Home Writing Literature Links Lessons
An important note: Most of the lessons are in text format and will open in a new window; view the lesson and then simply close the window. I suggest that you save the lesson and then edit or format it in a word processor such as WordPerfect or MS Word.
I started out to do a lesson on poetry and before I knew it the whole thing was getting out of hand and I ended up with a page with links. I just like poetry too much and over the years I have developed more than a dozen integrated units that revolve around themes and/or styles. I have a firm belief that poetry has got to be taught within an easily understood frame such as "imagist' poetry or "love" poetry or "humanist" poetry or "modern problems"; you just can't throw a bunch of poems together and hope to get to the test with as little hassle as possible.
There is one overwhelming argument in favour of teaching poetry and that is that it is a form of communication and part of an English teacher's job is to teach communication skills. You might also impress upon your students the following bit of thinking:Everyone has an opinion about poetry, either favourable or not.Now you see the problem: listened to, thought about, derided or praised, most written, but little understood, and too often taught under duress, for both the teacher and student.
Everyone listens to huge amounts of poetry everyday -- the last time that I looked, most lyrics were written as poems (except Nathalie Merchant's songs for 10000 Maniacs).
Poetry is probably the most practised creative exercise in the world; not everyone writes a short story, a novel, or paints a picture, but everyone has written a poem (remember when you were a love struck teenager?).
Poetry may be the least understood of any creative enterprise; you only have to start into a study of sonnets, metaphor, and rhyme to realize how complex good poetry can be and how difficult it is to know a great deal about all of the various techniques.
Click on any of the titles below to link to the document. Each document has the poem(s) and instructions. If it is a song, you are going to have to find someone with an album from which to copy the song. (Don't tell anyone that I told you to copy anything). Many of my poems have been copied from books long since forgotten. I assume that most poets would like a teacher to use one or two of his or her poems in a class because of the interest which would be generated.
Most of the titles are links: just click on them and use the "back" button to return.
The Introductory Unit -- Almost any grade except senior.
This is part lesson and part handout. Do you find that most students say that they hate poetry? My students sure did. This is an exercise in making poetry relevant. You need to read this to figure out how the other handouts fit in. How you deliver the lesson depends a lot on your personality but I act somewhat hurt when they say that they don't like poetry and then set it up as a personal goal to find a poem that defeats all of their objections. The Beatles' song/poem really works well. The neat thing about such an "old" song is that some of them will recognize it from the lyrics and you will then have a group of students who will further want to prove their musical savvy by telling you what it is all about, and analysis is what you're after in the first place. Go on to the "What Poetry Tries to Do" handout.
What Poetry Tries to Do
I copied these documents from a book but it is long since out of print which is too bad because it is still a tremendous source of poetry which is not too heavy and really suitable for students. The book is Fire and Ice and the quotes seem like real tongue twisters until you examine them. I like the idea that, if I was the only teacher that they had for 15 years, and we were all locked in a room, that I could make them all into brain surgeons, but I still couldn't teach them how to feel.
The Meaning of Literature
Someone once told me that you couldn't ask a student to write about what a poem, or any work of literature, means. Why not? Meaning is something which a person takes away from a work of art and therefore it can be intensely personal. It can also determine if a person deems the work of art to be successful or not. This is the handout to introduce the concept.
The Meaningful Assignment
This is the poetry assignment where each student gets to explain what a poem of his or her choosing means to him, or her. The student should analyze the meaning on the basis of the five questions and make some definitive statements about the poem. It can be a song in which case the playing of the song will be part of the presentation. Tell the students to NOT pick a poem with overwhelming negative connotations such as a favourite relative's pick for what to recite at the funeral after his death. I have had a student break down in tears in front of the class while analyzing a Garth Brook's song that related to cancer, of which the student's mother died.
The Amazing Shakespearean Love Sonnet
I call this the amazing sonnet because it is a love sonnet which seems to be anything but a poem about admiration or love, until the last two lines where Shakespeare actually pokes fun at love poetry which uses hyperbole. This is good poem to teach the characteristics of the Shakespearean sonnet, to show that Shakespeare's language isn't really hard to understand, simile, metaphor, and hyperbole. Read it out loud to the class and have some fun while you are reading it -- don't warn them about the fact that it is Shakespeare or you might turn them off before you start.
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The Imagist Poem -- study and assignment -- any grade.
This lesson uses imagist poems and incorporates a poetry writing assignment. It also leads into the next assignment which is an imagist love song. A full outline and suggestions is included at the bottom of the handout.
The Imagist Love Poem -- Intermediate
I know that this is an old song and that you might have trouble getting a copy. Ask one of your fellow teachers or better yet see if one of your students can find a copy at home. This poem combines the imagist poem with the love poems that you introduced. If you look in modern music, there are literally scores of songs with imagist lyrics that usually involve a story within the framework of merely painting a picture in words.
