Connect to Prufrock with this easy, mindful project
If you need an easy and creative way to help your students show their understanding of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” then try this simple activity as a culminating project. My high school juniors seemed to enjoy creating these “Prufrockian Perspective” heads to show what’s going on in Prufrock’s brain. Most students were able to express their own interpretations of the poem in a creative way with this project.
But first, some background.
Here’s a quick rundown of how my classes worked with Prufrock before making these:
- We took notes on Modernism (including comparing pre-Modern vs. Modern masterpieces) and the events that spawned the Modern Era. We also took notes on T. S. Eliot, his career, and other basic biographical facts.
- We read and discussed pre-Modern poems such as William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, “Sonnet 43” (How Do I Love Thee?) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and “Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. For contrast, we followed up these pre-Modern poems with the Modern classics, Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”, and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens.
- And then it was time for Prufrock, where I read aloud the poem as a cold read merely to provide students a first impression.
- The cold read was followed by a second reading where we annotated and jotted down noticings regarding word choice, imagery, allusions.
- I assigned stanzas to pairs of students and asked them to do a close reading, taking stock of their particular stanza and its meaning before sharing their thoughts with the class. Specifically, they were to work with a partner to:
- Underline key words.
- Notice any pattern among words, i.e. do they suggest a tone or feeling?
- Identify any imagery or symbols.
- Determine a theme or attitude in their stanza.
- Discuss how their stanza fits into the whole?
When we completed all those activities, I felt it was time for kids to show their understanding with some Prufrockian Perspective art. My only instructions were to:
- Get a template for Prufrock’s head. (This was something I drew, photocopied, and provided to students on 11″ x 14″ copy paper. I’ll be adding the template to this post very soon, so please bookmark and check back!)
- Fill up the head with what is going on in Prufrock’s mind, based on what you learned from the poem.
- Use words, phrases, and images from the poem.
Here are the colorful results!
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.9: Demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.10: By the end of grade 11, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 11-CCR text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
Download the directions PDF here:
This easy little project was a good way to culminate our study of Prufrock, which was a lead-in to our novel unit for The Great Gatsby. I think that for most of my juniors it allowed them a way to visualize and reproduce their take-aways from the poem, which admittedly seemed at times to be a little “out there” for them.
My advice to them when it comes to understanding “out there” poetry? I just tell them that Modern poetry is not necessarily meant to be understood, but rather felt.
Thanks for reading again this week!
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