Sometimes limiting our choices inspires incredibly creative results. This writing exercise will give your students the chance to find their own voices while working with a block of text written by someone else. Erasures are fun, but they can also be serious. This lesson plan refers to several examples of complex literary work created by respected poets using erasure as a tool, but this is ultimately an accessible writing exercise appropriate for students at all skill levels. Students will also be introduced to the kind of problem-solving that all poems demand, highlighting the importance of word choice and form.
One of the wonderful things about poetry is its ability to be both specific and generous at the same time. Remarkably, it seems that the more specific a poem becomes -- the more it roots itself in a place, time, or mood-- the more its readers delight in seeing themselves reflected in its lines. This lesson is about finding ways to be specific, and as an added bonus, includes a way to get your students’ writing outside of the four walls of your classroom -- an act of generosity on their part, for sure!
Building Classroom Community through the Exploration of Acrostic Poetry
Building classroom community is one of the most challenging yet most important tasks for any teacher, and it needs to be reinforced frequently throughout the year. This lesson gives students the opportunity to be innovative, creative, and expressive while building a sense of community. In this lesson, students explore the genre of acrostic poetry and participate in a shared writing experience with acrostic poems. Using the Internet, students explore and investigate the characteristics of acrostic poetry. They then brainstorm positive character traits about one of their classmates using an online thesaurus and compose an acrostic poem. Students use an interactive online tool to write and print the final draft and then share their poem with the class.
The Poetry Video
There is a great tradition of combining poetry and film: the twentieth-century French poet, artist, and filmmaker Jean Cocteau was particularly interested in using the medium of the moving image to explore new ways to create and celebrate poetry. His films, especially Blood of a Poet and Orphée, feature striking examples of visual poetry and often include recitations of written poetry at the centre of key scenes. Poetry videos have become increasingly popular as technology has become more accessible. It’s now possible to make short films with a sophisticated cell phone or computer.
Poetry for Two Voices: Reading, Writing and Performing
Using poets Phil Kaye and Sarah Kay’s YouTube performance of “When Love Arrives” as an inspiration, students will perform and write comparison poems for two voices. After a discussion of the unique structure of these poems, students will choose two things: people (like: teacher and student), things (such as: computer and typewriter) or ideas (ex. childhood and adulthood) to compare and contrast when writing their own poems. Finally, student will choose, prepare and perform their peers’ poetry in pairs for the class and the student author to see.
5, 6, 7, 8… Let’s Go Alliterate!
Alliteration is a fun way to get younger students exposed to poetry. Having students play with words that start with the same letter is a great addition to Early Literacy. It’s a fun and less formal way to teach students about naming words (nouns), describing words (adjectives) and action words (verbs).
Strategies for Teaching Poetry to High School Students
1. Always choose poems that are slightly higher than age appropriate, though with a mixture of topics and appeal. 2. Use prominent days throughout the year to read poems by celebrated writers, as well as supply important biographical details: T. S. Eliot — September John McCrae, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen — November Robert Burns — January Robert Frost — March William Shakespeare — April 3. Review memorization skills and presentation skills each year. 4. Teach specific literary devices in the earlier grades and have students memorize lines that exemplify that particular device. imagery: concrete...
Understanding Lyric Poetry
To demonstrate how various poetic techniques, such as rhyme, rhythm, diction, and repetition contribute to the effect and meaning of a lyric poem. This lesson would take place following the study of a number of lyric poems and the above techniques.
Unrequited Love Poems
Tired of trite imagery and sickly sweet words on Valentine's Day? Let's stomp on that box of chocolates! By creating an iMovie storyboard of a poem with pencil sketches, this mini-unit helps students SLOW down their recitation, learn a poem by heart, recite with emotion, and respond to poetry in multi-modal ways.
Speaker & Mover 1: Listening, Mirroring
One way of allowing students to become less self-conscious about public speaking is to give them a task that focuses them on something other than the sound of their own voices in front of people. This exercise concretizes the idea of ‘intention’: what are you doing to another person with your text? It also allows for a spontaneous collaboration between two students who can have the luxury of feeling that they’re ‘in it together’.
