Encourage unity with Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”
“Mending Wall,” anyone? The more I think about the recent midterm elections (some of which are still undecided) and their potential to instill even more division among our country’s electorate, the more I think we all need to re-read one of the 20th century’s most iconic poems, Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.”
The poem so beautifully and not-so-subtly suggests that we reevaluate the walls we erect between ourselves, so we can instead draw closer over the issues and values that we all treasure. It’s difficult to move forward together when we blindly hold on to the beliefs that pointlessly divide among us. As Frost wrote, “There where it is we do not need the wall: / He is all pine and I am apple orchard.”
It’s possible that discussion of the recent election results might be heard in your classroom conversations over the next few weeks as the results are finalized. Facilitate a positive discussion of current events AND American literature by introducing students to “Mending Wall.”
Besides reading the poem aloud to your students, have students discern the advice Frost offered readers way back in 1914 when it was first published. Ask: Is his advice still relevant today? How so? (And keep in mind that students may not be familiar with the adage, “Good fences make good neighbors.” This is an expression from past generations, and none of my current college freshman students had ever heard it. Understand that adage is key to discussing the poem’s message.)
To facilitate discussion about the poem’s relevancy, I’ve rounded up some resources and past blog posts that feature ways to use “Mending Wall.”
Mending Wall Resources
1. CBS Sunday Morning Video Tie-In: Make Connections to Life Today
This CBS Sunday Morning segment aired in October, and I couldn’t believe the obvious connection it makes to “Mending Wall.” It’s a touching story (warning: Kleenex alert!) about adoption and the policy that one family decided to work around to share their adopted child with his biological mother.
2. Mending Wall Writing Prompt: Substitute politics for pandemic in this post to create this writing prompt
Something there is that doesn’t love a pandemic Holed up at home at my dining room table, I’m continuing with my lesson planning as scheduled during our two-week school closing. After our recent Ernest Hemingway unit concluded last week, my plan was to introduce my juniors to Robert Frost. Lucky them. Frost’s poetry is poignant,…
3. Poetry Tie-In: Expand “Mending Wall” with this companion poem
James Patrick Kinney’s poem meets Frost’s “Mending Wall” Looking for a poem to generate a rich and engaging discussion with your students? I recently came across a post in one of the Facebook Groups I belong to. As I scanned the comments on a particular post, I learned about a poem called “The Cold Within”…
4. Poetic Art Hands-On Activity: Recreate a line from the poem with objects
If you want to give your high school students a new angle on poetry that allows them some hands-on and screen-free time, this might be a good activity to try. #poetry #NationalPoetryMonth #poeticart
Thanks for reading! I hope you find some new inspiration to help you teach “Mending Wall” anew this year. Whether it’s that awesome new video from CBS Sunday Morning, the writing prompt, companion poem, or poetic art project, it’s my goal that you’ll find a way to highlight the classic poem’s enduring topicality.
Do you have other ways to teach “Mending Wall”? Feel free to leave a comment below, or send me a message via my Contact page. I would love to hear how you teach one of my all-time favorite poet’s work.
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