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Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare

Teacher Guide by Kristy Littlehale

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category!

Student Activities for Sonnet 73 Include:

“Sonnet 73” is a poignant sonnet for anyone who has sensed time passing by too quickly, and the need to hang on to youth, life, and experiences much more tightly. This sonnet uses winter, night, and a dying fire as metaphors for the inevitable approach of Death. This sonnet is excellent to use for literary elements, TP-CASTT analysis, and for a student to connect their own experience of time passing by too quickly. While old age and death may seem far away for our students, the final activity will help them understand exactly what Shakespeare is trying to say to his readers.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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A Quick Synopsis of "Sonnet 73"

The narrator opens the poem by comparing the passing of his life to the season autumn, which quickly fades into the cold, barren winter. He also compares his dwindling time to common motifs such as twilight, and the embers of a once-roaring fire. Typical of Shakespeare sonnets, however, there is a twist in the final couplet: the narrator directly addresses someone in this final couplet, saying that that person sees all of these images of dying, but they make that person’s love stronger (perhaps for the narrator), since that person knows they will eventually lose the object of their affections. This final couplet could also be viewed as the narrator advising the readers that we see age and the ones we love getting older, so we should increase our love for them even more, because we don’t know how much time we have left with them.

Essential Questions for "Sonnet 73"

  1. How can time create conflict in a person’s life?
  2. Is it more important to “seize the day” and live in the moment, or to be very conscious of what might happen in the years to come?
  3. How do the seasons of nature reflect our own life cycle?

Sonnet 73 Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Shakespeare Sonnet 73 TPCASTT Analysis


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Poetry is one of the most expressive forms of literature. It can evoke emotions, set a mood, tell a story, or create a deeply and universally understood feeling in its readers. This makes expounding its elements, and understanding its rich meaning, comparisons, and symbols, even more important.

The TPCASTT method of poetry analysis is a great way to teach students to dissect a poem and understand its parts. It helps students to uncover the deeper meanings within poems while giving them the confidence to be self-educators. TPCASTT Poetry Analysis is an order of operations similar to PEMDAS for math. It asks students to list items in sequential order and answer questions based on their reading of the poem.



TPCASTT Example for "Sonnet 73"

T

TITLE

[Since the sonnet is a number, consider having students look at the first line instead] “That time of year thou mayst in me behold”
  • The narrator might be talking about a special time of year, or a holiday.
P

PARAPHRASE

[Short Version- Expand the storyboard if you would like your students to do it by stanza, quatrain, or couplet]:
  • The narrator is comparing his increasing age to things like fall/winter, twilight/night, and dying embers from a fire. At the end, he says that love and appreciation can increase when time is running out.
[Long Version]:
  • In the first quatrain, the narrator compares his increasing age with the end of fall and the beginning of winter. This is the time of year when things begin to wither and go bare.
  • In the second quatrain, the narrator says he is twilight left behind after the sun sets, which then becomes black night, Death’s counterpart. Death brings everyone to eternal rest.
  • In the third quatrain, the narrator says that he is like the dying embers left behind by a raging fire, the embers lying on top of the ashes like lying on their own deathbed, the ashes consuming the embers.
  • In the final couplet, the narrator says that despite all of the images of dying in the last three quatrains, the love for him increases because he will not be around for much longer.
C

CONNOTATION

The narrator’s use of metaphor for the seasons, twilight, and a dying fire seem like he is concerned with the passing of time, and with how time has aged him. The lessening of time creates a sense of urgency to love more strongly and cherish things more closely.
A

ATTITUDE/TONE

Shakespeare uses words like bare, ruined, fadeth, death, ashes, deathbed, expire, and consumed to invoke images of death and time running out. The words are depressing and somewhat desperate.
S

SHIFTS

A shift occurs in the final couplet when the narrator points out that the effect of getting older is that one must love the time he has more strongly, and cherish the little things.
T

TITLE

After reading the poem, my prediction about the title was incorrect, since Shakespeare did not focus on a time of year, but discussed the passage of time that leads to death.
T

THEME

Love strongly and spend your time wisely because you never know how much time is left.

This is a great activity to have students do in small groups! Once they are finished, ask them to create a storyboard with the TPCASTT steps.

Sonnet 73 TPCASTT

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Perform a TPCASTT analysis of "Sonnet 73". Remember that TPCASTT stands for Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Attitude/Tone, Shift, Title, Theme.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Choose any combination of scenes, characters, items, and text to represent each letter of TPCASTT.
  3. Write a few sentences describing the importance or meaning of the images.
  4. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.
  5. Save and submit storyboard to assignment.



TPCASTT Template

Example

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Sonnet 73 Literary Elements


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When teaching poetry, it is often helpful to refresh or introduce students with technical words. Terms like “metaphor", "stanza", "alliteration", "personification", "imagery", "rhyme scheme", "apostrophe", and "assonance" are a few important terms.

After you have read the poem, ask your students to do a scavenger hunt using the storyboard creator. Give them the list again and have them create a storyboard that depicts and explains the use of each literary element in the poem! They will have an absolute blast and gain mastery of the words.

Examples of Literary Elements that Shakespeare Uses

DESCRIPTION EXAMPLE
Alliteration Repetition of consonant sounds at the beginnings of words in a sentence or line "Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest..."
Metaphor An implied comparison between two things "That on the ashes of his youth doth lie..."
Personification Giving human-like characteristics to non-human objects or abstract ideas "Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang..."
Assonance The repetition of a vowel sound "When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang..."
Apostrophe A direct address to an absent person, concept, or inanimate object “This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong…”
Imagery The use of descriptive or figurative language to create vivid mental imagery that appeals to the senses “In me, thou seest the twilight of such day/ As after sunset fadeth in the west…”

Sonnet 73 Literary Elements

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows five examples of literary elements in Sonnet 73.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify use of literary elements in the text.
  3. Put the type of literary element in the title box.
  4. Give an example from the text in the description box.
  5. Illustrate the example using using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.



Literary Element Spider Map Template

Example

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Sonnet 73 Theme Connection

Sometimes, it is difficult for students to connect with themes in poetry until they put them into a real-world context. Consider the following activity for students to storyboard with “Sonnet 73”:

Have students brainstorm a time (or times) in their lives when they felt time was passing by too quickly. This could be something as simple as a trip to an amusement park, to something more serious like watching the progression of Alzheimer’s in a relative. Have the student storyboard the experience, ending with something they have learned about time passing too quickly.


Stephanie’s Summer Vacation

Cell 1: When we got out of school for summer vacation, I couldn’t believe we had 80 days of freedom and fun in the sun! It seemed like all the time in the world!


Cell 2: I promised myself that I would make the most of my free time, and planned all kinds of fun activities, like going to the beach, traveling to Florida, and going camping!


Cell 3: My best friend Meaghan was going to be at her lakehouse for most of the summer, but I promised her that when she came back to home for the last 2 weeks of summer that we’d spend every day together!


Cell 4: When Meaghan came back home, I was too busy with other friends to hang out with her. We didn’t see each other at all before school started.


Cell 5: Then, I found out that Meaghan is moving all the way to Texas! It’s a quick move, and she, her mom, and her dad are busy packing, so I won’t get to see her much before she leaves other than in school.


Cell 6: I wish I had taken the opportunity to spend more quality time with Meaghan because now I don’t know when I will get to visit her in Texas.


Sonnet 73 - Connecting With The Theme

Example

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