Afterwords : The Beauty That Lies Beside
The whole purpose is to tear down whatever is cliché and words that don’t lead to a concept but to an overused social rule, by exposing the students to the concrete reality, to the truly scalable, sizeable and perceivable object, to cold, hard anchors, to breed candour and cynicism, and to outlining consequences rather than abstract and vague situations. Students are thus free to express sensations through metaphors, to cleverly mix up cause and consequences, to use non-verbal sentences and the infinitive form of the verb, to alternate between rhythm and off-rhythm, to experience with sound and tone variations, and to answer, through creation, to one of the most inherent questions to art: what is beauty?
Poetry Portfolios: Using Poetry to Teach Reading
Students learn to read and write when they have an active interest in what they are reading and writing about. This lesson supports students’ exploration of language skills as they read and dissect poetry. Through a weekly poem, students explore meaning, sentence structure, rhyming words, sight words, vocabulary, and print concepts. After studying the poem, students are given a copy of the poem to illustrate and share their understanding. All of the poems explored are then compiled into a poetry portfolio for students to take home and share with their families. To further connect home to school, a family poetry project is suggested.
Speaker & Mover 2: Advanced
There is a genre of theatre, inspired by classical traditions in many countries (China, India, Japan, Bali) and pioneered in Poland and throughout Europe in the sixties and seventies, known as ‘physical theatre’ and sometimes ‘third theatre’. As a discipline it lies somewhere between dance and conventional text-based theatre. It is better known and appreciated in Quebec than in the rest of Canada. Robert Lepage is the best-known Canadian to come out of this tradition. It emphasizes an experience which is non-linear and non-narrative, and often uses poetry in performance. As such, it provides the most potent connection between the work of Poetry In Voice and the discipline of theatre. This exercise can serve as an introduction to this form. The variation for...
There are many advantages to be found in studying and reciting poetry: Poetry offers examples of mastery of language and stocks the mind with images and ideas expressed in unforgettable words and phrases. Poetry trains and develops our emotional intelligence. Poetry reminds us that language is holistic and that how something is said is part of what is being said: the literal meaning of words is only part of their whole meaning, which is also expressed through tone of voice, inflection, rhythm. Poetry lets us see the world through other eyes, equips us imaginatively and spiritually to face the joys and challenges of our lives, and widens our scope of sympathy for the vastness of human experience. This lesson will help students understand the power...
The Response Poem
There is a long tradition in poetry of poets writing in response to work that has inspired them, borrowing a line from one poem to begin or end a new poem. In this way, poets may re-contextualize a particularly vivid verse while essentially having a conversation with poets they have never met, sometimes reaching across culture, language, and even centuries to connect with those whose work they admire. Students in grades 9-12 can submit their response poems to our poetry journal, VOICES. Submission deadline: Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Talking Poetry with Blabberize
In this lesson students are given the opportunity to be imaginative and expressive through the writing of three types of poems: acrostic, diamante, and theme. Building on their creativity, students then use Blabberize to create Blabbers of one of their poems. Sharing their Blabbers with the class and online community will make the students more excited about writing poetry as well as providing practice of technology skills.
Students are always learning about environmental issues, as well as, equality and inequality throughout the curriculum. Whether it is through units in Science (Wildlife& Ecosystems, Ocean Health, Air Pollution, Climate Change, Weather Extremes, Animal Habitat Destruction), Social Studies (Residential School, Refugees), Earth Day or Pink Day, students are always learning about the consequences of individual or collective behaviour. This poetry frame inspires students to reflect on what they have learnt and promotes critical thinking, as well as, cooperative learning. For example, “Somewhere today, water is being carelessly wasted in running taps, showers and baths while others face debilitating drought.” or “Somewhere today, people are running from...
