One of the great things about teaching the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” to my Deaf and hard of hearing students is that they have some very powerful examples of “standing at crossroads” in their young lives. These are times when they had to make a decision and knew they would not get the opportunity to come back and try the other option.
For example, some of my students faced a dramatic choice at the end of junior high school (9th grade) – whether to study at the high-school close to their home along with their old classmates and continue being the only hard of hearing /Deaf student in the whole school, or to commute an hour or more to a high school that offers strong academic support and a peer group. That’s a SIX day a week commute!
On the other hand, many of my students find it harder to take in the aspects of the traveler’s dilemma that are stated in the poem itself. Not only can the traveler not take both roads and won’t come back another day, but both roads are actually just as fair, have been worn about the same. Even worse, the traveler can’t see what lies ahead as the road bends in the undergrowth!
I want my students to pay attention to all that too.
The students should be engaging in a meaningful way with words from the Ministry’s word list while they are learning the poem. I firmly believe in integrating the practice of the vocabulary items on the list with the teaching of the literature program. ***
I identified 52 words from the Band 2 Word List to be used while teaching the poem and created a Quizlet set with the words.
I then created The Dilemma Activity, which can be used in many ways. While it can be used as a worksheet, I preferred to use index cards (or sentence strips) as I find the activity suitable for acting a bit of dramatic flair!
The students are presented with the situation:
A traveler is happily walking along a road in a yellow wood when the roads diverge (“along” is a word on the word list).
He/She doesn’t know which road take and needs advice.
The traveler now needs to hear suggestions and respond accordingly. “Suggestion” is also a word on the list!
There are 7 suggestions to be given to the traveler, each one on a separate card. The suggestions are numbered and must be read in the correct order. The responses are not numbered, and the students must match the correct response to the suggestion.
For example, here are the first two suggestion cards.
- Why don’t you take both roads?
- So take one road today and the other road another time.
And the matching responses:
- I can’t take both roads because I’m only one traveler.
- One road leads to other roads. I doubt I will ever come back. I have to make a choice.
The imaginary advisor is losing patience with the traveler, and by the time we get to the last two suggestions, exasperation should be clearly expressed in intonation and body language!
6. Don’t be so nervous, just choose a road. What difference could it make?
7. I give up – I can’t help you. You will sigh when you think about this in the future but choose a road NOW.
The matching responses are:
6. It’s possible that my choice will make all the difference. That’s why I am nervous.
7. You are right, I will sigh. But will it be a sigh of regret or relief?
You can download all the sentences related to the activity here:
*** A special post of links related to engaging with the word lists while teaching the literature program can be found here: