A Slash of Blue

Emily Dickinson’s beautiful poem uses imagery to describe the sky.

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Learning Objective

In this classic poem by Emily Dickinson, students will read an imaginative description of a sunset and sunrise that serves as a perfect lesson on imagery.

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Key Skills

Imagery, author’s purpose, figurative language, main idea

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This article and lesson support the following standards:

Common Core anchor standards: R.1, R.4, W.3, SL.1, L.4, L.5
TEKS: 3.2, 3.4, 3.6, 3.18b, 3.29, 3.30

Teaching Materials

Activity Sheets

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Close Reading and Critical Thinking
Poetry Kit: Write Your Own Poem

Lesson plan

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Set a Purpose for Reading (10 minutes)
• Begin by reading the Imagery bubble for the class. Talk about how poets might use imagery to bring their poems to life; for example, they might tell you the color and shape of an item or compare it to something else.
• Ask students to examine the photo that goes along with the poem. What do they think the girl’s mood is? What time of day is it? How does the photo make them feel?
• Remind students to keep the image in mind as they read the poem, and to look for words the poet uses to create images in the poem.

• Read the poem for the class or play our audio version.
• Read it again, stopping to explain unfamiliar words.
• Project or distribute the close-reading and critical-thinking questions and discuss them as a class as students refer to the poem in their magazines.


Close-Reading and Critical-Thinking Questions (15 minutes)
• What words does the author use in the first four lines to describe the color of the evening sky? (imagery; author’s purpose) blue, gray, scarlet
• What do you picture while reading the first four lines? Why do you think you picture that? (imagery) Students might suggest they picture a sunset because the author uses imagery to describe what a sunset looks like.
• What two times of day does the author describe? (main idea) The author describes the sunset and the sunrise.
• Why does the author mention “Ruby trousers” in line 6?  What does she mean? (figurative language) She is talking about the red color in the sky at sunrise. Perhaps they are “hurried on” because the sun is just coming up.

Teaching Extras

Personal Process

Your students might be interested to know that Emily Dickinson never published any of her poems when she was alive. She wrote poems for her friends and family, but never shared them widely. After she died, her sister found a collection of almost 1,800 poems! She decided they needed to be shared with the world, and now Emily Dickinson is one of the most famous poets of all time.

A Welcome Addition

For more kid-friendly Emily Dickinson poetry, check out this gorgeously illustrated collection. The poems are annotated to define tricky vocabulary words and figurative language. A great addition to your poetry library!

Extension Activity

For a fun art extension activity, have your students read the poem closely and then draw or paint a picture of what the poem is about.

Poetry Potential

For an example of how powerful poetry can be in the classroom, check out this story of a teacher who had something extraordinary happen after her class read a poem in Storyworks.

Classroom Collections

Teachers tell us that they collect our poems in a poetry journal—perhaps you’d want to do something similar with the six poems we’ve published this year. From there, students can poll one another on their favorites, and turn it into a bar graph for a math extension.

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