Dramatic texts can be created out of source material that was never intended for use as such: newspaper articles, political speeches, song lyrics, and lines of poetry. Just as poetic text can be made from found material (‘found poetry’), just as Marcel Duchamp can hang a urinal on a wall and call it art, (‘found art’), so a text can be cut up and rearranged to create a new text. It's fun, it can inspire ideas (through serendipity) and it removes the pressure of having to come up with scenes from scratch. This lesson provides an introduction to the idea of exploring the dramatic possibilities of poetic texts: finding inspiration within severe limitations and exploiting serendipity, the happy coincidences that fuel all creative endeavours.
Poetry from Science!
Poetry and science are not usually things that we put together in the same sentence, let alone the same lesson at school. But there are many reasons why we should! Science, even when it adheres to rigorous methods, is a creative process, and scientists are very imaginative people! In addition, science is often a place where new language evolves, as new names are needed to describe discoveries. Often the words used by scientists have multiple meanings and so can be rich in metaphoric potential. Science can also invoke emotions and a diversity of human experience. The plan (and challenge) is therefore to compose original poems using ONLY text from a primary, peer-reviewed scientific article. It can be done!
Shared Poetry Reading: Teaching Print Concepts, Rhyme, and Vocabulary
Although phonological awareness is important for early reading comprehension, other skills are equally important as students develop their reading abilities. Designed to facilitate successful early reading for kindergarten students, this lesson teaches the acquisition of vocabulary, one-to-one matching, left-to-right directionality, and awareness of rhyme. Students study these important aspects of reading using a shared exploration of a poem that includes peer interaction, hands-on experience with print, and a collaborative examination of new and familiar words.
Pick a Perfect Poem to Perform
Students will read widely and deeply a variety of poetry from a poetry anthology. Students will develop an appreciation for variations and complexities in content, structure, theme, and overall effectiveness of individual poems. Students will also develop an understanding and appreciation for the oral performance and communication of poetry
Animals Can Write Poetry Too
Younger students tend to have a special spot in their hearts for animals. This is the best time to introduce poetry, simple as it may be, from the perspective of animals. This unit gets students engaged in playful and descriptive words that help them imagine being in their preferred animal’s foot. This will introduce them to a writing experience in which full sentences are not needed. They can experience some freedom in playing with words and being more focused on certain writing elements such as voice and word choice.
Canada in 2016
In this lesson, students will be invited to annotate Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “England in 1819” with questions, comments, and connections (preferably on a whiteboard/smart board where the poem is projected, for a collaborative process.) Through discussing the results, students will explore the historical context of the poem and make connections to contemporary issues. The class will work to identify themes that emerged from their annotation/discussion of the poem. Lastly, students will be provided with a selection of articles on current events. Students will choose an event that is important to them as inspiration for writing their own poem addressing Shelley’s themes. Students should apply their own perspective and tonal approach to Shelley’s themes,...
What Is Poetry?
An excellent way to gauge student attitudes towards and experiences with poetry is to begin your poetry unit by asking students to define what poetry is to them in their own words. Invite students to express their own views on poetry by asking them to complete the sentence: “Poetry is …” or “Poetry is like…” Not only does this get students thinking about their relationship with poetry, it also gives them an unintimidating opportunity to create metaphors and similes. For example: Poetry is like putting an IKEA bed together. (Carl Leggo) Poetry is my grandmother’s collection of recipes stained with the ingredients that smudge her handwritten notes. Poetry is a DJ spinning, grooving, and synchronizing beats on his...
Antonyms & Poetry: Exploring the Flipsides of Me
Understanding ourselves and realizing our strengths and weaknesses is an important life skill to teach our students. What better way to do that than to explore and be inspired by Sheree Fitch’s poem entitled “Sometimes”? This unit could be a great introduction to poetry at the beginning of the year. This time is usually spent with activities that enable the class to get to know each other. The students have the opportunity to express who they are and to reflect on their identity through poetry. By working with antonyms, students are able to discover the different sides of themselves. It’s a great way for students to realize their similarities and differences. This lesson also involves getting students to recite their poems. It can be a powerful tool to use...
