A Poem With Many Levels of Meaning
Robert Frost's "Mending Wall" can be read as an early 20th century nature poem, the tale of two neighbors who meet in April to repair the damage that the winter freeze has inflicted upon their shared wall. The poem can also be read as an allegory for those metaphorical walls we all build around us.
"Mending Wall" is an effective poem for teaching students about a poem's dual meanings: the literal and the symbolic. The poem is accessible and can be related to events in history, current events, and our own lives. It has been read in dramatic tones against a backdrop of the Berlin Wall... and narrated by modern storytellers dressed in fashions from a century ago.
One can find analysis and exploration of Frost's "Mending Wall" in both print and video form. Teaching options -- and opportunities for developing critical literacy skills -- abound. Some teachers like to introduce "Mending Wall" with a simulation, creating "walls" in the classroom and eliciting emotional responses from students. Others like to pair this classic poem with modern poetry and music. In this page, I will share multimedia resources as well as other "Mending Wall" lesson plans and analysis.
Video: A Modern Storyteller's Interpretation - Of 'Mending Wall'
"Mending Wall" is one of those rare poems in which the literal interpretation may be as difficult -- or even more difficult -- than the symbolic one. The reason is two-fold: Students will likely lack background information about the 19th century New England tradition of spring wall mending. Thus they may be quite puzzled about what it is these two neighbors are doing.
Moreover, some of the grammatical constructions in the poem may be difficult. Listening to the poem -- or watching it -- can make the literal meaning clear and accessible. In this video, a modern storyteller brings some context to Frost's "Mending Wall". His is just one of many interpretations.
Setting the Stage - For Analyzing 'Mending Wall'
"Mending Wall" is included in the Common Core at 11th grade level.
Some teachers like to have students delve into the issues and engage their emotions before they actually read the poem. Here are two lesson plans, designed for middle school and high school students, that do just that. (How about getting kids' thoughts and emotions in gear by putting up some walls in your own classroom or home?)
- Analyzing Frost's 'Mending Wall'
This lesson plan is designed for a sophomore English class, but can be adapted for other levels. There are ideas for reading and analysis -- the usual English class material -- but what's most unusual is that students are sitting facing away from eac
- "Masterpieces in the Making" Lesson Plan
This lesson was created for a middle school writing workshop.
Video: Mending Wall - Against a Backdrop of Pictures from the Berlin wall
Here Robert Frost's reading of "Mending Wall" is set to a backdrop of historical pictures (going back to those early days of East and West Germany). What do our students know of the divisions that came to Germany, and the world, in the wake of World War II? Live footage can make the learning so much more vivid. This video can be a springboard for a history lesson.
More Resources for Understanding Frost's 'Mending Wall'
- Skoool Interactive Learning
Here is a fairly comprehensive fact sheet. It includes background information and line-by-line interpretation. Bear in mind that the line-by-line notes about tone represent an interpretation of the poem -- not all possible interpretations.
- Edsitement Lesson Plans
This is a high school level lesson plan, with links to many resources -- including a picture of Frost's own stone wall.
- Lesson Plan from Web English Teacher
Lyrics are poetry, and secondary students often relate to them more easily than other forms of poetry. Here you can explore connections between Frost's poem and Pink Floyd's "the Wall".
- Printable Poem
This is a printable Poem from EdHelper. (You may need to be a member to print this resource.)
- Suite 101 Poetry
Irony, compromise, the American dream... there are many issues to consider when studying "Mending Wall".
Analysis from Yahoo Voices.
- Mending Wall Forum Discussion
Do you agree with the speaker in Mending Wall? Share your thoughts.
- Interpretive Essay
This is a lengthy discussion of Mending Wall, posted on Blogspot.
- Thinking Questions from Schmoop
Each page includes several questions and a couple assertions/ opinions to debate.
Science Connection: States of Water - Integrating poetry and science/ geography with Frost's "Mending Wall"
If you teach elementary school, or homeschooled students, you may want to explore the science and geography connections. Why were there cracks in the wall at the end of winter? How might this relate to the unusual behavior of water (expanding instead of contracting when in a solid state)?
Spring wall mending was a ritual in Frost's New England. Why might it be more necessary (speaking literally here!) to mend walls in New England than in certain other areas of the United States?
