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A Lesson Plan to Teach Students How to Embed Quotes?

By Peter Boysen

Help students take the step from using quotes in their writing to incorporating quotes in smooth prose. Robert Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay" provides the perfect apparatus.

Getting Started

Knowing how to use quotes will improve the quality of your students' writing. This Robert Frost lesson plan will accomplish the task.

Find a short poem that you would like to use, and either type it out or copy it onto a Word document, and make enough copies for your class. For the purposes of this demonstration, I'm using Robert Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay."

Nature's first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf's a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

so dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

Instruct students to cut out each line of the poem and use it as a word strip.


The next step in our Robert Frost lesson plan on how to use quotes is to lead a class discussion of the poem, focusing on theme and main idea. Ask the students what they think the speaker in the poem is trying to get across through his or her writing. In the example of this poem, some leading questions might be:

  • What is green in nature?
  • When do objects appear gold in nature?
  • What could "Eden" be an allusion to?
  • What do "hue" and "subsides" mean? (If you do this in middle school, many of your students won't know these words, particularly if it's in a regular-level class)

Eventually, your students should arrive at the idea that the pure and perfect parts of existence are temporary, as the world wears on everyone and everything -- leaves swiftly lose the gold of dawn, just as people lose the gilt of their ideals over time.

Put it in Writing

Have your students begin a short paragraph about the main idea of this poem, focusing on how the images support that idea. If you use Frost's poem, you might use this as a topic sentence: "In 'Nothing Gold Can Stay,' Frost uses images to express how quickly perfection fades in nature, and in life." Now, challenge your students to add four more sentences to that paragraph, but they must use the strips as text evidence. One example you might give them is this sentence: "Gold stands for perfection and is the 'hardest hue to hold,' because time passes, the sun goes higher in the sky, and the gold becomes green."

Have your students incorporate one of their strips in each of the remaining four sentences. You can pass around glue sticks or Scotch tape to help them put their paragraphs together. If you show them an example of your own embedding in a sentence, you will be surprised how quickly they take to it. The result: no more five-line quotes where they swipe a whole paragraph to bolster a minor point -- now they know how to rip a phrase out and use it.