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Lesson Plans for Introducing Poetry

Bring poems into the classroom with these lesson plans, which are especially suited to introducing students to poetry and helping them become engaged and thoughtful readers.

lesson plan

Songs My Teacher Taught Me

Songs My Teacher Taught Me, created by teaching fellow Anthony Consiglio, is a series of three lesson plans intended to guide students through approximately one month of poetry study. This unit involves minimal technology requirements but extends across a wide range of poetry. Of the eighteen poets included; eight are women, six are African American; two are nineteenth-century poets and the three lesson plans are thematically broken into "What Is Poetry?" "Poems of Childhood," and "Self and Society." Each of the three lesson plans includes a short reading list, a brief introduction setting tone and theme, a series of analytical questions, two creative activities, and at least one writing assignment. As Consiglio notes in his Teaching Guide, the lessons can be presented in many different ways and are applicable to a wide variety of classrooms and students.

Unit Length: 20 Class Periods


 

lesson plan

Committed to Memory

In 1995, the Academy commissioned poet John Hollander to assemble a poetry anthology that emphasized the pleasure of memorization and recitation. The result was Committed to Memory, published by Books & Co./Turtle Point, in conjunction with the Academy of American Poets. Edited by poet John Hollander with an advisory committee including Eavan Boland, Thom Gunn, Rachel Hadas, Michael Harper, Anthony Hecht, Maxine Kumin, J. D. McClatchy, Robert Pinsky, Mona Van Duyn, Rosanna Warren, and Richard Wilbur, this group of classic, celebrated poems serve to emphasize the pleasure of memorization and recitation.


lesson plan

Noticing Poetry

This unit begins with an activity to model the “I notice” method with Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”. For the second activity, teachers should select contemporary poems that allow for a variety of the four levels of Poetry to be thoroughly noticed. Attached is a student sample Poem Level Meter for “Let Evening Come” by Jane Kenyon, and three other poems from the Academy of American Poets are suggested. However, any poem from the Academy of American Poets website could be used effectively to teach this reading method.

lesson plan

Word Karaoke

The following lesson plan was written by Matthue Roth for Don't Forget to Write: for the Secondary Grades (Jossey-Bass, 2011), a collection of lesson plans compiled by 826 National, a network of nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping students, ages six through eighteen, with expository and creative writing, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. This lesson plan is intended for one session of two hours.


 

lesson plan

Smell This Story, Taste This Poem

The following lesson plan was written by Gabriela Pereira for Don't Forget to Write: for the Elementary Grades (Jossey-Bass, 2011), a collection of lesson plans compiled by 826 National, a network of nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping students, ages six through eighteen, with expository and creative writing, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. This lesson plan is intended for five sessions of ninety minutes.


 

lesson plan

Poems About Poetry

These lessons focus on poems about poetry itself:

Ars Poetica by Archibald MacLeish
so you want to be a writer by Charles Bukowski
Poetry by Marianne Moore

What is poetry? Why is it important? The poets included in these lessons address these questions, as only they can, from their experience as poets. As you might suspect, Archibald MacLeish, Charles Bukowski, and Marianne Moore have different takes on the subject. We ask your students to learn from what these poets have written, debate the various perspectives, and create their own personal definitions. As a possible culminating activity, we ask students to write an Op Ed piece defending why they think poetry is important—whether they "dislike it," like Marianne Moore, or not!

Aligned with the Common Core Standards, these lessons address the three Literacy areas—Reading, Writing, and Speaking and Listening. They can be used at the beginning of a poetry unit, in a unit on persuasive writing, or in any other way conjured by your own imagination. To make sure you reach diverse learners, feel free to adapt any or all parts of these lessons to your students’ learning styles.