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Writing Poetry About the Civil War: Lesson Plan

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 2/17/2014

The focus of this lesson is part of a series about reading and writing American Civil War-themed poetry. It can be an integrated lesson for the social studies and language arts teachers or a stand-alone writing lesson.

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    Goals: Students will write a poem that focuses on a Civil War theme, idea or setting.

    Materials needed: Civil War poetry.

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    Step 1

    Share poems with students. There are many interesting diaries that could be read as well.Civil War Poetry by Paul Negri 

    A few great online resources are as follows: Poetry and Music of the War Between the States, Civil War Poetry and The Lost Diaries of the American Civil War (includes songs, poems and short stories). There are many more resources available online and in print. Just search a comprehensive book resource such as Amazon online, or visit your local library.

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    Step 2

    Students need to choose a theme or topic for their poems. They could can come up with ideas on their own or choose an idea from the following list:

    • battle theme
    • relationship between a soldier and his girl back home
    • theme of conflict between North and South
    • soldiers and his family
    • a famous person: Grant, Lee, McClellan, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Sheridan, Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, Clara Barton, Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Henry Clay, Louisa May Alcott, John Brown, etc.
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    Step 3

    Direct students to write a poem.

    Brainstorm ideas for poem: Instruct students to choose a topic that relates to their short story.

    Choose a poem type. This is a basic list of poetry types; however, there are many more that students can use:

    • Haiku: A three-line poem. Line one has 5 syllables, line two has 7 syllables and line three has 5 syllables
    • Cinquian: A five line poem. Line one has 2 syllables, line two has 4 syllables, line three has 6 syllables, line four has 8 syllables and line 5 has two syllables
    • Acrostic: A poem that has the letters in a word to begin each line of the poem
    • Concrete poem: This poem is the shape of the poem
    • Free verse poem: No set pattern or rules
    • Rhyme poem: The middle or end words have a rhyme pattern
    • Shape poem: The poem is written in a shape that complements the poem
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    Step 4

    Write a final copy of the poem with illustration or decoration. This should be in pen or typed.

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    Assessing the Poem

    The final copy of the poem should be assessed with a rubric. The rubric criteria could include: historical relevance, correct poetry format, spelling and grammar.

    This is just the beginning of the Civil War Writing Activities Series. The poems should be shared with the class and become part of a multi-genre writing project