The Tone Map

Liisa House

Lesson Introduction

In poems, the speaker moves through a series of moods and tones of voice, arranged in a particular order, to tell an emotional story. Even when poems seem like a simple series of images and we can’t say exactly what events are taking place, there is usually an emotional drama that develops over the course of the poem and culminates in some kind of emotional resolution.

As students learn to name the tones of voice that the poem moves through, they will learn to describe mixed emotions, such as “sweet sorrow,” and to distinguish subtle shifts in tone and mood. They will build their vocabulary of feeling, train their emotional intelligence, and prepare themselves to speak more accurately and confidently about any piece of writing or work of art.

Learning Objectives

In this lesson, students will have opportunities to:

  • Listen to poems being recited, with an ear to how the performer has adopted different tones of voice over the course of the performance.
  • Mark, visually, where and when those shifts of tone occurred.
  • Use a rich and varied tone vocabulary to name each shift in tone, looking up words they do not know.
  • Practice “mapping” a poem on their own, in a precise and nuanced way.
  • Write instructions to a classmate on how he or she should recite the poem, with evidence to support their suggestions.

Materials and Resources

To teach this lesson, you will need:

  • computer with Internet access (speakers or headphones and printer needed)
  • LCD projector or overhead projector and transparency
  • good dictionaries, pens

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