The Connection between Poetry and Music
Music helps children develop rhythmic intelligence and notice rhythm in language, which are important skills in learning how to read and developing fluency as readers. In this lesson, students listen to poems read aloud, and they discuss the rhythm and sound of poetry. Students then perform poems using musical instruments to emphasize cadence. Using online tools, they learn about line breaks and the way these affect the rhythm of a poem. Finally, students write poems they believe will be enhanced by music and perform them for the class.
The purpose of the lesson is to use poems to create short theatrical scenes in which heightened language would be placed in a dramatic context. Each student is responsible for the full realization of her chosen vision: designing, casting, directing and organizing rehearsal time with fellow students who have responsibilities of their own.
Slipping, Sliding, Tumbling: Reinforcing Cause and Effect through Diamante Poems
Combine higher order thinking with creativity in this lesson that uses diamante poems to illustrate the phenomenon of cause and effect. Students define and identify instances of cause and effect to help them generate their own examples. After practicing the diamante format in a shared writing experience, students construct their own diamante poems illustrating cause-and-effect scenarios of their choice. The diamante poem will start with the cause and transition to the effect.
“I planted him in this country/like a flag” writes Margaret Atwood in “Death of a Young Son by Drowning”, a poem that explores a mother’s grief and her forging of identity in the Canadian landscape. Physical and human geography often play an important role in poetry. From Fred Wah’s visceral evocations of dust storms in Swift Current Saskatchewan in “Breathe Dust” to Lee Maracle’s racial politics in “War”, landscapes become an anchor for memory, ideas and action. We have all planted a flag to claim and name a territory that resonates in our lives. It’s time to write a poem about it! In this unit, students write their own geo-poem and turn it into a geo-video that captures in words and images a personal...
Using our Online Writing Workshop in the Classroom
This lesson provides ideas for teachers and librarians who want to incorporate our month-long, online, poetry workshop into your classroom’s daily routine. Students will be building their own writer’s notebooks and experimenting with writing and sharing poetry under the guidance of Poetry In Voice Creative Director, Damian Rogers. You’ll find suggestions on how to use this online tool to inspire students to take risks and how to support and assess your students’ writing experiences without limiting the scope of their explorations. New writers are on a journey to becoming authors who are willing to share their own work; this lesson helps teachers support the process students will undertake, not the quality of the product at the end of the course.
A Race with Grace: Sports Poetry in Motion
Can athletes’ moves be described as beautiful? How are grace, beauty, and aesthetics expressed through movement? These and many other questions will provide the framework for students’ exploration of poetry in motion of athletes who participate in a variety of sports. Examining examples from their own experiences and from popular media, students learn about the aesthetic elements of athletics. After viewing images of various athletes, students create a class word wall with adjectives that describe movement. Students then write in reflective journals, view and interpret media, conduct Internet research, take digital photographs, and create original poems. As a culminating activity, the teacher presents students’ poetry to the class in a multimedia presentation.
Swish! Pow! Whack! Teaching Onomatopoeia through Sports Poetry
Students explore different poems written about sports by reading and listening, looking closely at the use of onomatopoeia in each piece. After a discussion of the poems, students view a segment of a sporting event and generate a list of sounds used in that event. Using their lists as a springboard, students then create their own onomatopoeic sports poems, draw accompanying illustrations, and compile their work in a flip book. Finally, students present their flip books to the class.
Just Act Natural: Poetry and Play
What a poem does on the page and what it does aloud can be two very different things. Since the recital audience does not read but only listens, some of a poem’s more visually formal conventions should be deemphasized in the early stages of recital work to allow the student to access the poem's voice(s) and wisdom. Teachers should encourage students to play with a poem in as many ways as possible. This series of three lessons focuses on teaching the recognition of formal poetic conventions (such as metre, rhyme, and enjambment), both as guides to understanding and sometimes as obstacles to delivering engaging recitations. Having students play with the poem and make it suit their purposes, teachers can offer strategies for better comprehension, oratorical fluency...
Poetry and The Odyssey
As they read the Odyssey, students will explore the perspectives of its characters--and particularly its women-- through poetry. In the end, they will work with a partner to write a poem that is a dialogue between two characters. What might Penelope want to say to Circe, for example? Partners will perform their dialogue poems, each assuming the voice of a character.
