Sample Lesson

From the book: Wish Wonder Surprise - English Literature and Creative Writing

The Quiet Awe of Fallen Snow

Wish, Wonder, and Surprise
Literature and Creative Writing

The Quiet Awe of Fallen Snow

The teacher should create an imagination of being in the midst of fallen snow through her description to create a setting for this lesson. She might tell of a simple episode from her own memory or from a literary source. The falling snow swallows all the sound of the forest and creates an eerie silence. The world gleams brightly from the reflected light on all of the surfaces. At times the reflections are so bright, that it seems as if the world has turn to crystalline light and is ready to disappear before our eyes. All the sharp protruding and angled forms such as rocks, boulders, sticks and broken branches become rounded and smooth. The angled sharp world suddenly seems soft and gentle like a room full of pillows. All the shapes and form become bedecked with the purity of freshly fallen snow. A meadow become magical, and even a yard with trash strewn about becomes ennobled and beautified ---all of the old and broken things disappear beneath the pure white mantle. The way the world is beautified by snow seems to be a metaphor for what? Grace? Love? Purity? Adornment? Yet we know that we must be careful where we step for underneath the glistening luster may lie dangerous objects and pitfalls. Now the covering of snow has become a metaphor for deception or the glossing over of the truth of something with a façade.

After the teacher has described a scene of the falling snow, she can introduce the poem.

VELVET SHOES

by Elinor Wylie

Let us walk in the white snow
In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow
At a tranquil pace,
Under veils of white lace.

I shall go shod in silk
And you in wool,
White as white cow's milk
More beautiful than the breast of a gull.

We shall walk through the still town
In a windless peace;
We shall step upon white down,
Upon silver fleece,
Upon softer than these.

We shall walk in velvet shoes:
Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
On white silence below.
We shall walk in the snow.

Writing/ Dictation Exercise The student should copy the entire poem into his book. An illustration in color pencil with a theme of snow could accompany it. Try using only one color such as blue for the entire picture.

Lesson Activities: Snow Poems
Help the student find synonyms for some of the following words and phrases from the poem. How many ways can one describe snow?

Silver fleece, downy feathers, ice cream, angel's lace, silver fire, silver firs, blankets and pillows, the silver flood; flashing white; the frozen foam, fleecy mirrors, etc. Other phrases from the poem for example:

Soundless space --silent expanse; still emptiness; not a breath of wind
Quiet and slow----hushed and softly; unhurried and hushed; silent softness
Tranquil pace ----placid tread; quiet step; calm step; unheard step; quiet amble
Shod in silk ----draped in lace; mantled and veiled; a bridal veil; wound in silk; laden with
fleece; the trees are silken boughs
The still town ----the frozen village; spellbound city; the enchanted place, quiet lanes,
hushed streets, frozen sound; sound swallowed in white, Etc.

You can write these on a chalkboard or a large piece of paper as they are discovered. The new phrases could now be rearranged in various ways to suggest ideas to the student's imagination. You could try to stay with a similar rhyme scheme as the poem by Elinor Wylie, but that's not important. Though the poem by Wylie describes a walk in the snow, as you rearrange the poetic phrases that you have created, an entirely different scene might be suggested. Go with it. Let Wylie's poem be a sail for your imagination rather than an anchor. Below are two examples of verses written from images inspired by Wylie's poem.

We shall walk beneath silken boughs
Wherever we go
Silent petals tremble on the ground below
Shed like dew among the floes
We shall walk in the snow
We shall walk along the quiet lanes
Where not a breath of wind shall stir
The frost upon the window panes
Will gleam with silver fir
Cast upon a fleecy mirror.

However, as it was already stated, the lines do not need to fall into any kind of rhyme scheme as these examples do---that makes the exercise much more difficult. For now, be content to string together like a strand of pearls, some phrases that seem to naturally follow one another. Write several poems on snow, using the raw material you have created in this way. Later, if you wish, you can try to work these into a set meter or rhyme pattern.

Lesson Activity
Use a piece of black or dark blue construction paper (or pastel paper) as the base for a snow scene. Use a white color pencil to draw mounds of snow, snow upon trees and rooftops, etc. to create an illustration. The dark background provides for shadows and a dark sky. The illustration of the snow scene in this book was created in this way. The dark silhouettes of trees in the background are the black paper showing through. In other words, the trees were formed by filling in white around them. Cut the paper small enough to be glued into the student's lesson book when completed.

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