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Candra McKenzie

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Poetry Lesson Plans

Poetry is a complex sector of literature that can be hard for students of any age to fully appreciate. In order to instill a love of poetry (or at the very least, make the subject teachable) it’s important to have poetry lesson plans that get the job done and are tolerable for students and teachers alike

Your lesson plan for teaching poetry doesn't have to be boring or stodgy, as that’s one of the many stereotypes that surround poetry in general - that it’s dull, superfluous, or just plain hard to understand. Because of this, students tend to give up before they really get started without giving poetry a fighting chance. 

A great English poetry lesson plan could look something like this: 

  • Setting the stage for a poem before you read it aloud to the class. 
    • This is especially helpful if the poem is written from a perspective that students aren’t familiar with. Use this as a chance to help you students step inside the narrator’s shoes. This will connect them further with the poem as they read. 
  • Reading the poem aloud to the class. 
    • It’s up to you whether you want your students to follow along with their own copy or simply listen to you read. Either way could heighten their experience. 
  • Identify and define words that are unfamiliar to your students. 
    • Making a chart with problem words that can be referenced again and again is always great. 
  • Read the poem aloud again.
    • Now that the class is more familiar with the problem words, read the poem again to see if they glean a different meaning from it. 
  • Ask the students to tell you, in their own words, what each stanza means.
    • Picking the poem apart stanza by stanza makes it easier to digest. And having students use their own language and verbiage makes the concepts easier to understand - and more enjoyable. 
  • Assign the poem for your students to memorize.
    • This helps to cement it into their brains.
  • Have the students recite the poem that they worked so hard on. 

Poetry Lesson Plan Objectives

Teaching poetry can be intimidating - and not just for the students. It can be intimidating for the teacher, too! How to teach a kid to write a poem is no easy task, but it is something that can be done. 

Instilling an appreciation for poetry in your class starts with introducing a poem. The best way for a student to connect with poetry is to find poems that they actually enjoy reading - but how is that possible? All students have different tastes and styles. But here’s the thing. You can use that to your advantage. The differences in your students makes for a wide variety of poems that can be studied. 

How to introduce a poem in class doesn’t have to be a huge deal. In fact, it might even be fun. Start out by asking your students to define poetry. You may find that it’s hard for them to put into words what exactly poetry is, and this is where they can learn that poetry has many different definitions. Poetry is one thing for a certain person and another thing for someone else. The beauty of poetry is based in its versatility. 

You can ask students to bring in a few lines from a song that they think is poetic. This will get them thinking about what poetry entails, and it definitely opens up the floor for discussion. It also makes poetry personal! 

After this exercise, you can share a few poems that you bring in and read them aloud to the class. Let the poems sit with them over the course of a few days, and continue coming back to them and having students think and rethink what they heard and what it might mean. 

Poetry lesson plan objectives may include your students being able to identify the essential elements of a poem, recognize poetry from a variety of different cultures, understand poetry as a literary art form, recognize rhythm, metrics, and other musical elements of poetry, refine literary analysis skills, and enhance critical thinking. 

Poetry Lesson Plans Elementary

Poetry lesson plans elementary version can be somewhat tricky to navigate. Whether you’re looking for a kindergarten poetry unit or 5th grade poetry lesson plans, it’s important to introduce poetry to children at a young age so they can grow with the art as they continue to learn more about it. If you’re looking for how to impart the world of poetry onto your elementary students, then you’ve come to the right place. 

Teaching elementary to young kids in a way that will help them be successful involves an introduction that is in-depth and full of all kinds of poetry. Through these poetry lessons, you will:

  • Share and discuss children’s poems
  • Write a poem together as a class
  • Write a poem yourself, as the teacher, in front of the class
  • Have a few mini-lessons on the different elements of poetry
  • Have a brainstorming session before breaking into independent writing
  • Have the students write a poem independently 
  • Share and celebrate your students’ writing

By sharing poems written by other children, you’re sharing the message with your class that kids like them have written poems and that they can too. Writing poetry shouldn’t be an activity that is constrained in any way or one that requires strict rules. Students should enjoy writing poetry and it should be allowed to come easily to them as they flex their creative muscles. 

Poetry activities for elementary students may involve identifying these aspects of a poem:

  • Topic
  • Word choice
  • Expression of feelings
  • Rhythm
  • Shape
  • Line breaks
  • Title
  • Ending line
  • Special or missing punctuation

After finishing reading through poems, it’s key to ask elementary students what they noticed and what they liked, as this will get them thinking about the ways to pick poetry apart and analyze it. 

Poetry Lesson Plans Middle School

Poetry lessons for middle school may look a bit different than those used in an elementary school setting, but the bones of the lesson remain mostly the same. 

Here are a few examples of poetry lesson plans middle school:

  • Compare two poems and create a Venn diagram that shows where they’re alike and where they differ. 
    • Good examples to use for this could be “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman and “I, Too, Sing America” by Langston Hughes. Along with the diagram, have your class research the backgrounds of both poets along with historical events that could have influenced them. 
  • Utilize allegory. 
    • Have your students read a poem that utilizes the literary device of allegory - for example, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost is a good choice here. Ask your students to read the poem to themselves, deduce what the poem may stand for, then relate it to a time in their lives when they chose the ‘road less traveled.’ 
  • Read out loud - and have fun!
    • Reading poems out loud is a big part of their beauty, and some poems are written with the specific intent of being read out loud. Take “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll for example - first, have your students read it to themselves, then have a few of them do a dramatic reading and see how the poem changes when it’s read out loud. You can also have them go through and underline all the nonsense words and think about how those words add to the poem itself. 
  • Use imagery.
    • Poems use imagery to ignite the senses. Find a poem that relies heavily on this tool, like “Oranges” by Gary Soto, and have your students close their eyes as you read it aloud. Have them make note of how the author makes use of their senses, includes detail, and brings the poem to life. Then have them try to write their own poem that achieves the same thing!