This lesson uses the poetry of William Carlos Williams to investigate visual imagery and have the students write some poetry. Ruth Dunnan of Englewood Cliffs Upper School in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey has supplied very detailed instructions, copies of the poems, and samples of student writing. Ruth can be contacted at email@example.com
Sample Poems from a Catch-all Poetry Unit
If you want to do a unit that can have an incredible range of poetry, lots of music (old and new), and seems pretty relevant, try modern problems. I used to use "The World is Too Much With Us" by William Wordsworth, "The Logical Song" by Roger Hodgson (Supertramp) and other very outdated songs such as "She's Leaving Home" by the Beatles, "Father and Son" by Cat Stevens and a lot more. I'll give you the lyrics to a few more recent ones, but see what you can find on your own.
- "Afternoons and Coffee spoons" Crash Test Dummies. This is even better if you can tie it in with "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock".
- "Papa Don't Preach" Madonna. Probably better for senior or mature students.
- "A Dream Deferred" Langston Hughes. A simple but powerful poem by an American master.
- "Song for Naomi" by Irving Layton, my favourite Canadian poet. If you have children, you'll want to cry, well maybe. Read the note at the bottom of the poem.
- "Dulce et Decorum Est" Wilfred Owen (one of the best Remembrance Day poems ever)
- "Superman's Song" Crash Test Dummies. Even a superhero can find modern society a tough place to live.
- "With Age Wisdom" Archibald MacLeish
Poetry on the Radio
A lot of great poetry is just lurking on your car radio or that old radio in the kitchen. Kyle Reynolds of Woodward, Oklahoma, proved that when he sent me four poems (songs) that I'd heard on the radio but never even thought about. Just look at the lyrics and you'll see poems about war, broken promises, prejudice, and ... well you read them and think about them. You'll find Kyle's comments and ideas at the end of each song. You can contact Kyle at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kyle's HUGEPoetry Unit
This is a poetry unit that is truly awe inspiring for its size, intentions, and breadth of material. It combines just about everything you could want in a unit including analysis, writing exercises, poetry writing, and student lists within a range of poetry from traditional to modern. Have you ever wondered what a "pantoum" is? Have your students ever written cinquains? Do you want a list of poetry terms?
You may not want to use the whole unit but you can certainly pick and choose what interests you (and your students). If you use something or need extra information, drop Kyle a line and let him know at email@example.com
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Lori Koplik of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, has a tremendous activity for getting students to teach themselves a poetry unit and learn group dynamics and analytical skills at the same time. Lori says "my favorite of the ones I've sent you is definitely Readers' Theatre. I usually introduce the assignment at the beginning of the poetry unit, and they work on it throughout. I encourage the students to mix one or two of the poems/poets we study as a class into their presentation, and I scheduled in one or two trips to the library for the groups to scavenge for poems. They are required to use terms and devices they've learned in the unit, also. The presentations have been outstanding -- inevitably, (given the characteristic angst of adolescence) there is a group in every class that chooses Death. Of course they dress in black, light candles or incense and play Black Sabbath softly (if that can be done) in the background. Other groups have done poetry of Spring, childhood, war, sports and love with great success. This is a great assignment because it synthesizes so many skills: analysis and dramatic reading of the poetry, script writing, organizational skills, etc." Lori can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Villanelle Lesson
If you are wondering what "Villanelle" is or you know and need a great lesson, complete with the handout and the poems, then you've come to the right spot. Kim Flintoff of Perth, Australia, sent me the lesson and I have also included a link to his site which has numerous links to other sites. Visit Kim's site by clicking on the site's name right below:
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Poetry Appreciation and "Stairway to Heaven"
John Hoben earned his B.Ed. at Memorial University in St John's, Newfoundland. He has sent this lesson along to " help students gain a broader conception of poetry, cultivate a more favourable affective disposition to poetry, and gain an intuitive understanding of some of the main structural elements of a poem such as rhythm, rhyme, meter, symbol etc." You also get to use a great song which can't help teach and entertain at the same time. You should also visit John's Greek Mythology and Star Wars in the Literature section.
Internet Poetry and Writing Lesson -- Grades 6 - 8
Phyllis Walker Stokes, who teaches at McEvoy Middle School in Macon, Georgia, has submitted this lesson which combines research about the sea using an encyclopaedia and the Internet, a study of poetic forms, and writing exercises based upon the results of the research. The lesson includes most of the links that you will need, the instructions, and the writing follow-up. If you like the unit or add a few more links, contact Phyllis at email@example.com
Rap In the Classroom
Rap has become an important element in society and although many teachers don't listen to it, many of their students do. Tracy Bedford, who is a 6th grade English and Science teacher at Burgess Elementary School in Wichita Falls, Texas, has developed a lesson which uses a popular rap song and develops listening, thinking and writing skills. She has supplied a lesson complete with a history of rap, instructions, materials, objectives, questions and activities. I have divided it into the lesson and a separate page for the lyrics. You can contact Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alanis Morissette -- You Bleed, You Learn?
