What would be an appropriate interpretation for Robert Frost's poem, "An Old Man's Winter Night" for 5th graders?
While I don't think it's inappropriate, I do not think it is a good choice. I believe we should expose younger children to poems that they can easily relate to. I've never taught 5th grade, so I do not know what these poems would be, but there must be YA poems just as there is YA fiction.
If they need to know about this Frost poem, I think there is plenty of time later. My first goal in teaching any genre of literature is always this: try to make it more likely that students will continue to explore the genre after we finish our study together. I would support any poem that makes this more likely.
Certainly, young readers would sense the aloneness of the old man. Although they might simply attribute this aloneness to his being by himself, those with single grandfathers would understand the man's loneliness. And, if they had visited this man in his solitary home, they may have felt the echoings of sounds, experienced the darkness and need to "scare the cellar" and make noise to ward off whatever one might imagine.
In addition, they would catch much of the auditory and visual imagery in this poem and understand that an aged man "can't keep a house" all by himself, literally, but they probably would not grasp that the man is dying.