New Approaches to Literature: Teaching Poetry as a Response to Literature

Page content

We had just finished reading Night by Elie Wiesel and I couldn’t wait to discuss it with my students. I assigned a paragraph to write, collected it, and began sharing with the class. After reading five shallow paragraphs showing no depth of understanding, I wept.

Students laughed. They threw pencils at me. One pierced my ear lobe, but I didn’t mind. I deserved punishment. I had let them down. I had failed to teach them how to respond to literature.

The principal walked by my room. She came back during lunch, fired me, and suggested I develop new approaches to literature. She gave me a “New Approaches To Literature: Teaching Poetry as a Response to Literature” lesson plan as severance pay. I’m still jobless, but you’re more than welcome to use my lesson plan.

Who-What-When-Where-Why Poetry

Teaching poetry doesn’t mean speaking with funny accents, growing long hair, and making no sense. Teaching poetry can be simple. With who-what-when-where-why-how poetry, students creatively summarize literary pieces.

Example: Of Mice and Men

George had no Choice

Lenny: big, fat, stupid lummox

Killed puppies, mice and Curley’s wife

He made the Great Depression even greater

In the Gabelan Mountains, near the river

George shot him before someone else did.


  1. Read a literary selection.
  2. Brainstorm answers to the who-what-when-where-why questions.
  3. Transform the answers into five poetic statements.
  4. Punctuate them properly.
  5. Create a title.

Acrostic Poetry

Use an acrostic to summarize plot:


Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore art thou Romeo?

Oh my goodness. What are you thinking?

My oh my. Look who’s killed Mercutio!

Ever fallen in love at first sight?

Oh my goodness, Romeo killed Tybalt

And has been banished

Now, what will Juliet do?

Dumb things.

Juliet’s desperate

Undoubtedly, Friar Lawrence can help.

Lo, Juliet’s dead!

I know she’s faking.

Even if Romeo doesn’t

Try something different, next time.


  1. Choose a title.
  2. Brainstorm words that start with each letter in the title.
  3. Make it fit. It can also be used to analyze characters, setting, or any other literary element.

For a complete semester standards based curriculum guide, follow the link.

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