Developing Oral Language and Vocabulary through Poetry
In this unit I have noted variations for students in grades three to grade seven. There are many ways you can begin but here is an example that has worked with my class. You will find a list of resources I have used for ideas about slam poetry, eg: Sara Holbrook and poems by Larry Swartz, Sheree Fitch, Ralph Fletcher, Georgia Heard and Nancy Atwell. Start the unit by bringing in poetry books and other poetry resources. Let kids to pick poems that they like. Ask class what they know about poetry and start a chart that can be left up in the classroom. Choose a favourite book of poetry, for example, Sheree Fitch's Toes in My Nose. Photocopy each poem in the book. Read a poem and see who wants it and give it away. Students are expected to practice the poem and share it with the...
This is an introduction to “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe through recitation and drama. It begins with a recitation by the teacher with the students finishing each verse either individually or as a class. The class is divided into groups of 3 and given 2 verses. Their task is to find the meanings of the challenging words and references in their verses. The class reconvenes and each group gives a synopsis of their verses and then recites. There is an option to use ipads or other technology to facilitate this step. Each group is expected to generate written definitions of the relevant words to share with all students. The next step is to research various recordings of the poem. Basil Rathborne is a fine example. There is also a version by Bart Simpson. The students are then...
Using the Four-Square Strategy to Define and Identify Poetic Terms
Poetry can seem intimidating to many students, but the four-square graphic organizer strategy gives students a tool they can use to explore and analyze any poem. In this lesson, students will learn the definitions of alliteration, assonance, simile, and rhyme. Using these definitions and a graphic organizer, they will search through a variety of poems for examples of each poetic element. Finally, students will use what they’ve learned to perform an in-depth reading of Mary Oliver’s poem “The Esquimos Have No Word For ‘War’”.
Multipurpose Poetry: Introducing Science Concepts and Increasing Fluency
Poetry can be a fun and unintimidating way for ESL students to develop their oral fluency. In this lesson, students discuss what they know about poetry and then work in small groups to develop a choral reading of two poems about an assigned insect. The poems serve as an introduction to a research investigation (via the Internet) about the insect. Students use a worksheet to compile factual information about the insect and present the information, along with their choral poetry readings to the class.
Back Talk: Poetry and Social Justice in the Classroom
Often, poets use their craft to comment on social issues that are personally, politically, and culturally relevant. In this unit, we’ll look at the Poetry In Voice anthology as a place where poets, especially Indigenous ones, use their voices to speak back to cultural and political norms, and historical wrongs in order to disrupt commonly held beliefs. This series of lessons was first presented at the 2016 Poetry In Voice Nationals Teacher's Workshop. The Powerpoint presentation is included in the materials.
To many students, the word “ballad” will call to mind a slow, probably sentimental song. In the world of poetry, however, a ballad is a lively storytelling poem written in what is called the ballad stanza. The ballad stanza is simple to illustrate and recognize, and is not difficult to describe. In its most familiar version, the ballad stanza is four lines of alternating four-beat (tetrameter) and three-beat (trimeter) verse, with the second line rhyming with the fourth. Students may recognize this form from the theme song to “Gilligan’s Island,” written out here with the accented syllables (the “beats”) in capital letters: Just SIT right BACK and you’ll HEAR a TALE, A TALE of a FATEful TRIP That STARTed FROM this TROPic...
Exploring How Poets Walk the Line
This lesson plan aims to inspire students to understand how a place, new or familiar, can spark a poem – contemporary and classic. Each student will have the opportunity to write a poem and read it to the group, as well as research and select a poem to read. Poets find as much inspiration in places which are not beautiful, as in those which are. An ordinary urban street can be as inspiring as a thrilling landscape. This realisation gives students the confidence and freedom to explore and express their responses, positive and negative, to their immediate surroundings, as well as respond to special places they recall, or perhaps imagine. ‘Exploring How Poets Walk The Line’ will enable students to discover and share the rich seam of poetry with fellow students; poems...
