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Alliteration in Poems for High School Students

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/16/2012

Teaching alliteration requires finding quality poetry that is challenging enough for upper level students. These examples will help you teach the purpose and effect of using alliteration in poetry.

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    Student Objectives

    Before teaching alliteration in poems for high school students, it's good to have some objectives in mind.

    1. Students should know what alliteration is, the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words. Simply knowing the definition, however, is not sufficient. It has no relevancy, inside or outside the classroom, if the learning stops here.
    2. Students should be able to identify examples of alliteration on their own. This, however, has little usefulness outside of an English class.
    3. Students should be able to explain the purpose for the alliteration and analyze how it contributes to the theme of the poem. Now students are developing critical thinking skills that will improve the quality of their thinking.
    4. They should be able to write poetry containing alliteration.
    5. Students should be able to use alliteration in their own writing to communicate more clearly. Now we're talking mastery. Using alliteration and other literary devices to communicate more clearly brings them closer to being a master of words.

    For an in depth analysis and links to all the poems mentioned here, go to the poetry study guide on alliteration.

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    Suggested Poems

    Begin teaching alliteration in poems for high schools students with the following:

    1. "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe - In addition to being a master of suspense with his short stories, Poe is a master of sound devices with his poems. Teaching alliteration in poems for high school students begins with Poe. Use this analyzing sound devices in poetry lesson plan to make the most of the master.
    2. "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Not exactly light reading--Coleridge delves into the world of the supernatural as the ancient mariner unburdens his soul with the telling of an horrific tale. This poem should be read and discussed as a class. I recommend an annotated version. Gothic images abound. Encourage participation by allowing students to respond in pictures and writing. Use these ideas.
    3. "Clooney the Clown" by Shel Silverstein - Clooney the Clown has everything for the dramatic teenage soul: sadness, being misunderstood, depression. In addition to alliteration, "Clooney the Clown" makes a great poem for teaching irony.
    4. "Much madness is divinest sense" by Emily Dickinson - Dickinson, thought by many to be an insane recluse, gives her own version of madness. As a prereading activitiy, have students write a paragraph on what it means to be "mad."
    5. "Birches" by Robert Frost - Frost glorifies youth with his symbolic portrayal of birches. Brainstorm a list of things students do that older people don't (keep it clean).
    6. "Death be not Proud" by John Donne - Donne ponders death in one of his more famous sonnets. This makes a good poem for analysis and annotation.
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    For a complete semester standards based curriculum guide, follow the link.