How might you work together to organise the teaching/learning of poetry (a difficult area for some teachers)?

JeanC suggests: your considerations might include those below. Add your own comments and questions and useful resources. Remember to preface your contributions by your name and to click on SAVE and logout afterwards so that others can edit.

What is ‘poetry’? What ‘counts’ as poetry?
Add some definitions and explain how you could discuss these with students in the middle school in order to engage them and set the scene at a global level for further development of skills and understandings by specific studies within a defined range of poems.
  • Jean thinks poetry is important because it is the one form of text that students encounter that cannot be skimmed over. It really has to be absorbed word for word with a focus on soundscapes, imaginative response and consideration of each segment's intellectual/emotional quality. Every word and even every syllable counts towards the cadence (metre), rhythm (which doesnt need to be regular) and rhyming ( which can be internal and half-rhyme, assonance and echoes or even discordance). This is also why it is such a challenge to restless and inattentive students. They really need to pause and listen and think to be able to tune in, which is a kind of self-discipline. This is also why teachers often become anxious about teaching poetry, which is a pity because poetry is such a rich literary form and it can be intensely engaging and enriching to language development and emotional/social development more broadly.
  • See some of Jean's suggestions for approaches on the separate page Poetry activities for students, which is a page where you can also post your ideas and lesson plans.‍ She also suggests that you think very laterally, as for example suggested by an interview on ABC Classics radio 23rd June 2013 with Richard Tognetti about the links between music, film and surfing as an art form (//Music of Surfica//). This interview was rich in poetic references and strange ideas for poetry, images and sound combinations and talks about the process of imaginative creation.Well worth a listen to inspire you!
  • Jean also wants you to consider whether Poetry Slams are worthwhile, since these seem to be a very popular and powerful form of art performance at the moment for young people.This Poetry Slam is a performance by Omar Musa, a Malaysian-Australian rapper and poet from Queanbeyan, ACT. Search YouTube for other examples, such as this one that shows how a Poetry Slam program called Gobal Writes works with children in disadvantaged schools. Recitation of poetry is competitions is very popular in ESL classes and International Schools overseas, and this is just one live performance of a poem called All My Great Excuses byKenn Nesbitt that may be appealing to Year 7-9. Your own students could see if they can do it better?

  • Cindy Says: Poetry is something that many students and teachers find daunting and overwhelming; I believe this is because poetry is such a broad term that covers a broad range of learning. I think that if teachers are confident with the different forms of poetry, the correct terms and are able to demonstrate poetry to the students in a confident and exciting way, the students’ experiences with poetry can be a successful one. To ensure this happens teachers firstly need a good understanding themselves. Ask yourself the question, would you be confident teaching something you know little about? I know poetry is an area of concern to me, as I have no idea about the terminology used or the different forms of poetry, the meaning behind the words and the different structures. To help students learn poetry I feel that I need to gain a better understanding of these areas, to do this I have looked at the following site: An example from this site is below"

  • What is the structure of a cinquain?
A cinquain consists of 5 unrhymed lines.
Each line has a set number of **syllables** see below:
Line 1 – 2 syllables
Line 2 – 4 Syllables
Line 3 – 6 Syllables
Line 4 – 8 syllables
Line 5 – 2 Syllables

An example of a cinquain poem

My mum
Is so caring
She is always helpful
She is so beautiful and kind
Love you.
This site outlines numerous poetry types and if you click into the different types it outlines the structure and gives an example of a poem that fits in this category. I hope you find it as useful as I have.

Choosing texts to work with

You might also want to suggest interesting poetry anthologies on this page, or make a new page for that?

  • Erica Jolley, who is herself a well-known local poet, suggests you look at Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the Twentieth Century in Poetry by Peter Forbes (Editor) and this review comes from Amazon Books website:
  • The 20th century has been one of great turbulence, profound shifts in sensibility, and enormous changes in lifestyle. As this anthology brilliantly demonstrates, the poetry of the last hundred years has been both a mirror and a gloss to the age. Drawing on poetry written in English and in translation, Peter Forbes' aim has been to capture this century's flavor "with something like the tang of newsreel and the zest of popular song". There are 39 sections, which run the gamut of moods: from Omens (Brodsky, Hardy, Kipling) to The Jazz Age (Mayakovsky, Eliot, Hughes), from The Holocaust (Auden, Rumens, Levi) to The Sixties (Dylan, Lennon, McCartney), from The Arts (Stevens, Prevert, Yevtushenko) to Love and Sex (Larkin, Adcock, Gunn). As ambitious, various, and energetic as its subject, Scanning the Century offers both history and poetry and poetry in one artful and illuminating volume.. There is a focus on the poetry of sport among other more unusual topics and the poems are of high quality, unlike much of the print-unpublished poetry on the web.

