K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Related pages

  • Singing the "Song of Life": This lesson requires students to use their reading, comprehension, and analysis skills to analyze a poem and respond creatively to the selection.
  • Figurative language: Metaphor: This lesson is a part of a unit on poetry and figurative language. It is designed to teach students the characteristics of metaphor within the context of poetry.
  • A matter of identity: Writing an extended metaphor poem: Students apply their knowledge of literary devices by reading and analyzing the poem “Identity” by Julio Noboa Polanco. Students then create their own poem incorporating the literary devices studied and analyzed in the above mentioned poem. This lesson includes modifications for a Novice Low Limited English student.

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Learning outcomes

The goals and objectives are to aid the students in understanding and appreciating a variety of genres--in this case poetry. The unit incorporates vocabulary necessary for the study of literature (figurative language and elements of poetry) as well as recognizing the different types of poems dealing with many topics. By incorporating music and popular songs, this lesson helps students learn to understand and appreciate the different poets rhythms and styles. Finally, students learn to write and illustrate expressing themselves through the use of imagery and mood.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

5 weeks


Variety of poetry found in resources that include:

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Alice in Wonderland by Walt Disney (movie)
  • The Book of Secrets by Loreena McKennitt (cd)
  • The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg by Carl Sandburg
  • Literature and Language (gold level) McDougal Littell
  • Modern Maturity August-September, 1985
  • Sports Pages by Arnold Adoff
  • Tyrannosaurus was a Beast by Jack Prelutsky
  • cassettes, cd’s or albums of different songs containing lyrics with poetic devices
  • American Sports Poems by R.R. Knudson and May Swenson

Technology resources

  • The Internet is needed to view statistics on ACC tournament standings and gather information concerning chosen teams as well as locating poetry resources.
  • ClarisWorks or Microsoft Word word processing is used to generate individual poems for display. Clip art is an important part of the final product, so students must know how to import graphics. They can also use PowerPoint or Hyperstudio to display their poetry and import sound and graphics.
  • ClarisWorks database or Microsoft Excel spreadsheets are used in social studies and math class to record current information on the colleges. After students locate information using resources such as almanacs and the internet, they create a database of the colleges to make comparisons and contrasts. (This is completed during social studies class.) Statistics are used on ClarisWorks or Excel spreadsheet in order to calculate totals and compare data. (This is completed during math class.)


The amount of time needed for the pre-activities is dependent upon the ability of individual classes.

  • As an introduction to this unit, the class is asked to reflect on the format of a novel. Discuss the plot format found in all fiction novels of the problem, conflict, climax and resolution. Also, discuss the elements of figurative language that are found in writing.
  • Next, talk about poetry and how some poems contain the same format and elements.
  • Students web in their journals the plot format, figurative language, and elements of poetry that have been previously covered in class. The vocabulary includes:
    • plot
    • problem
    • conflict
    • resolution
    • figurative language
    • onomatopoeia
    • imagery
    • alliteration
    • simile
    • rhyme
    • metaphor
    • rhythm
    • personification
    • verse
    • hyperbole
    • stanza
  • Next, students discuss the terms with their partners, and, if needed, look up the terms. These are written in their web journal.
  • After the class has reflected on the terms previously learned, ask students what they think narrative poetry would be. Discuss as a class, and then write it in the journal. Add terms as the class discusses them, such as ballads.
  • Then read the poem “The Highwayman” and ask the students to listen for the plot.
  • Discuss why it could be considered a ballad and use a graphic organizer to list the four parts of the plot. (NOTE: Hell is used in this poem. We have discussed how terms can be used for description, but if used as a curse word it is unacceptable for class discussion.)
  • Since this poem has a definite rhythm pattern, begin a new web in student journals using the category of poetic elements, write down the word rhythm and discuss the meaning.
  • After distributing copies of the poem, students work with partners and discover figurative language and how it is used in the poem and add these to their new web.
  • Finally, students listen to the ballad “The Highwayman” sung by Loreena McKennett.
  • Discuss the rhythm and how the music adds to the overall feeling of the poem. The term mood is then added to the vocabulary web.
  • Students are asked to look for ballads in the music that they enjoy and to bring in the words, or the CD, so that the class can listen and decide if it fits the criteria of a ballad. I always require the words to be written down so I can read it--CDs often have printed lyrics in the liner. Students write a plot format of their songs, and then as time permits we listen to music and look for poetic qualities.