Earth Verse: Using Science in Poetry
This lesson is a great way to teach both scientific and English content to a class, although the teacher can easily choose another book and subject area. In this lesson, students listen to poems in the book Science Verse by Jon Scieszka. Students then create diamante, acrostic, or theme poems with illustrations. To help increase fluency, students read their poems to the class. Finally, students create original poems using facts they have learned in the current science curriculum.
It has been said that in 1816 Lord Byron rented a house in Geneva, “Villa Diodati” where he, Percy Byshe Shelley, and Mary Shelley met. They spent the summer together, and over a period of 3 days of rain they were forced to remain inside. In order to pass the time, Byron challenged each person there to construct his or her own fantastical ghost story. This lesson has two components; the first is to recreate the challenge of 1816, and the second component is to teach the components of romanticism. Lesson One: Divide the students into groups of 4, and give each group a poem written by Byron, and a poem written by Percy Bysshe or Mary Shelley. Have the students read over both poems and discuss, with each other, which poem is better. Have the students write down their reasoning...
Poetry Snapshots: Using Images to Get the Big Idea
Using the definition that image poetry uses “concrete things to describe abstract ideas”, this lesson begins with the idea of haiku as “poetry snapshots”; images of one idea, in three lines. Students begin as “poetry detectives” and investigate collections of traditional and modern haiku to discover how to take poetry snapshots with words. By connecting concrete images with abstract ideas, students will learn how to read, write and paint their own image poems for an audience. This lesson is designed for grades 5-8 but can be adapted for all grade levels.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary / Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore*... I decided to write a really scary poem! Creepy, freaky and downright weird. In these lessons students create their own horror poems by combining found language from poems published on the Poetry in Voice site with their own "diction clouds" inspired by colour. *Excerpted from “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe.
A Taste of Canada
Students in grades 4-6 often do a study of Canada. In Grades 4 and 5 for example, students explore the different regions of Canada in Social Studies. They often do an in-depth study of the landforms, physical characteristics of different regions of Canada, as well as its varied climate and abundance in natural resources. So, what does Canada feel like? What does it taste like? What does it look like? How do our senses let us experience Canada as a nation? By using sensory imagery as a literary device, students are able to develop deeper, multisensory understandings to what they have been working on. The results are actually quite stunning and make excellent visual displays if connected to artwork.
Rap a Tap Tap – Expression through Music, Movement and Drama
This lesson can be used for students ranging from Grades 1-6 (with modifications that apply to Kindergarten and Grades 7-8). It incorporates music, dance and movement, and drama with poetry to help students learn how to portray different emotions through various art forms. It also provides students with opportunities for working with others as well as self and peer reflection.
Being One Inch Tall
Opening our students’ minds and having them see the world from different perspectives can have a positive impact on their lives. Through Shel Silverstein’s “One Inch Tall”, this unit allows students to imagine what the world would be like if they were only one inch tall. It would enable them to use powerful and imaginative words to describe how their normal day-to-day life would seem from a perspective of somebody only one inch tall. It would be a great introduction to a unit on environment and looking at microcosms that exist all around them.
Ekphrasis: Using Art to Inspire Poetry
In this lesson, students explore ekphrasis—writing inspired by art. Students begin by reading and discussing several poems inspired by works of art. Through the discussion, students learn ways in which poets can approach a piece of artwork (for instance, writing about the scene being depicted in the artwork, writing in the voice of the person depicted in the artwork, speaking to the artist or subject of the painting, etc.). Students then search online for pieces of art that inspire them and, in turn, compose a booklet of poems about the pieces they have chosen.
Poetry from Prose
Students compose found and parallel poems based on a descriptive passage they have chosen from a piece of literature they are reading. They first work in small groups to brainstorm words to describe concrete objects and then arrange their words from most descriptive to least descriptive. They then use their knowledge of descriptive text to select a descriptive passage from a book they are reading. They pick out words, phrases and lines from the prose passage then arrange and format the excerpts to compose their own poems. This process of recasting the text they are reading in a different genre helps students become more insightful readers and develop creativity in thinking and writing.
