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The Tyger by William Blake

Teacher Guide by Bridget Baudinet

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

Student Activities for The Tyger Include:

“The Tyger” is William Blake’s most widely taught poem. Its repetitive style and short length make it accessible to young readers, but the topic it explores is anything but childish. In “The Tyger”, Blake not only explores the coexistence of good and evil, but he also questions the source of their existence, asking how a single creator could create both beauty and horror. The poem resonates with modern readers because its essential question remains unanswered. Questions like “why do good people suffer?” and “how can good people do bad things?” both tie in with the poem’s premise. While “The Tyger” can be understood on a surface level without much prior knowledge, it also includes powerful metaphors and a number of religious and classical allusions that can enrich analysis and interest advanced students.

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




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Blake published his first book of poetry, Songs of Innocence, in 1789. The poems dealt with lighthearted topics and celebrated images of pastoral happiness. Five years later, he published Songs of Experience, a book of poems addressing the darker aspects of life. He described his poems as creative ways of addressing the “two contrary states of the human soul”. “The Tyger,” which belongs to Songs of Experience is often compared to “The Lamb,” its counterpart from Songs of Innocence. While “The Lamb” has a simple, clear message of faith and hope, “The Tyger” is more troubling, which is perhaps why it is considered the more intriguing of the two poems.

Blake makes use of both Christian tradition and Classical mythology in “The Tyger”. Students may benefit from a little background on these topics to better understand the poem. According to Christian tradition, God created the universe and placed angels at the top of his hierarchy. From the ranks of the angels, Lucifer rebelled against God, initiated a battle in the heavens, and eventually exiled himself to hell as the devil. In a sense then, God created Satan. This battle is referenced in the poem’s line “when the stars threw down their spears.” The “wings” that “dare” in line six also evoke Lucifer’s fall along with a possible connection to the Greek figure Icarus. The images of fire suggest an allusion to the myth of Prometheus while the blacksmith metaphor evokes the story of Hephaestus. Because of its rich allusions, “The Tyger” pairs well with class readings of Paradise Lost or the myths of Icarus, Prometheus, and Hephaestus.


Essential Questions for ”The Tyger”

  1. How can we explain the presence of evil in the world?
  2. How does Blake use imagery to craft tone and convey a message?
  3. In what ways is the tiger portrayed as both positive and negative? What could this suggest about the natural world?

The Tyger Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

“The Tyger” Vocabulary Spider Map


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Another great way to engage your students is creating a storyboard that uses vocabulary. Since “The Tyger” was written over 200 years ago, the language in it includes some archaic and specialized terms. Some words, like “dread,” “art,” and “Lamb” (with a capital “L”) are either not used in the way students might expect or have multiple meanings. Here is a list of a few vocabulary words in ”The Tyger” that may need extra explanation and an example of a visual vocabulary board.

In the vocabulary board, students can choose between coming up with their own use of the vocabulary word in a sentence, citing and/or paraphrasing the specific line from the poem, or depicting it without words.


“The Tyger” Vocabulary

  • anvil
  • symmetry
  • aspire
  • sinews
  • dread
  • art
  • Lamb

"The Tyger" Vocabulary Spider Map
Create your own at Storyboard That Image Attributions: fireplace (https://www.flickr.com/photos/66992990@N00/2811927935/) - Joanna Bourne - License: Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/) ASPIRE SINEW ANVIL v. To long, aim, or seek, ambitiously for an achievement of high value My sister aspires to become a surgeon. n. a tendon or ligament connecting bones together The man was so thin his bones and sinews protruded through his skin. n. a heavy iron block on which heated metals are hammered into desired shapes. The blacksmith beat the sword on the anvil. Vocabulary in "The Tyger"

Example

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


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in “The Tyger” by creating visualizations.


  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



Vocabulary Template Blank
Create your own at Storyboard That VOCABULARY

Example

(Use this rubric or create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Identify Metaphors in “The Tyger”

Storyboarding is an excellent way to focus on figurative language. Blake never directly states his topic in “The Tyger,” but relies on metaphors to convey his message. Students will need to determine the metaphorical meaning of the tiger itself, as well as several other terms in order to understand the poem. In this storyboard, students will identify elements of the poem that are intended figuratively and explain their significance through images and text.