Rene Schofield at Westmont High School in Campbell, California has submitted a poetry lesson which I have included on the Literature Page as well. I find this to be a very thorough and challenging exercise in connotation and denotation BUT with a serious amount of thoughtful and creative writing assignments. You'll need an Alanis Morissette CD but it seems that everyone already has one, including me and every student I know. Let Rene know how the lesson goes over in your class: email@example.com
The Arrow and the Song
Claudia Schoen of Kansas is a former elementary teacher who is now planning a career as an English and ESL secondary teacher. This lesson uses "The Arrow and the Song" by Longfellow to examine the effects of our actions on those around us. She also uses some props in the discussion and provides the discussion topics and a journal follow up. You can contact Claudia at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dissecting a Flower and a Poem
If you have been searching for a good introduction to a poetry unit or an activity to support a unit, then take a look at what Erin Thaler of Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia has submitted. Erin also contributed Dissecting a Story which is another science based exercise. Erin is at email@example.com
Chris Lehmann teaches at The Beacon School in New York City and has a link to his site on the Links Page and a lesson on the Literature page. He describes Copy Change as "a way to use the structure of other poets who have written before us to create new meaning, new poems for ourselves. The way copy change works is that you use the structure of a previous poem to make your own poem". This might just be the lesson to get your students writing poetry. Chris is at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Seeing Poetry Through Song Lyrics
Jennifer Manuel of Lafayette High School in Lafayette, La. says that "when teaching poetry to my freshmen and sophomores, I try to stress the idea that modern poetry can often be seen (or heard) through song lyrics. To stress this point, I bring in three songs of three different types of music to class." Jennifer has supplied the lyrics, poetic devices and a poetry project. This is a very adaptable lesson that should also challenge your students. Jennifer is reachable at email@example.com
Poetry Booklet Project -- Intermediate
Cathy Carroll teaches English at Airline High School in Bossier Parish, Bossier City, LA. and used this project with her English II classes. She says that "we are on Block Scheduling and this is a good way to get my poetry terms and a variety of poetry into the class syllabus." Cathy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Haiku Lesson -- Intermediate
Karen Parks, who is a student at Boise State University majoring in teaching English, writes that "one of my classes required I sit in on a high school English class for 15 hours. The teacher in the class invited me to teach a lesson in the poetry unit. I chose Haiku. I went home and came up with the following lesson." Now you have a chance to see what she did and try it for yourself. Karen is at email@example.com
The Poet-Tee Day Lesson
This is a lesson that gets students reading poetry, being very creative, having fun and, on top of all that, earning extra credit for class. This lesson was submitted by Patti Blackowicz who teaches in the Toms River, NJ school district and she has included detailed instructions. Patti can be reached at PattiB1211@aol.com
The Titanic Poetry Writing Project
Jennifer Dickey Culver, who teaches at Lee High School in Montgomery, Alabama, recounts how this idea came to her while she was photocopying; many students later told her that it was their favourite project of the year. The lesson is a very creative blending of poetry and the popularity of the movie Titanic. You can see her site by clicking HERE. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Class Poetry Reading and Writing Activity
Imagine an activity where the students read piles of poetry, work collaboratively, write poems, and have loads of fun. John McKellar teaches at West Redcar Comprehensive School, an 11-16 mixed comp., in Redcar, County Cleveland in the North East of England and he has submitted two such activities. He can be reached at email@example.com
While you're about it, check out John's excellent lesson on writing a lifeline and his sample poems on the Writing Page.
The Popcorn Poetry Lesson
Anne Slease is a 5th grade teacher at Newark Charter School in Newark, DE and she has a very innovative way of involving students in discovering the sensory aspects of poetry as well as writing some poetry. You can reach Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org
Beverly Lucey of Georgia has a couple of lessons on the Literature page and this is one for teaching sensory language as an introduction to poetry or understanding the difference between concrete and abstract words. Beverly is at SwampDuffy@aol.com
Offspring, Iron Maiden and choices.