Identity and Self-Discovery through Poetry
This lesson is inspired by Denise Clark’s work with her senior English students at Vancouver Technical Secondary School in Vancouver, British Columbia. People often write about what they know best, and in many cases, writers give us insight into their own worlds through their poetry. This lesson aims to have students use questioning to explore the theme of identity in poetry. Students will see that they can connect their own personal experiences, passions, and questions about identity in order to better understand and respond to poetry, and to eventually write poems themselves.
Semifinals Viewing Party
Watch the live stream of our English Semifinals here on April 24, 2019! Watch the 2019 Semifinals with your students and use the lesson plan below to host an exciting viewing party! As Canada's top reciters perform on the national stage, your students will cheer them on and choose their favourites. Whether your students are new to recitation or are veterans of the Poetry In Voice contest, a Semifinals Viewing Party is a great way for your students to watch excellent recitations and discuss poetry and performance. If you decide to use Lessons 2 & 3 below, your party can be a springboard for a fresh exploration of our online anthology and our library of recitation videos.
Students will be introduced to acrostic poems in this lesson, as a way to ease them into poetry writing. The thought of writing poetry tends to intimidate some students. We want them to feel confident and comfortable in writing simple poems as a start. Acrostic poems are easy to write because they have a few simple rules and do not require rhyme. The teacher will introduce what an acrostic poem is to the children and model how to write one, using an object found in the classroom, e.g. a book. What is an acrostic poem? An acrostic poem uses the letters in a word to begin each line of the poem. All lines of the poem relate to or describe the main topic word.
Form Poetry and Memory Work
Students are often intimidated by the idea of writing form poetry, but this type of poetry can be most enjoyable to read and memorize. By first using the skills of listening, reading, and memory work to map out the structure of formal poems such as villanelles and sestinas, students will have a better understanding of the song-like and cyclical qualities of form poetry and so feel more prepared to generate their own form poems as a class and individually.
The Cento, or Collage Poem
This writing exercise will encourage students to pay attention to how poems work at a line-by-line level. Students will mine many source poems for individual lines and create their own poem by collaging these lines into a unique sequence. The cento is an ancient form that can be traced back more than two thousand years; the word “cento” is Latin for “patchwork”. A cento is essentially a collage made from language, with lines from great poems repurposed to create entirely new texts. Modernist poets like T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound used similar strategies in some of their best-known work (“The Waste Land” and The Cantos, respectively) and New York School poets like Ted Berrigan and John Ashbery also played with this form with notable results....
Old & New Thinking
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Styles may transform over time, along with social mores, laws and priorities and even the standards by which we treat one another across cultures and genders and generations. But the ways we yearn, the ways we love, the ways we hate, the ways we befriend, feel befuddled or defeated, the ways we dream and dawdle and die: in fundamental ways these states of being don’t change. The purpose of this exercise is to explore the idea of communication across time in a dramatic context, using poetry as our text, pointing up the ways in which we are different and the ways in which we might connect despite living a hundred years apart.
Character vs. Self
When developing a character, the actor will employ an approach that moves forward on two fronts: The first is to make an external study of the character, observing people in the world around to make choices that are within our capacity to mimic: I might choose to emulate the way my father-in-law dons and doffs his specs when playing professorial suitor, or I might choose to rush through sentences with the heart-palpitating energy of an old friend. Mode of dress, the pitch of the voice, the carriage of the body pain in the joints, age: these are all external choices. The second is to find common ground with the character, all the ways he or she can identify with hopes dreams, fears, compulsions, both positive and negative emotions. Connection. For an actor to best succeed in this mode,...
Finding the Heart in Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!”
In Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” he uses rhyme, meter, repetition, assonance, and other rhetorical and poetic devices to capture the emotional historical moment in the United States of America after Lincoln’s assassination. Through group discussion, students will examine the figurative language of the poem to connect the metaphor of the captain to the slain president. In small groups, students will practice round-robin and choral readings of the poem to feel the bodily impact of Whitman’s poetic language and then perform the recitations for their peers. Students will then write their own elegies or poems inspired by current events in the style of Whitman.
