Poetry for Pleasure

Unit Plan

Maureen Melse
Adapted by Mark Rounds
5 weeks or so

California Language Arts Content Standards
Standards Addressed in this Unit
3.0Literary Response and Analysis 11/12
3.2 Analyze the way in which the theme or meaning of a selection represents a view or comment on life, using textual evidence to support the claim.
3.3 Analyze the ways in which irony, tone, mood, the author's style, and the "sound" of language achieve specific rhetorical or aesthetic purposes or both.
3.4 Analyze ways in which poets use imagery, personification, figures of speech, and sounds to evoke readers' emotions.
2.0Writing Applications (Genres and their Characteristics)
2.2 Write responses to literature:
  1. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the significant ideas in works or passages.
  2. Analyze the use of imagery, language, universal themes, and unique aspects of the text.
  3. Support important ideas and viewpoints through accurate and detailed references to the text and to other works.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of the author's use of stylistic devices and an appreciation of the effects created.
  5. Identify and assess the impact of perceived ambiguities, nuances, and complexities within the text.
Supporting Standards


In this unit students will do the following:

Students need some prior knowledge of basic language terms associated with poetry study, particularly simile, metaphor, personification, analogy, assonance, alliteration and onomatopoeia.

Arrange access to a range of poetry sources - library, class sets/references, and catalogue access along with online sources. Computer access for written response will encourage presentation skills.


Smiley Select and adapt these learning activities to best meet the needs of your students, and to fit the time available:

  1. Introduction
    Read a range of texts aloud to class (or use tapes if available and preferred). Aim for interest and variety - both in sound and theme. Poems with distinctive rhythm are popular - extracts from John Masefield's Reynard the Fox, Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade, obvious rhyme - W.B. Yeats An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, W.S. Gilbert When You're Lying Awake (or many of the 'patter' songs), S.T. Coleridge The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, clear images Roger McGough A Brown Paper Carrier Bag.

  2. Why Poetry?

    Form class into groups of 5-6 students.

    Each group has the task of agreeing on a definition of poetry. Allow 10-15 minutes then a spokesperson for each group reports back to class. Record ideas as they are presented - identify positive/negative comments. Students record personal response in their own notes for later discussion.

    Read Why? article. Discuss the ideas presented by the columnist. Are his comments relevant? Does poetry matter for the reasons he states?

    Read selected poems by Shel Silverstein. Discuss the language and speech patterns of one or more of the poems. How does the speed of delivery affect understanding? Does modern content and language make it more relevant? Look at hard copies of the poems. Discuss obvious language features, eg. emphasis on sounds. The intention is to reinforce oral aspects of poetry.

    In groups, discuss poetry seen and heard. Identify 'unusual' language - interesting sounds, images. Ask students to think of sound, touch, smell as well as visual pictures. Build up lists of what is recalled. Lead in to discussion of comparisons and use of these for effect. Identify similes and metaphors.

    Complete a short exercise on making up their own similes or metaphors - these can be effectively presented as images. Provide examples, eg. discuss alternatives to basic colors - cinnamon = brown, sky = blue etc. Have students create similes, metaphors, personification based on an everyday object. Pass on to a neighbor for them to add another image. Share these with the class.

  3. For practice in close reading of a variety of poems, see the following ARB resources:
  4. Read aloud a further selection of poetry--different styles, content, form. The aim is to provide variety. Identify theme, imagery, obvious language features. Issue hard copies. Students read through again individually, selecting 'favorites' for whatever reason. Re-group according to choice of poems.

    Teachers may consider group based analysis and peer assessment using the scoring guides.

  5. Students discuss poems in groups. Aim is for group to identify theme and language features for specific text and support ideas with evidence from poem.

    Questions to assist discussion:

    • Can you explain what it is about or what you feel after reading/hearing the poem?
    • What do you think is a main idea in the poem? Can you find an example to support this?
    • Who is the audience? How can you tell?
    • Are there any unusual/distinctive words or phrases?
    • Are there any striking/unusual comparisons? What is the effect of these?
    • Can you identify any specific language terms What is the effect of this/these on the poem?
    • Can you visualize any images? Can you imagine the scene, the scent, feeling or sounds that are being described? What words or phrases help with this?
    • How important is the title in conveying the main idea(s)?

    See also Questions to Ask of Any Poem.

    Sample report is provided for groups to use as model.

  6. Working in groups, rehearse selected poems, using ideas from Poetry Teachers, and prepare reports explaining features to present to the class.

    Report back to class. Alternatively it may be more appropriate to use a jigsaw approach.

  7. Class discussion of theme/ideas as integral feature. Groups then find similar poem (from resources provided) to discuss within guidelines
    • use of language
    • effect of these on understanding
    • shape/form

  8. Discuss model paragraph and explain requirements. Split groups into pairs to produce analyses of poems. Each group should explain why they chose the poem by discussing form, language and effects.

    Present poems and group/pair findings to the class. Individually or as pairs, students present poems and explain findings.

  9. Begin the assessment task. Each student is to choose a poem to present orally to their group-oral presentation. Peer assessment of presentations using criteria agreed to at the beginning. Explanation of choice of poem and analysis of features should be in written format ready for discussion by the group and for group input to help students complete the assessment task.

Collaborative on-line projects related to this unit:


Assessment Handout
Assessment Rubric