Poetry Lesson Plans High School

When it comes to poetry lesson plans high school, it can be hard to keep your students’ interest. But while it may be difficult, it’s possible! If you’re looking for something that fulfills the requirements of a poetry lesson plan high school and keeps kids engaged, then take a look at these ideas: 

  • Texting couplets
    • This helps to get students’ minds working when it comes to rhythm and rhyming. Texting is a language that most high schoolers are very comfortable with, and if you create a lesson out of writing out text messages back and forth in the form of poetic couplets, you’ve got a great learning opportunity on your hands. 
  • Analyzing music.
    • Most high schoolers, even the most reluctant of students, are intrigued by how music and poetry coincide. You can select a popular song that has literary elements that the whole class can analyze. 
  • Poetry inspired by pictures.
    • There are tons of different ways that you can get students inspired by photos. You can ask them to use wordless picture books, family photos, political cartoons, famous paintings, etc. to ignite their creativity and write a poem based on what they see.
  • Group poem video.
    • High school students tend to enjoy making videos, so there’s no better way to encourage the love of poetry than through this type of media. You can have each student in the group write a stanza of a poem and make a video, then have the group come together and mesh the clips together in the order they find that works the best.

It’s true that high school students are not always the easiest to engage, but with creative lesson plans like this, you’ll be surprised (and they will, too) at how fun poetry can actually be.

Real Classroom Success

“I’ve used Six-Word Memoirs in my class for many years and the limitation of six words forces students to break big ideas down to smaller bites, think deeper about their stories, and unlock personal expression. In my classroom, I’ve seen kids work through writer's block; in just thirty minutes they feel like they have accomplished something.”

TERRY ASHKINOS, 7TH & 8TH GRADE TEAM LEAD
CHILDREN'S DAY SCHOOL
SAN FRANCISCO, CA

“The six-word approach was a way for my students to express themselves without writing a long narrative, one that may not speak to the reader as strongly as their Six-Word Memoir. Above all, they thought hard about their word choice, punctuation, and how they could illustrate the emotion/tone they wanted to express.”

Ginger Giessler, M.Ed & teacher
New Tech Academy
Fort Wayne, IN 

"I’ve long been enamored with the Six-Word Memoir project. I’ve read all the books, written a pile of my own Six-Word Memoirs, and sometimes do my best reflecting in six-word increments. Six-Word Memoirs are a masterful way to tell a story and was the perfect way to have our students be part of an all-school writing project. As a staff, we believed a single writing project was a wonderful way to capture the voices, stories, and reflections of all our students. When we compiled all the student writing, we had 700 student stories told — in just 4,200 words — and every child could quickly and easily read the stories of their friends and peers. I'm not sure how we could have accomplished such an admirable feat without the gift of Six-Word Memoirs."

Jennifer Schwanke
AUTHOR OF "YOU'RE THE PRINCIPAL! NOW WHAT?"
Deputy Superintendent, Dublin City Schools

The day I used Six-Word Memoirs was the day my students came alive. Finally, being free to not only write long narratives helped them to discover the essence of themselves and the heart of their writing.”

CANDRA McKenzie, HallPassBreak PODCAST Host & HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER
NEW YORK CITY, NY

Six-Word Memoirs bring out the best in my students. They are able to showcase their creativity and personal experience in a humorous, fun-loving way, but may also choose to display deeper, more complex emotions if they so choose.”

Sarah Nguyen, 6th grade English teacher
High Point Academy
Pasadena, Ca

“We often think of creativity as being open, free of rules with room to explore. But one thing that struck me when writing Six-Word Memoirs is that having strict parameters can sometimes lead to even more creative thinking!”

Paul Ackers, English teacher
Year 3 Brookes Moscow International School
Moscow, Russia

“Six-Word Memoirs is the perfect site to be ‘published’ while being creative.”

Hannia Dergongan Marohombsar, Year 8 and Year 10 First Language English teacher
National High Jakarta School of Piaget Academy
Jakarta, Indonesia

"The Six-Word Memoir is the perfect instrument for students to exercise their self-awareness in meaningful ways. Having this type of personal success on the first assignment of the school year sets the tone of the year on a positive and productive path."

Elizabeth Kennedy, 7th grade Academic Enrichment instructor
Riverwatch Middle School
Suwanee, GA

They feel liberated by having to only produce six words in a concise, poetic format. This is especially important to dyslexic students as they have experienced angst and ridicule surrounding written expression and quantity has been an encumbrance.”

Kat DeWees, teacher
Rawson Saunders School for Dyslexic Students
Austin, TX

“Six-Word Memoirs has just taught me that if you sit long enough with a kid and you ask the right questions and you challenge them in the right ways, you will hear a story that you probably never would have imagined."

Tabitha Cooper, Senior English teacher
Metamora High School
Metamora, IL

“Many students in our class shared deeply personal experiences in their Six-Word Memoirs, and sharing them helped to bring our class closer together and build a team spirit.”

Leah Ruediger, teacher
NYC’s P.S. 86
The Bronx, NY

“Six-Word Memoirs taught us a lot about our students and also taught the kids that efficiency of language can be a powerful way to make a point or share something poignant about themselves.”

JENNY PLATOW, TEACHER
ESSEX STREET ACADEMY
NEW YORK CITY, NY