"What’s that noise?" I wondered. I looked out my classroom door and noticed numerous students busting their pencils against their foreheads. "Are you guys writing a poem?" I asked.
"Yes, we are writing a poem, sir," one replied. "It’s very frustrating. I wish one of you teachers had good writing poetry lesson plans and taught us about meter in poetry or structure in poetry." I found out who this young man’s English teacher was. it was Mr. Wantstoquit in room 229. I immediately marched to his room. As I entered, he was jamming Doritos into the roof of his mouth.
"I can’t take it anymore," he screamed. "I teach them about writing a poem and every single one has love and dove and trees and breeze. If only I had some writing poetry lesson plans or meter in poetry notes!"
"Well," I interrupted. "I happen to have some really good writing poetry lesson plans."
Understanding Meter in Poetry
The problem with novice poets is the absence of form, rhythm, or meter. Walt Whitman writes free verse out of brilliance. Students write free verse poems out of laziness and ignorance. We need to unignorize them by teaching them meter:
- Meter is the rhythmic pattern of a poem (Here’s a great explanation on rhytm and meter in poetry), the most common being blank verse or iambic pentameter (think Shakespeare), iambic tetrameter, and iambic trimeter.
- When teaching students about meter, it’s not necessary to identify the different feet or measurements (iambic, anapestic, dactylic, spondaic, trochaic). They should, however, identify stressed and unstressed syllables. You must model this for them; otherwise, their brains will drain out of their nose as their mouths, agape, suck in dragonflies, beetles, and termites.
- Regardless of the poem you choose, write it on the board and mark the stresses yourself.
- Make the connection between meter and meaning.
- Assign students to write a poem that models the meter of the poem on the board.
Form and Structure in Poetry
Another problem with student writing, be it poetry or prose, is a lack of structure. Because of poetry’s condensed nature, structure in poetry becomes extremely important. Teach the following about structure:
- Structure consists of stanza, form, rhyme scheme, and meter.
- A poem’s structure should contribute to the poem’s meaning.
Some questions to help students recognize the importance of structure include:
- What was the poet’s purpose in choosing this particular form?
- How does the meter affect the mood of the poem?
- Why does the poet choose this particular rhyme scheme.
- The best way to help students write poems with structure is to have them imitate structure. Most students have had practice with Haiku or Limericks. High school students should be able to write a sonnet, a ballad, or another set poetic form.
This post is part of the series: Writing Poetry Lesson Plans
- Introduction to Poetry: Narrative and Lyric Poetry Defined
- Writing Poetry Lesson Plans: Meter in Poetry
- Teaching Different Types of Poetry: Concrete & Dramatic
- Understanding Tone in Poetry
- Learn About Famous Poets at Poets.org