  1. In order to understand poetry certain practices need to be discussed and followed:
    • Since poetry uses figurative language and does not always directly state the author’s meaning, discuss the importance of reading poems at least three times. The first time will be for vocabulary, stopping to look up unfamiliar words. The second time it is read for understanding — noting the figurative language and meaning of the phrases. The third time we read for the flow and “feel” of the poem. During class students usually comment that we read them five, six, and seven times, and each time the readers can see new ideas.
    • Most importantly, the class discusses how to read a poem; that is, the use of punctuation in poems is especially important to the understanding and “flow” of the verse. Point out that a reader should never stop at the end of a written line unless the author has used punctuation marks such as end marks, commas, etc. to signal that he wants the reader to stop. When reading free verse, exceptions are made, but cover that when you get to that type of poem.
    • Lead the class in a discussion as to the importance of the reader having prior knowledge of the poem’s topic which enhances understanding. When reading a poem, the reader should think about the title and what he/she already knows — stopping to let the mind “wander” on the idea before beginning to read. When a student comes to part of the poem that doesn’t seem to make sense, stop to think what the author is talking about and what information the reader brings into the poem, then think through the words.
    • If the poem is hard to understand, the reader looks for clues to types of figurative language used, like similes or metaphors. He/she should think about the comparisons being made, what is known of the two, and then reread the poem for clearer understanding.
    • It is important that students have the chance for individual thinking, partnership time for discussion, and large group discussion of ideas generated.
  2. Students read a poem at least three times individually, following the practices stated above. As the class proceeds to read and evaluate poems presented by the teacher, incorporate the songs brought to class by the students.
  3. Next, record ideas in journal, making notes of figurative language and content.
  4. With a partner, the students discuss their own ideas. Emphasize the importance of good partnership skills. For example, partners should be cooperative, both contributing to the discussion. Voice levels should be appropriate so that others are not disturbed. If a partnership has a question, they should use their resources such as textbook, dictionary, etc, to try to discover the answer. If help from the teacher is needed then both partners should raise their hand, and then the teacher asks leading questions to encourage the level of discovery and to lead the students to the correct answer. Partners only talk to one another and the teacher. Finally, poems are discussed as a class. This large group sharing is important. Students who don’t normally answer, who are shy or unsure of the answer, are more willing to participate since they have already thought out their responses and have had a chance to verbalize it with a partner. This is also a good time for your verbal learners to demonstrate their knowledge.
  5. Incorporate into the lesson songs which the students have brought to share. Students who bring in songs write the words down and and then we analyze them as a class. Using graphic organizers such as webs or T charts of the imagery found in the songs, help the students to understand the figurative language.
  6. Use the poem “Walrus and the Carpenter” to incorporate another style of narrative poetry. We discuss the similarities to narrative poetry and why it is fun to read. Nonsense poetry is fun, but understanding does not come from trying to figure out its meaning. Instead, we contrast what is being described and then learn to enjoy it.
  7. Use the poem “Casey at the Bat” to bring together the poetry and math connection with the NCAA tournament. First, begin by asking what they think the poem is going to be about. We read the poem (following the guidelines mentioned above) and then the students work with a partner to decide if it is a narrative poem. After discussing with a partner, we decide as a class that it is narrative and then proceed to identify the plot (problem, conflict, climax and resolution). Students work on this with a partner and jot down the plot in their journals. After a class discussion, I have students create a web in their journal with the term baseball in the center. Individually, they identify any terms or phrases from the poem that are connected to baseball. After discussing the terms with a partner, we move into the elements of poetry and figurative language. Assign each group a different term (simile, metaphor, alliteration, etc.) and have the students try to locate examples of the term in the poem. Each group decides who is the reporter and then that person reports the group’s findings to the class. After analyzing the poem, we read it orally. At this point we discuss the mood, the feelings of the fans and Casey, as well as the poetic elements.
  8. Next, I ask students if they have heard the term parody. After defining the term I ask for examples of parodies. (Popular movie and song titles always arise from the class). I distribute copies of “Volger on the Line.” Individually, students read the poem (following the guidelines mentioned above) and complete a web in their journals that has basketball in the center. Students proceed to identify any basketball terms and phases. After discussing the terms with a partner, we move into the elements of poetry and figurative language. I assign each group a different term (simile, metaphor, alliteration, etc.) and have the students try to locate examples of the term in the poem. Each group decides who is the reporter and then that person reports the group’s findings to the class. After analyzing the poem, we read it orally. At this point we discuss the mood, the feelings of the fans and Volger, as well as the poetic elements.
  9. By this time, students have either chosen or been assigned different teams from the NCAA regionals and should be gathering data. Students may read newspaper articles, watch ESPN, the actual game, or go on the internet to locate information.
  10. Students use computer spreadsheets to analyze and solve probability and statistics of the NCAA basketball tournament and graph the results during their math classes.
  11. Students write a poem about the team and we discuss the guidelines for grading the poem. We brainstorm together what would be important for a well written poem, and students record the guidelines generated in their journals. (I feel it is important before students begin to write that they know what is expected.) Following is an example of the guidelines generated by my class:

    Guidelines for NCAA basketball poem

    • Length: at least 10 lines long
    • must include:
      • team name
      • coach’s name
      • final score of a game played in the tournament
      • mascot
      • team colors
    • Must contain at least:
      • 5 examples of figurative language
      • 4 elements of poetry
    • The poem must be word processed.
    • Clip art must be used to enhance poem for visual learners.


