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Poetry: Serve Warmly and More Often


By Jan Seiter


Rationale: Poetry invites participation. Songwriters, commercials, and even visual collages on MTV use language to invoke image, convey feelings, and express emotion. Using examples of poetry from these and traditional examples, the student can use language quite outside formal grammatical patterns. Using poetry as a vehicle, we can illustrate simile, onomatopoeia, alliteration, rhyme and rhythm. The student can experiment with adjectives, adverbs and sentence fragments. They utilize new vocabulary, and can practice both appreciative and critical listening.

Note to teachers: I have modified the collection of poetry often to use poems that students like. The Internet has become a good resource for poetry collections, and as a publishing source. Be very careful, however, in allowing students free access to the various collections, because some are intended for mature audiences.



Lesson Plan - Poetry (Day 2)

Topic: Figurative images, words, and phrases.




Materials needed:

"April Rain Song" by Hughes

"Wind" by Stephens

"Dandelion" by Sitwell

"The Moon's the North Wind's Cooky" by Lindsay

"Dream Deferred" by Hughes

"The Spider" by Coffin

"A Poison Tree" by Blake

"My Mask" by Mora


Focus: Read "What is Poetry?" by Eleanor Farjeon


Instructional Input:

1. Discuss the use of figurative language. Use examples - The wind blew like..., the girl is as pretty as..., he ran as fast as..., The storm was like...

2. Pick out a common object, such as a cup, or a plant, and describe it in uncommon ways. Do this as a class, then in groups.

3. Have students describe a color or texture, and associate it with an emotion, such as red for anger, or silky for love. Do this in writing.

4. Give the class a choice of poems from the list to read. Have them identify the figurative phrases, and paraphrase it.

5. Ask the students to draw a picture, or cut out a picture from a magazine or catalogue that can be described in figurative language. Have them write several phrases.


Read one of the poems from the list. Emphasize the poet's use of figurative language.



Collect the writing samples for #'s 3 & 5.

Observe student comfort in reading, and in group participation.


Lesson Plan - Poetry (Day 3)

Topic: Mood and Theme




Materials needed:

"Snake" by D.H. Lawrence

"Annabel Lee" by Poe

"Los Ancianos" by Mora

"Mistress Mine" by Shakespeare

"Stopping by the Woods" by Frost

"Spring" by Kuskin

"But He was Cool" by Lee

"Good Times" by Clifton

"I Rise" by Angelou

"Too Many Daves" by Seuess


Focus: Play a modern ballad, "If I saw you in Heaven" or "I will always Love You" and a humorous song like "Bubba Shot the Juke Box" Provide lyrics for the students.


Instructional Input:

1. List and discuss the various moods associated with a routine day: getting up for school, going through the day.

2. Play "Music Box Dancer" by Frank Mills, or another piece of instrumental music to invoke a feeling or mood. Discuss why a rhyme, rhythm, or musical sound can start or heighten a feeling or emotion.

3. Have students volunteer to read a poem for the class, or to read in small groups. Use as many of the poems on the list as the class size will allow. Discuss the ways the various poems invoke a mood or feeling. If needed, the teacher may select and read two of the shorter ones. The Frost and Seuess are good choices.

4. Emphasize that a mood or feeling is only in the mind of the reader. Even the author does not always have a clear indication of the mood or theme.

5. Write a parody of a poem or song, such as "Spring", describing unpleasant thoughts or feelings.

6. Experiment with body language and facial expressions to convey moods without words.

7. Select a particular poem, and use the words of the poem to illustrate what mood and theme the author intended. If time permits, students can read the poem and give their reasons orally.



Read "The Pied Piper" by Browning. Read a portion rapidly, and slowly, and illustrate how even different rates can invoke different moods.



Students have the option of writing #5 or #7.

Observe student participation in groups.


Lesson Plan - Poetry (Day 4)

Topic: Verbal and Nonverbal Delivery




Materials needed:

"The Walrus and the Carpenter" by Carroll

"The Pied Piper of Hamlin" by Browning

"Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout" by Silverstein

"Kidnap Poem" by Giovanni

"Jabberwocky" by Carroll

"Snakeface" by Mouchaca


Focus: Read "Casey at the Bat" or "Gunga Din" or other poem that can be done with enthusiasm, or play a selection of a poem being read.


Instructional Input:

1. Discuss various purposes of performance. Entertainment, information, demonstration, and education performances all require vocal variety and enthusiasm to improve audience attention and understanding.

2. Read aloud "Snakeface" or "The Pied Piper" as a class. Assign parts.

3. Have students read a poem from the list in a group. Experiment with a variety of inflections and phrasing.

4. Have students select a poem for performance, either from the list or from their own experience. Record the poem.



Read a poem from the list the class has not selected. Illustrate that with a talented and enthusiastic reading, even a poem such as "Jabberwocky" or something hard to understand can be made comprehensible.



Observe the students' participation and cooperation in groups.

Critique student performances in private discussion with the student.


Lesson Plan - Poetry (Day 5)

Topic: Write a poem



Access to to post and publish student work.


Focus: on overhead slide:

"Poetry is the imaginative expression of strong feeling." - Wordsworth

"Poetry and hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you. And all you do is to go where they can find you." - Winnie-the-Pooh


Instructional Input:

Writing or composing poetry can be difficult. If the teacher observes that the class, or a student, is not comfortable writing at this point, the teacher can introduce the haiku and cinquain as "short cuts" to writing. This is a basic first step.

1. Mini-lesson: Cinquain

one word title

two word description

three word action

four words giving feeling or impression

one word renaming the subject

2. Mini-lesson: Haiku

four words

seven words

three words

four words

three words


Enrichment activities and ideas:

3. Encourage UIL/Speech team participation

4. Encourage publication of poems

5. Dramatize a poem, or read a poem written by a class member or student from a previous year.

6. Write the poem.


Closure: Read a selection of the students' poetry.



Collect and evaluate the poetry, or post the poetry to the web.

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