Trine Meyer Vogsland, an English teacher in Norway, has some interesting approaches using contemporary music to deal with poetry analysis and serious issues such as nationalism and "being cool" . Trine also has some great writing lessons on the Writing Page and she would love to hear from teachers who use the lessons; she is at email@example.com
"Fourth Meditation" by Theodore Roethke
The poem by Roethke serves as the basis for this demanding writing exercise although you could adapt the exercise for a wide variety of grades. The lesson is by Janis Little who teaches at Hunters Lane High School in Nashville, Tennessee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Five Senses Poem
Maggie Iffrig, a first year teacher at Rolla Junior High in Rolla, Missouri, is sure that in her class "food is the way to their poetic hearts :)". This lesson proves it and Maggie has enclosed a few examples as well. Send comments or compliments to Maggie at STARLISA@prodigy.net
Classroom Poetry Composition
Jackie Schlichte, who teaches at Northeastern High School in Fountain City, Indiana, has found this activity to be very successful for motivating her Adolescent Literature students to "try writing". She finds that her input and work is well rewarded and she has included a sample of the classroom composition. Jackie can be reached at email@example.com
Poetry Book Project
Sinead Waters is currently teaching at Carrollton High School in Carrollton, Georgia and she uses this assignment with her Grade 9s and 10s. "I have the students utilize the Internet and the media center to find poems. The only restrictions that I put on them is that they cannot use poems that we discuss in class. I have compiled a list of poems that I use to demonstrate each term" (which is attached to the bottom of the assignment). You can contact Sinead at firstname.lastname@example.org
Poetry Writing Using James Tate's "Late Harvest"
Lynne Cattafi, who teaches at a private school in the New York City area, says that "many students find writing poetry intimidating. To help them out, I give them poetry models to work with. One poem I've had success with is James Tate's "Late Harvest." You can send comments or questions to Lynne at email@example.com
This lesson is in two parts. The first is a description of the lesson by Christine Peterson of Valley Southwoods Freshmen High School in West Des Moines, Iowa. The second part is the actual lesson with the word lists. If you have questions or comments, you can e-mail Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org
Koty Zelinka, a language arts teacher at Portland Lutheran School in Portland, Oregon has come up with an innovative method of using a series of workshops to combat, as she says, " the usual rolling of eyes and low-throated groaning the minute I introduce the idea we will be studying poetry". Whether you want to do all eight stations or adapt a few this lesson is well worth considering. Koty can be contacted at email@example.com
Pervasive Poetry Program
This is the way that Michael Jursic, a teacher at Ryerson Community Public School in Toronto, introduced poetry this year. He says that he had a lot more success than in previous years when he used a more formal, stylistic approach. Take a look and see what you think. Michael can be reached at Michael.Jursic@stel.tdsb.on.ca
Michael has also submitted two other poetry lessons which will provoke some discussion and provide some stimulating classroom writing and activities. He has supplied the background, questions and activities for each poem.
Eldorado by Edgar Allan Poe
As soon as you see how complete this lesson is, you will almost certainly want to use it. Kelly Ann Butterbaugh teaches grades 7, 8 and 9 at Salisbury Township Middle School in eastern
Pennsylvania and her lesson includes everything you need including an analysis of the poem, activities and instructions. Send questions or praise to Kelly at Englishteach@rcn.com
The Self-Guided Introduction to Poetry
What could be better than a very through introduction to poetry where students work at their own pace, write creatively, think critically, have fun, and work on a computer if they choose? Elyse Roman has developed a unit which does all of this and she even includes a rubric. She uses it with her Grade Six students at Lincoln Center of the Arts Middle School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but you could probably adapt it for any intermediate grade. Elyse says that most of the poems and lessons are self explanatory but I included her description as a separate file. To preserve the formatting of the documents, they are available only in MS Word format. Right click on each and then save the file. Send compliments or questions to Elyse at firstname.lastname@example.org
"All My Own " Poetry Project
Laurie Konrad uses this project during the last three weeks of school. "It keeps the students focused and they learn a great deal about poetry". Laurie teaches at Bryan Middle School in Omaha, Nebraska. You can send comments or questions to her at email@example.com
Poetry Group Activity
Suzanne Meyer teaches at New Hanover High School in Wilmington, North Carolina and she has submitted this lesson. This assignment is completed in one 90 minute block and uses various poetic elements while examining the themes from Romeo and Juliet. You can reach Suzanne at Suzanne Meyer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The lesson is available in two formats; click on the one that you prefer:
> MS Word
> Plain Text
The Highwayman Work Sheets and Assignment
Janice Van Campen is a teacher at École Lacombe Junior High in Lacombe, Alberta and she has kindly submitted a lesson and assignment for the poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. This is a lesson that has everything you could want including a copy of the poem, some excellent questions on content and poetic technique, an artistic closing assignment, and a link to a Youtube animated musical version of the poem. Janice can be reached for compliments or questions at email@example.com
- The Highwayman Assignment -- in MS Word format
- Imagery Template for Students -- in MS Publisher format
- Imagery Worksheet -- in MS Word format
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