|
 

The History & Poetry of "In Flanders Fields"

Grade Levels: 9 - 12

Objectives

  • Students will learn about tetrameter and sonnets.
  • Students will learn about the inspiration for McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields."

Materials

Copies of "In Flanders Fields"

Procedures

  1. Do any of your students know why Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) volunteers give you a paper poppy after you give them a donation?
  2. Discuss Flanders Fields and the meaning of poppies to veterans. Here is an overview:

      Where are Flanders Fields?
      Some of the bloodiest battles of World War I took place in the areas of northern France and southwest Belgium known as Flanders and Picardy. For a map of those areas, try out Google Maps or another mapping website.

      The British front line was determined to keep the Germans from traversing Flanders and the Ypres river valley to reach the port of Calais. Troops from both sides were holed up in the Ypres salient, an outward projection of the battle line. Defending British troops were vulnerable on three sides; therefore this was a bloody and dangerous place for a soldier to be.

      The destruction from the battles in this area reached beyond the battlefield to the towns and roads of the area, and led to the demolition of buildings, roads, and all plant life, leaving only mud.

      Where do the poppies come in?
      Noticed as early as the Napoleonic Wars, red poppies grew on the graves of dead soldiers in the fields of northern Europe. Evidently, poppy seeds will lie underground for years and bloom if they are plowed up. In the spring of 1915, red poppies flourished in the fields of the Ypres salient covering the newly dug graves.

      Where does the poem come in?
      The scenes of the spring battles in the Ypres salient moved John McCrae, a Canadian doctor, to write "In Flanders Fields." He wrote the poem as he sat in the dressing area (where wounds were dressed) looking out at a field of graves. The poem was later published in Punch Magazine. McCrae died of pneumonia in 1918, a common killer of Great War soldiers.

      Inspired by McCrae's poem, American Moina Michael wore poppies to honor the war dead. She also began to sell poppies to raise money for disabled veterans. After meeting Moina Michael in 1920, Frenchwoman Madame E. Guerin started selling handmade poppies to raise money for poor children who were living in the aftermath of the Great War. Soon thereafter Field-Marshall Earl Haig, the former British Commander-in-Chief, encouraged the selling of paper poppies to raise funds for veterans. This tradition spread to Canada and then to the United States.

  3. Read the poem aloud with your students.
  4. Looking at the content of the poem, ask your students to answer the following discussion questions.
    1. Compare the mood in the first two stanzas with that in the third.
    2. Is this a pro-war poem? If so why; if not, why not?
    3. Who is the speaker in this poem?
    4. What does the speaker want his listeners to do?
  5. Discuss tetrameter, a line of poetry with four metric feet.
  6. Reread the poem while stomping (with your feet) out the meter, saying each syllable so that they learn the rhythm of the poem.
  7. Discuss the structure of the poem. Although not technically a sonnet, "In Flanders Fields" borrows from that tradition.
  8. Information about sonnets:

      A sonnet is a 14-line poem, usually in iambic pentameter (5 metric feet, 10 syllables) with a strict rhyme scheme. Italian (Petrarchan) sonnets have an octave and a sestet, and have a rhyme scheme of abbaabba cdecde (the last sound of the last word in each line). Elizabethan (Shakespearean) sonnets consist of three quatrains and a couplet, and have a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg. The sonnet form is believed to have come from medieval songs.

      Stanza—an arrangement of a certain number of lines, forming a division of a poem
      Octave—An 8-line stanza
      Sestet—A 6-line stanza
      Quatrain—A 4-line stanza
      Couplet—A 2-line stanza
      Sonnet—A 14-line poem

  9. Ask the class to find the rhyme scheme of the poem (aabba aabc aabbac).
  10. Why some would call it a sonnet when it does not follow traditional form?

Free 7-Day Trial for TeacherVision®

Sign up for a free trial and get access
to our huge library of teaching materials!

Start Trial

Highlights

Back to School Headquarters
August is Back to School Month and many of you will be returning to the classroom very soon. Feeling unprepared? We have you covered! Check out our very best resources and advice for New Teachers (applicable for the new and experienced), as well as Bulletin Board ideas, Icebreakers, Open House materials, and general Classroom Management tips for a successful new school year.

Special Offers for Teachers Newsletter
Do you receive our Special Offers for Teachers newsletter? Each month, we send out FREE resources to all of our subscribers. Our next issue (August 12) features a collection of our best Back-to-School materials—that's right, sign up now and get them for free!

Discounts for Teachers
Start the new school year with cash in your pocket! We have some great ways to save money on the supplies that keep your classroom running: Money-Saving Tips for Teachers and Free & Cheap Rewards for Students. Plus, check out our Discounts for Teachers so you can save on office supplies, clothing, books, crafts and fabric, travel, and more!

August Calendar of Events
August is full events that you can incorporate into your standard curriculum. Our Educators' Calendar outlines activities for each event, including: Friendship Day (8/2), President Obama's Birthday (8/4/1961), Astronaut Neil Armstrong's Birthday (8/5/1930), International Art Appreciation Day (8/9), International Youth Day (8/12), Aviation Day (8/19), Tooth Fairy Day (8/22), International Day for Remembrance of Slave Trade & Its Abolition (8/23), and Women's Equality Day (8/26). Plus, celebrate Back to School Month and Get Ready for Kindergarten Month all August long!

Poptropica Teaching Guides
Poptropica is one of the Internet's most popular sites for kids—and now it's available as an app for the iPad! It's not just a place to play games; each of the islands featured on the site provides a learning opportunity. Check out our teaching guides to four of Poptropica's islands: 24 Carrot Island, Time Tangled Island, Mystery Train Island, and Mythology Island.