Lesson Plan on Poetry to Engage Reluctant Students

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Introduce and Engage Students with Poetry

Teaching poetry can allow creativity to abound in the classroom, and teachers can share some pretty cool authors with the students. However, some students will be reluctant and not allow themselves to appreciate poetry. Sometimes a poetry lesson can go terribly wrong. Try these ideas to start strong and win students over to the art of poetry or at least get them to appreciate a poet’s work.

Engaging Students with Poetry

When introducing poetry, teachers need to be prepared for the three types of students: “feet draggers”, “haters” and “poetry lovers.” You may actually end up with great writers and students who enjoy discussing it. However, I have yet to have a whole class of this type of student.

For the students who “drag their feet,” they usually do not understand it; however, they usually will do whatever you ask because they want to do well in your class. This lesson gives ideas to work with their favorite music and that will win over most of the “feet draggers.”

For the “whiners and/or haters”, they do not understand poetry, and they probably think it is “stupid.” The way to win over this crowd is to find their interests and pick some pretty cool poets with whom they can relate. Again, starting with music helps and starting with current poets or classic ones who write in language they can understand is a great beginning.

For the “poetry lovers” they many times have written pages and pages of really bad poetry that has a billion cliché phrases. Their poetry focuses on love or anger. If you take time to read their poetry, it is sad to say that some of them may need a trip to the guidance office, as poetry is a way for them to vent their feelings. They need to be pointed in the right direction of good poetry, which includes poetic devices and figurative language.

Introducing Poetry with Music and a Celebration

Poetry can be presented to the students as a celebration. To make it fun, teachers can have a poetry party. Snacks motivate students to do many things, and a couple bags of chips and juice boxes will make many students pick up a pen and write furiously.

To set the mood for the party, teachers can decorate the classroom with famous poets’ pictures and poetry. Favorite music of the students with great lyrics can be playing when students arrive. Prior to the party, ask students to bring in their favorite song lyrics. For students who bring in a copy of the lyrics, you can give them double the snacks or points, whatever will motivate your students.

Analyze Lyrics and Share Great Poets

If students do not know the poetry elements, poetic devices or terms used in the following questions, they may need a review before the party. The links provided give additional information so that the teacher can create a review before the party.

Analyze Song Lyric

As music is playing and snacks are being consumed, ask students to analyze their song lyric. If students forgot a lyric, have a few popular song lyrics available. Students should look at the structure of the lyric and the words used to write the answers to the following questions about their song lyric.

  • What type of stanzas did the author of the lyrics use? Did the writer use sextets, quatrains, couplets, etc?
  • What type of rhyme pattern or rhyme scheme did the author use?
  • What type of figurative language or poetic devices did the writer use?
  • What type of rhythm or meter is used in the lyric?
  • What is the lyric about?
  • What is the mood of the lyric or how does it make you feel?
  • What is the message or theme of the lyric?
  • What do you like best about the lyric?
  • What do you like least about the lyric?

After students have answered all of the questions, they can share a few of their answers about their favorite lyric. This may be saved for another day. It is great to have music playing softly in the background and to pop some popcorn for this activity. Students will be amazed at how “intelligent” they sound when they share their favorite lyric and to find that their favorite music is actually poetry.

Move on to the Poets

Hopefully at this point the feet draggers, haters and lovers can now at least appreciate poetry through their analysis activity. At this point, the teacher can now share some really cool poets with the students, such as Richard Cory or Robert Frost. The students may even be ready for some Renaissance poetry.

The key is to share that poetry is really cool, and they already like it and do not even know it. Starting with song lyrics will start off a poetry unit on a positive note and hopefully turn the haters and feet draggers into “poetry appreciators.”