Drawing Shakespeare’s Sonnets
These two sonnets are a great lesson in the use of metaphor, personification, and paradox—Shakespeare loves to play with figures of speech. In this exercise, students will learn about the structure of a sonnet; how to isolate imagery; how to use drawings to learn about the meaning of metaphors; and how to pay attention to other figures of speech, like personification and paradox, in order to understand the meaning of the poems.
Sonic Patterns: Exploring Poetic Techniques through Close Reading
In addition to developing background knowledge about allusions and the etymology of key words, students use an online tool to examine the relationship between the speaker and his father in Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays.” Then students explore how the poet uses consonance, assonance, and alliteration to illustrate this complex relationship. Finally students use the idea of a composed memory and their knowledge of sonic patterns to draft, revise, and share their own original text.
Literary Parodies: Exploring a Writer’s Style through Imitation
The popular saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” coined by Charles Caleb Colton, is the basis for this lesson, which asks students to analyze the features of a poet’s work then create their own poems based on the original model. Students analyze sample poems and their parodies, focusing on the language and style of the original writer. They then write their own parody of the poem. This lesson uses William Carlos Williams’ poem “This is Just to Say,” but a list of alternative poems and their parodies is also included.
The Tone Map
In poems, the speaker moves through a series of moods and tones of voice, arranged in a particular order, to tell an emotional story. Even when poems seem like a simple series of images and we can’t say exactly what events are taking place, there is usually an emotional drama that develops over the course of the poem and culminates in some kind of emotional resolution. As students learn to name the tones of voice that the poem moves through, they will learn to describe mixed emotions, such as “sweet sorrow,” and to distinguish subtle shifts in tone and mood. They will build their vocabulary of feeling, train their emotional intelligence, and prepare themselves to speak more accurately and confidently about any piece of writing or work of art.
Poems for Two Voices
I’ve used this lesson with grades 8–10, but mostly with grade 9. A two-voice poem is written in two columns. Two students read the poem, and each chooses a column to read. When there are words that appear on the same line, the students read those words in unison. Two-voice poetry can be used in any subject area, but it’s especially effective when students are studying similarities and differences or harmony and discord. It allows for a dynamic blend of monologue by and dialogue between the two voices. Here are some great examples of two-voice poetry: “A Graduation Poem for Two” by Stephanie Klose (a great first example to model with a student) Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman Spark the...
Letter Poems Deliver: Experimenting with Line Breaks in Poetry Writing
Letter poems are a particularly apt medium for exploring a defining characteristic of poetry—line breaks. As students work to transform narrative-style letters into poetic format, they are forced to think carefully about where to end each line. Students begin by discussing letters they have written and working with an online tool as an introduction to letter poems. As a group, students look at a letter form of “This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams and add line breaks to turn it into a poem. They then compare the poem they created with the original, discussing why the poet made the line break choices he did. Next, they work in small groups to rewrite another letter as a poem and then compare the various groups’ results with the original poem. Students...
Writing Poetry with Rebus and Rhyme
If you’ve ever drawn a heart for the word “love,” you’ve written a rebus. Rebus, writing which substitutes images for words in the text, is used by authors to write books for young readers able to identify only a limited number of words, so why not use this same technique to teach writing? Students are first introduced to a variety of books using rebus writing. They then brainstorm lists of rhyming words that they could use in their own rebus poems. Finally, students create their own rebus poems and share them with an audience. This lesson uses Jean Marzollo’s book I Love You: A Rebus Poem as a model for using rebus writing to create wonderful poetry; however, any of the rebus books included on the accompanying book list would be...
Group Challenge: Preparing Students for a Team Recitation Contest
In this unit, students will be introduced to the art of recitation through a group challenge. In groups of three, students will select, prepare, and perform one poem each. Their scores will then be tallied with their teammates. In the spirit of fun and as a new way of introducing elements of our recitation contest, younger students will be able to hone recitation skills, work together, and perform for their peers. Additionally, at the end of this unit, schools have the opportunity to form their team who could go on to compete in our new contest; team regionals.