Explanation of Metaphors in “The Tyger”


Tiger

The tiger represents evil. Like a tiger, evil is powerful, but terrifying.


Lamb

The Lamb represents innocence and goodness. It is a reference both to the lamb as a meek, gentle animal, and to Jesus, referred to in the Bible as the Lamb of God.


Blacksmith

The blacksmith represents the creator of the tiger, a supernatural force that might be God or the devil.


Wings

Wings represent the daring spirit of the creator. He seems to have gone too far and flown too high in creating such a creature as the tiger. The creature seems to be abusing his power.


"The Tyger" Metaphor Storyboard
Create your own at Storyboard That TIGER LAMB BLACKSMITH WINGS The tiger represents evil. Like a tiger, evil is powerful but terrifying. The Lamb represents innocence and goodness. It is a reference both to the lamb as a meek, gentle animal and to Jesus, referred to in the Bible as the Lamb of God. The blacksmith represents the creator of the tiger, a supernatural force that might be God or the devil. Wings represent the daring spirit of the creator. He seems to have gone too far and flown too high in creating such a creature as the tiger. The creature seems to be abusing his power.

Example

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“The Tyger” and “The Lamb” TWIST Comparison


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Another great way to engage your students is through the creation of storyboards that examine Tone, Word Choice, Imagery, Style, and Theme. This activity is referred to with the acronym “TWIST”. In a TWIST, students demonstrate an understanding of the way poetic devices work together to convey the poem’s message(s). For this TWIST, students should use the full text of “The Tyger.” To add complexity to the assignment, you can also have students compare “The Tyger” to Blake’s poem, “The Lamb.” The sample storyboard below illustrates this comparison.



TWIST Example for “The Tyger” and “The Lamb”


"The Tyger""The Lamb"
T

TONE

Awed and fearful: The speaker finds the tiger and its creator terrifying, but he is also impressed by their powerCheerful and comforting: The speaker describes the lamb's idyllic life and is confident that God is caring for the lamb
W

WORD CHOICE

fearful, fire, dare, twist, dread, terrors, spears, tearslamb, delight, softest, bright, tender, rejoice, meek, mild, child, bless
I

IMAGERY

"Tyger Tyger, burning bright, / In the forests of the night...""Little Lamb...bid thee feed / By the stream and o'er the mead..."
S

STYLE

The poem is a series of repeated questions posed in six regular stanzas. The questions intensify the emotion of the poem, but remain unanswered at the end of the poem. The poem contains two stanzas with simple language and short syllables. The first stanza asks a question and the second stanza answers it.
T

THEME

The inability to answer the speaker's question leads to a theme about humanity's inability to understand the origins of evil in our world. The poem's comforting words send a message that God loves and cares for all his creatures.

"The Tyger" and "The Lamb" TWIST Comparison
Create your own at Storyboard That Image Attributions: Question (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jantik/279815194/) - Jan Tik - License: Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/) Awed and fearful: The speaker finds the tiger and its creator terrifying, but he is also impressed by their power fearful, fire, dare, twist, dread, terrors, spears, tears "Tyger Tyger, burning bright, / In the forests of the night..." The poem is a series of repeated questions posed in six regular stanzas. The questions intensify the emotion of the poem, but remain unanswered at the end of the poem. The inability to answer the speaker's question leads to a theme about humanity's inability to understand the origins of evil in our world. Cheerful and comforting: The speaker describes the lamb's idyllic life and is confident that God is caring for the lamb lamb, delight, softest, bright, tender, rejoice, meek, mild, child, bless "Little Lamb...bid thee feed / By the stream and o'er the mead..." The poem contains two stanzas with simple language and short syllables. The first stanza asks a question and the second stanza answers it. The poem's comforting words send a message that God loves and cares for all his creatures. T - Tone W - Word Choice I - Imagery S - Style T - Theme "The Lamb" "The Tyger" <