TTTC: Focus

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Jun
  • 22
  • 2010

This would have been more successful if it wasn’t the final unit and piece of writing of the year. That brings with it a certain degree of scattered students and work, no matter how well planned you are. I decided we’d finish off the year with The Things They Carried, something that seems to appeal to a fairly wide audience. I’m thinking of starting with this novel next year. This is only the second time I taught it, but I feel like I was fairly well focused and provided a lot of scaffolding. The final paper was to be a comparison, so everything we did revolved around comparing one thing to another. We started with poems.

Times And Handouts

Working through the war poems takes about three days total. Give yourself a day to get the students through each poem, a day to work them through a comparison of

  • War Poetry (PDF) (Word) Full disclosure: I believe I took the idea of using these poems from someone along the way, but I don’t remember who
  • Comparison Chart (PDF) (Word)
  • TTTC Writing (PDF) (Word)


Before you even hand out the book, start with the poems. Those are more manageable chunks to get students used to reading and rereading (though I had difficulty even getting students to reread a short poem). Poems are also usually more obvious with the use of repetition, typically a key ingredient to a text’s message. Since I wanted students to think not only about theme but writing style, these poems work well because the styles are all very different.

Pick two poems to take the students through a sample comparison. We worked with the first two, “Camouflaging the Chimera” and “War Is Kind.” On the document camera, but this would work just as well on the board, we stepped through the comparison chart. First we tackled what’s happening on the surface of these poems and then dove under to decide what it all means. After that, we dissected the language to figure out how the poet communicated that message.

Similarities and differences noted on our chart, the students then worked on this with a partner, choosing two other poems. Students took notes and groups presented their comparisons. Before you knew it, we were already of the mind to pay attention to similarities and differences.

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