Supplemental information

Howard Gardner published his book Frames of Mind in which he describes his theory of multiple intelligences. It is our responsibility as classroom teachers to help students find their best way of learning. In order to help my students learn best, I try to give opportunities for all types of learners to excel and broaden their understanding. Listed below are the different intelligences and the links used in this poetry unit to help my students make associations to heighten their understanding.

Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence

  • Use of graphic organizers for vocabulary building and brainstorming
  • Reading aloud poems
  • Sharing of vocabulary knowledge when working with partners
  • Create list of Elements of Poetry, figurative language, and types of poems

Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence

  • Play cd’s or tapes of songs to listen to rhythmic sounds and patterns
  • Create and use songs, raps, and poems in class
  • Recite choral reading
  • Using the Time Tables of History find songs from different time periods, play them in class and contrast the beat, words, instruments used, volume and topic/themes

Logical/Mathematical Intelligence

  • Look for pattern recognition in poems
  • Read the poem “Arithmetic” and make a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting the ways to solve word problems
  • Create mnemonic devices (like acrostic poems) to help remember formulas or steps for solving mathematical problems

Visual/Spatial Intelligence

  • Draw pictures of the literal meaning of similes, metaphors, etc.
  • Observe objects and web what is seen-then develop a poem based on visual (The poems”Cumulus Clouds” and “Sea Songs” are good for this activity)
  • As students read, underline in different colors the types of figurative language used in a poem.

Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence

  • Students can decide which poem to recite to the class and then “act it out” as they recite.
  • Tap or beat the rhythm to poems(”Anklyosaurus” is excellent for this activity).
  • Use body motions to act out figurative language used.
  • Play charades with different vocabulary or poems covered in class.

Naturalist Intelligence

  • Read poems that describe items found in nature.
  • Go on a nature walk and observe--then write poems about what is seen.
  • Create a graphic organizer with differences between types of clouds (After reading poems about clouds).
  • Listen to music by John Denver that describes outdoor scenes.

Intrapersonal Intelligence

  • Journal entries and reflection pieces are extremely important to this learner--incorporate daily response time.
  • Write poems about self--and read poems that are written in first person.
  • Create a collage of “myself.”

Interpersonal Intelligence

  • Cooperative partnerships and group learning is essential to this intelligence-provide time daily as students read and analyze poems.
  • Discuss roles of individual and partnerships - create a rubric with the class for observing the skills such as voice level, ability to stay on task, not interrupting others, etc.

Books on teaching poetry:

  • Poetry Matters: Writing Poetry from the Inside Out, by Ralph Fletcher
  • Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry by Kenneth Koch


In order to help students become enthusiastic about poetry, I present this unit in conjunction with a math unit that deals with the statistics and information generated during the ACC basketball tournament, therefore, it is best taught during the month of March.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Language

        • Grade 6
          • 6.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. 6.L.5.1 Interpret figures of speech (e.g., personification) in context. 6.L.5.2 Use the relationship between particular words (e.g., cause/effect, part/whole,...
        • Reading: Literature

          • 6.RL.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
          • 6.RL.5 Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 6

  • Goal 1: The learner will use language to express individual perspectives drawn from personal or related experience.
    • Objective 1.02: Explore expressive materials that are read, heard, and viewed by:
      • monitoring comprehension for understanding of what is read, heard, and/or viewed.
      • analyzing the characteristics of expressive works.
      • determining the effect of literary devices and/or strategies on the reader/viewer/listener.
      • making connections between works, self and related topics.
      • comparing and/or contrasting information.
      • drawing inferences and/or conclusions.
      • determining the main idea and/or significance of events.
      • generating a learning log or journal.
      • creating an artistic interpretation that connects self to the work.
      • discussing books/media formally and informally.
  • Goal 5: The learner will respond to various literary genres using interpretive and evaluative processes.
    • Objective 5.01: Increase fluency, comprehension, and insight through a meaningful and comprehensive literacy program by:
      • using effective reading strategies to match type of text.
      • reading self-selected literature and other materials of individual interest.
      • reading literature and other materials selected by the teacher.
      • discussing literature in teacher-student conferences and small group discussions.
      • taking an active role in whole class seminars.
      • discussing and analyzing the effects on texts of such literary devices as figurative language, dialogue, flashback and sarcasm.
      • interpreting text by explaining elements such as plot, theme, point of view, characterization, mood, and style.
      • investigating examples of distortion and stereotypes.
      • recognizing underlying messages in order to identify recurring theme(s) within and across works.
      • extending understanding by creating products for different purposes, different audiences and within various contexts.
      • exploring relationships between and among characters, ideas, concepts and/or experiences.
    • Objective 5.02: Study the characteristics of literary genres (fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry) through:
      • reading a variety of literature and other text (e.g., novels, autobiographies, myths, essays, magazines, plays, pattern poems, blank verse).
      • interpreting what impact genre-specific characteristics have on the meaning of the work.
      • exploring how the author's choice and use of a genre shapes the meaning of the literary work.
      • exploring what impact literary elements have on the meaning of the text such as the influence of setting or the problem and its resolution.