Mending Wall: My Audio Recording
My recording of "Mending Wall" is hosted on Audioboo.
An Alternative Interpretation - Of Robert Frost's "Mending Wall"
Poems can be interpreted in multiple ways. Some interpretations put the narrator on the side of the 'right' -- and possibly of love as well. Some readers believe the narrator is deliberately ambiguous about the issue of walls. Still others suggest he enjoys the ritual of wall building even if the wall itself seems to have no purpose and that he wishes his neighbor would engage a bit more in debate and a bit more in whimsy.`
... And here's yet another view. What do you think of this alternative interpretation, which puts the taciturn neighbor clearly on the side of love?
Who Do You Think Is on the Side of the Right?
Recitation Contest - For Secondary Students
"Mending Wall" is one of five Frost selections included in the Poetry Out Loud anthology. (High school students who choose to enter the Poetry out Loud competition must select poems from the anthology.)
You can print poems from the collection to use for recitation or study.
- Recitation Contest
Recite Mending Wall in the Poetry Out Loud Contest -- or organize a poetry recitation contest of your own.
Common Core Resources
"Mending Wall' is a Common Core exemplar text at 11th grade level.
- A Close Read of Mending Wall
Thinkfinity invites students to d a close read.
Share your thoughts.
Across Borders, and Oceans, and Walls... - What are you thinking?
KarenTBTEN (author) on August 07, 2012:
@lesliesinclair: I am not sure where I took the picture. I think it was the U-District.
Johanna Eisler on August 05, 2012:
Ah! You have whisked me back in time to high school sophomore English class, where I first heard the poem, and where I was first asked, "What does the statement 'Good fences make good neighbors' mean to YOU?" Thanks for the memory.
I especially enjoyed hearing your voice recite the poem. Thank you!!!!
lesliesinclair on August 02, 2012:
This lens has made me want to take a poetry class.
Where is that wall in Seattle?
zillermil on March 19, 2012:
I love Mending Wall.
Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on August 15, 2011:
Having grown up with the Berlin wall and all it meant, and having witnessed it coming down, the video with that interpretation of the poem was especially stirring and moving. Thank you for including it.
What I liked best on this page was the Xoax interpretation, though, especially the illustration regarding the dividing line of the poem itself, and how the choices of words reflected the before and after aspects. It is such depth in design and construction that makes poetry more than just a story told in verse. Thank you!
Liz Mackay from United Kingdom on May 29, 2011:
Learnt this poem when I was a teenager, long ago, and always loved Frost's poems.
puzzlerpaige on May 03, 2011:
Back again for a good dose of Robert Frost and something to think about today :-).
Scribble1 LM on March 29, 2011:
I taught English and have some multi media plans. This page is great and has lots of ideas. Thanks!
Barb McCoy on March 17, 2011:
We just finished the study of Robert Frost and now I am going to go back with my son and have him read your lens. Thank you so much for putting this together. Adding to my favorites and adding a blessing.
puzzlerpaige on September 28, 2010:
This is the first time I've heard this poem. By the second video, I was digesting the words better although the war images along with the words are hard to watch. Then for the third video that includes interpretation, I stopped it only a few sentences in since I want to read the poem a few more times on my own before hearing what others have to say. But I will come back and watch it too. As always, a wonderful lens from you.
Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on September 08, 2010:
Thanks for a fantastic lens....I love Robert Frost's poetry. Blessed by a SquidAngel.
Sue Dixon from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK on September 07, 2010:
I used this lens to help when I read this great poem at my book club back in spring.( I see I left a message then) I've come back in my new angel guise to bless this lens!
julieannbrady on August 14, 2010:
My dear, this is absolutely FABULOUS, absolutely F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S! I've always been a fan of Robert Frost for so much and love how you have presented this topic. Rather makes me think of the "letter of the law" vs "the spirit of the law" and how there can be more than one interpretation of something! OH, Wow. ;)
Sue Dixon from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK on March 12, 2010:
A very helpful lens. Dry stone walls are everywhere here and the poem has great resonance.
Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on February 06, 2010:
This lens is also featured on Stone Walls of Vermont
Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on February 01, 2010:
Wonderful lesson plan ideas for Robert Frost's Mending Wall Poem. This lens is now featured on Garner Rix and the Royalton Raid, a unit study of life in the 18th century.