Lesson Planning: Poetry

Like the list I’m making for literature, I’m keeping a running archive of lesson plans I find on the Internet that serves as jumping-off places for my own lesson planning when it comes to poetry. I’ll try and use whatever works as blog entries as well, for others to use as resources, but also for my own reflection and planning. Again, this is a work-in-progress, so let me know if you have any suggestions in the comments.

Writing Exercises:

The Poets Workshop section of the Poetry Foundation website has some interesting and accessible exercises that could be the jumping-off point for great creative work from any students but especially grades 10-12 who have some foundation in poetry.

By Poet or Poem:

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Windhover”

This dynamic page from the Poetry Foundation covers all the bases: an annotated text, poet’s biography, audio recording, discussion questions, teaching tips, writing ideas and a scholarly essay. It also suggests comparing this sonnet with Robert Frost’s “The Oven Bird”, another avian sonnet. I used this successfully with a class of juniors.

Robert Hayden, “Those Winter Sundays”

Hayden and Roethke (1-2 lessons, includes audiovisual links)

Performing Hayden

Emily Dickinson:

Letters from Emily Dickinson (three-part lesson plan)

Poems on War and Death:

Housman and Thomas (two famous poems on death, 2-3 class periods)

Wilfrid Owen and Edgar Guest (lesson plan comparing two poems in the context of Great War imagery and poetry)– I’m planning to use this in conjunction with The Things They Carried

Robert Frost:

Frost’s “Mending Wall” (lesson plan, includes audio-visual links)

Narrative and Persona in Frost’s Work (four-lesson, multi-poem unit)

Gwendolyn Brooks, “We Real Cool”:

Enjambment in Brooks’ “We Real Cool” (single lesson plan)

Many Years Later: Responding to “We Real Cool” (five-session unit) I’ve used pieces of this series when I taught her work with ninth graders.

Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman:

Whitman and Hughes on Democracy (3-4 lesson plan)

Whitman’s Notebooks and Poetry (can work in tandem with lesson above on democracy, or alone)

Whitman, Hughes, Angelou, and America (one session, good as the intro to poets and concepts for younger students like ninth graders or even eighth)

Passion in Hughes (3-4 sessions, good beginner unit on his work and its historical context)

Seamus Heaney:

Heaney’s “Blackberry Picking”

By Device, Period or Form:


Traditional Sonnet Forms (three sessions comprehensive overview, designed to serve as the first phase before the lesson on sonnets appearing below)

Sounds of the Sonnet (multi-lesson unit, moving from “Jabberwocky” to Shakespeare and including a capstone assignment and audio-visual links)

Photos and Poems (single lesson, uses modern photography and poetry from Stieglitz and William Carlos Williams, could work well with a Modernist unit above)

Browning’s “Last Duchess” as Dramatic Monologue (1-2 lessons)


Modernism in Poetry (4-5 lesson unit, includes Prufrock)

Romanticism in Art and Poetry (the 7-8 session unit including painting analysis and Wordsworth’s work, more of an introductory unit)


Introducing Metaphors (single class introducing the device through three different poems by different authors)

Recognizing Similes (single lesson, similar to the above lesson on metaphors, good for younger students)

I used both of the above lessons as inspiration when covering figurative language with ninth graders before reading Their Eyes Were Watching God.

The Extended Metaphor (single lesson, close-reading Richard Wilbur’s “The Writer”, could be good before discussing motifs or conceits)

Miscellaneous Poetic Resources:

The Learning Lab at the Poetry Foundation is where I got the Gerard Manley Hopkins page above, and it includes more than ten other poems by authors like Lucille Clifton and Walt Whitman, complete with recordings, discussion questions, writing ideas, and more.

Poetry Resources for Teens from the Academy of American Poets, one of my favorite poetry websites.

Pine Tree Poetry anthologies, which solicits the best K-12 student writing for an annual anthology and also does great work partnering with school libraries. Mr. B-Grequires his students to submit their work at the end of his poetry unit, and I’m thinking of doing the same.

Knopf-Doubleday Poem-A-Day 2009, a full listing of all the poems they featured during National Poetry Month, and lots of other great links and resources as well.

Remember, I also have pages on literature lessons, teaching reading and online archives and WebQuests. I’d love to hear from you if anything you find here is helpful.

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