice and pausing at the end of each physical line to see the point.)
Read “L(a” by E. E. Cummings. Have students explain the placement of the various letters. (Answers must be justified in order to be considered correct.)
Read “Funeral Blues.” Discuss why this poem would not work if the lines were enjambed.
Have students work in pairs to try to write a pattern poem similar to “L(a.” They must use an emotional situation such as “my crush” or “responsibility” or “weekend begins.” The placement of the letters and the comparison within the parenthesis must support the emotion they are trying to convey. Pairs should share and explain results to the class.
Have students rewrite the rhyme “Jack and Jill” in a way in which the word placement emphasizes and supports the meaning, then explain their results.