Poetry Lesson Plans and Life Lessons

Deir Al Assad MapOn June 6, I leave for Israel. Next Thursday, I will be in the classroom at Al-Bashaer High School in Deir al Assad teaching poetry to 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. The program is an English immersion experience for the students. I haven’t been in a classroom for many years, so I am both excited and nervous.

Our six-member team of teachers, led by novelist, Martha Moody, will arrive in Deir al Assad on Tuesday, June 10. We begin teaching on Thursday, June 12. Approximately 60 students will attend four classes per day for ten days between June 10 and June 26. We only have the students in one hour classes each day we teach, and each class is full.

When I first sat down to work on the lesson plans, I had grandiose ideas about teaching them all about American poetry and poets. I envisioned them writing sestinas and sonnets. In the course of my preparation, I realized that these are students who, even though they study English, don’t often get to hear English spoken by individuals for whom English is a first language. On top of that, we have them in our classrooms for such a short amount of time. I changed my plan.

Here is a summary:

Day 1  Focus: What is poetry and how is it different than prose?

Poem to share and discuss: “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” by Emily Dickinson

Practice: Write a few lines of poetry in English describing a body part or personal characteristic but don’t say what you are writing about. Other will guess what you wrote about.

Day 2   Focus: Reading Poetry written in English, aloud

Poem to share and discuss: “Two More Papayas” by Thanhha Lai

Practice: Reading our poems aloud

Day 3     Focus: Haiku

Poems to share and discuss: Two Basho poems

Practice: Writing a Haiku

Day 4     Focus: Images in poetry—metaphor and simile

Poem to Share and discuss: “Fog” by Carl Sandburg

Practice: Write at least 4 lines of poetry that includes a simile or a metaphor

Day 5   Focus: Writing poems about pictures and objects of art

Poem to share and discuss: six lines from “ode to a Grecian Urn” by John Keats

Practice: Bring a picture from home and write a poem about it.

Day 6    Focus: Writing poems about pictures and objects of art

Poem to share and discuss: four lines from “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran

Practice: in-class writing sharing drafts aloud

Day 7     Focus: Making a Collage Poem—Does poetry have to make sense?

Practice: class is divided in to two groups, then the two groups work in pairs to come up with phrases or sentence clauses. We then come back together and make complete sentences out of our parts of sentences to create a poem.

Day 8     Focus: Continue working on a collage poem and copying it into chapbook

Poem to share: from “New Moon, a Collage Poem” by Kathryn Winograd

Day 9     Focus: Writing poetry about nature.

Poem to share: “A Bird Came Down the Walk” by Emily Dickinson

Day 10   Focus: Wrap-up, talk about what we’ve learned, say our good-byes.

I am taking blank, hand-made chapbooks for the students to fill in with the poems they write. Check back often for updates and any poetry the students let me post. Oh, and lots of pictures too!

Here are a few of the books I referenced in my preparation:

Stepping Sideways into Poetry Writing, Kathryn Winograd, Scholastic, 2005

Painless Poetry book coverPainless Poetry, Mary Elizabeth, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 2001

Poetry Matters,  Ralph Fletcher, HarperCollins e-books, 2002

Outspoken, Michael Salinger and Sara Holbrook, Heinneman, 2006

Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?, Kenneth Koch, Vintage Books, 1990



Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

© 2013-2015 Grace Curtis

This entry was posted in Books of poetry you should read, Teaching Poetry, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Poetry Lesson Plans and Life Lessons

  1. Dana says:

    The revised plan sounds great. .. doable and realistic. There may be even more revisions once you arrive and get a feel for the students. What a great adventure for teachers and students alike.!

  2. Grace says:

    Grace, your lesson plans look great! Your listed 2 reference books I used in my class; Painless Poetry and Poetry Matters. Ralph Fletcher also has a few other great books on how to teach the writing process.

  3. This sounds wonderful, with all sorts of room for improvisation based on your students’ reactions. Have a safe and glorious trip Grace.

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