Use Poetry to Teach Setting and Characterization

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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:

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.

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.

Click here for a complete standards based semester curriculum map with lesson plans and links.

This post is part of the series: Teaching Poetry

Teach poetry without speaking with a funny accent.

  1. Lesson Planning How to Introduce Poetry?
  2. New Approaches to Literature Lesson Plan: Responding with Poetry
  3. Short Story Lesson Plans: Teaching Short Stories with Poetry
  4. Lesson Plan: Teaching Setting and Characterization by Writing Poetry
  5. Lesson Plan: How to Analyze a Poem Using Annotations