It's tough teaching personification in poetry if you aren't familiar with the topic. No need to despair, there are poems using personification abound. Here's a list to get you started.
Teaching this topic well requires going beyond memorization and identification. It requires mastery.
- Students should know what personification is within poetry. Simply knowing the definition, however, is not sufficient.
- Students should be able to identify personification in poems. If they are to understand the purpose of it.
- Students should be able to explain the purpose of personification and analyze how it contributes to the theme of the poem.
- Students should be able to write poems using personification.
- Students should be able to use personification in their own writing to communicate more clearly.
List of Recommended Poems
"The Cat and the Fiddle" by Mother Goose - Do I really expect you to teach nursery rhymes? Not really, but many students are already familiar with personification and don't even know it, for example, "the dish ran away with the spoon."
Lesson Idea: Instruct students to list examples of personification in poetry. They will stare blankly at their desks and/or twiddle their thumbs. They'll swear up and down they have no idea what you're talking about. Read them "The Cat and the Fiddle" or any other nursery rhyme containing personification. Make fun of them.
"Two Sunflowers Move in the Yellow Room" by William Blake - British Romantic Poets mastered the use of figurative language, personification being no exception. Since sunflowers do not speak or count (you may need to explain this to the class stoner), this is an excellent example of personification. The question to be asked is why does Blake use personification to describe this scene with sunflowers.
- "The Train" by Emily Dickinson - Dickinson's description of trains reflects the hustle and bustle of life, which she ironically never actually experienced, being a reclusive heart-broken freak.
- "She sweeps with many-colored Brooms" by Emily Dickinson - The "she" in this poem is a sunset, the "housewife in the evening west."
- Lesson Idea: Instruct students to describe a natural phenomenon using personification. Examples include earthquakes, thunderstorms, blizzards, twisters, sunrises, tsunamis, fog, etc.
- "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth - Wordsworth describes dancing daffodils with heads gathered in a crowd next to waves that also dance.
- "Brown Penny" by William Butler Yeats - An excellent love poem for sappy teenagers--it includes run away stars, and moon-eating shadows. Yum!
All poems listed here can be easily found with a Google search using the title of the poem.
For an in depth analysis of personification in these poems, check out the personification section of the poetry study guide.
Click here for a complete semester curriculum map for freshman English with lesson plans and links.