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Lesson Plan: Teaching Setting and Characterization by Writing Poetry

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/17/2012

If you have students take notes on setting, theme, and characterization, they won't remember any of it. If you have them write a poem, they'll remember some of it. Use poetry to teach literature and you'll have smarter students.

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    I felt good about my lesson plans for teaching setting. I felt good about my characterization lesson plan. After grading quizzes, I realized I needed new lesson plans for teaching setting and a new characterization lesson plan. I stayed late. I could think of nothing, so I broke in to Mr. Peterman's class and stole his lesson plan book. He had really good lesson plans for teaching setting and an excellent characterization lesson plan.

    But you don't have to steal it from Mr. Peterman. I stole it for you. Here it is:

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    Give me a High Cinquain

    If you know Penelope Bryant Turk who taught at Greenfield Junior High School in El Cajon, tell her thanks for this idea. I've used it for years and students love it. It involves writing cinquains for a character. A cinquain is a 5-line unrhymed poem with the following pattern:

    • noun
    • adjective, adjective
    • ing-verb, ing-verb, ing-verb
    • four word statement
    • synonym or equivalent of line 1


    The Necklace

    priceless, elegant

    borrowing, wearing, losing

    I must borrow money



    1. Pick a character

    2. Brainstorm a list of adjectives.

    3. Brainstorm a list of present participles.

    4. Brainstorm a list of synonyms.

    5. Choose the best ones.

    6. Organize appropriately.

    7. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the silent roar of learning.

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    Teaching Setting with Haiku

    I love poetry. It's good for teaching setting. Don't forget Haiku. Japanese love it. I really think you will too. Setting's important.

    Haiku captures the mood or feeling of a scene's setting through the use of imagery.

    Example: Frankenstein

    Charnel house decor

    Dreary Night in November

    Rotting flesh, alive

    Example: Night

    fire, fire, burning flesh

    an endless night of nightmares

    Auschwitz, Buchenwald


    1. Select a key scene from a book or short story where the setting is critical.
    2. Reread the passage and copy important descriptive words.
    3. Choose 2-3 images that stand out.
    4. Arrange your words in Haiku form: the first line is 5-syllables; the second line is 7-syllables; the third line is 5-syllables.
    5. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the silent roar of learning.
    6. Spend vacations and weekends with a clear conscience while enjoying the roar of the ocean on a beach in the Dominican.
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    Click here for a complete standards based semester curriculum map with lesson plans and links.