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Jean C presents this text published by Macmillan Education AU (2006), a popular anthology used in schools
with Yrs 10-12. Jean has compiled a list of poems with page numbers from this text that you may find useful with younger students, as they are not too difficult in structure or language and engaging and quite positive but still provoke depth of thinking in terms of themes such as Sustainable Futures, People/Relationships, The Wonder of Biodiversity, Writing about Writing Poetry. The titles may also lead you to online versions if the anthology is not available in your school. *Annotations to each title will be added later
  • Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Henry (our relationship with Nature) p39
  • We are going… by Oodgeroo Noonuccal (indigenous people, personal dignity, industrialised society cultural genocide) p68
  • Municipal Gum by Oodgeroo Noonuccal (indigenous people, personal dignity, industrialised society cultural genocide) p69
  • Mushrooms by Sylvia Plath (Natural world, growth, sinister forces) p72
  • Monologue of an Actress p101
  • Opening the Cage p114
  • Poetry p115
  • Poem Technology p118
  • To Minnie Mouse p173
  • Going by Bruce Dawe (family life, dealing with death) p188
  • Don’t call me Lad (identity, adolescence, independence, relationships with parents) p196
  • Australia p199
  • XX1 Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams (meditation on the significance of simple objects, words representing ‘still life’ art) p219
  • The Diver p222
  • Zoo: Bats p240
  • Season’s Finished p293
  • Telephone Conversation (racism, irony) p300
  • Little Red Riding Hood p312
  • Diving into the Wreck p332
  • Abby R says: The study of poetry is usually an English topic which the majority of students dislike or struggle with due to the often tedious language and sometimes unusual format structure. Over their schooling years students will be exposed to the works of William Shakespeare, William Blake and Sylvia Plath to name a few, yet they fail to appreciate these works of art due to confusion about how the language of poetry works and what poetic techniques are integrated. In order to teach poetry in a way that will engage students and foster an understanding of the language, teachers should consider using song lyrics as a starting point for a unit on poetry. Every student enjoys listening to music and even though the genre or style will vary between individuals, all song lyrics can be classified as a type of poetry. One prime example of a lesson plan which integrates song lyrics in a poetry course is listed below and uses the popular Katy Perry song ‘Firework’ to introduce students to poetic techniques. Here the teacher has broken down the song into sections and leaves room for the students to write down the poetic devices that they observe in the lyrics. After completing this exercise with other song lyrics, students will feel more comfortable engaging with poetry and will continue to identify many of the same poetic devices that they uncovered when analysing the song lyrics.

Potential Assessment Tasks integrating poetry and song lyrics:
  • The teacher can print off the lyrics of a particular song (the task will be easier if you choose a relatively well known song) and can cut out each line individually and place them all in one envelope. Students can then be split into small groups of 3-4 people and they will be told that their task is to reassemble the poem in their envelope in the correct order. As students work through the exercise you can have some music on in the background and eventually play the song that they are completing the exercise on and watch their faces as they discover the connection.
  • Students are asked to select a song (must preview their song with the teacher to gain approval) and they can use the lyrics to identify poetic devices. Students can then present this information in an oral presentation to the class or by using PowerPoint. Students should also play their song to the class prior to their presentation.
  • Link for the Katy Perry Firework Lesson Plan activity:

LaurenB suggests
Poetry is:
  • “A literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature”[1]
  • “Poetry can be defined as a genre by saying that it is different from other main literary genres, fiction and drama. A second definition-based on features of language-distinguishes between the way poetry uses language and so-called ‘ordinary’ uses of language. A third definition-this time on formal lines- would differentiate poetry from prose on the basis that it is arranged differently on the page.”[2]
  • It is difficult to define what exactly poetry is as throughout time various individuals have concluded their own definitions and ways of explaining poetry’s uniqueness. One of the greatest miscommunications, where poetry is concerned, is classifying it as prose. Although “prose may have a rhythm, but without the marked regularity and integral importance in poetry”[3] -Therefore some of the most crucial elements of poetry are its expression of emotional states, its utilisation of distinguishing, characteristic styles and rhythm and it is usually crafted in lines.

[1] Oxford English Dictionary. Date Accessed 8/03/2013
[2] Furnis,T, & Bath,M. ((1996) Reading Poetry. Prentice Hall/Harvester Weatsheaf,Great Britain. Page 3.
[3] Murfin,R, & Ray,S,M. (2009) The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Third Edition. Bedford/St.Martin’s, New York. Page 390

LaurenB suggests some useful links:
  • I found this link which takes you to a Northern Territory Government Department of Employment, Education and Training site.
  • This site I found really useful as it contains a list of some poetic devices, some poetic forms and poetic terminology. Not only does it include these poetic devices it also breaks them apart and looks at how you could teach some of the different forms of poetry. It explores how to connect to poetry and also has some useful tips on how to plan for teaching poetry.These eighty-six pages are defiantly a very interesting read and I can see how helpful it will be to my future teaching. This resource is aimed at Primary-Middle schooling years and for each area at the top of the page will define what year level it is targeted for. Even though some of the content is aimed at primary schooling years I still believe that it can be useful to gain an understanding on some key principals.
  • I also have found this page which describes a step by step plan for a lesson which is on musical poetry.
    This site runs through the objectives, set-up, materials, directions and even has a home extension activity.
  • This is another link to a powerpoint on how teachers can teach poetry
    This link includes more question oriented assessments. It looks at pre-reading activities, writing activities, grammar activities and role play activities.

‍‍‍‍‍What knowledge and understandings should students develop?

What approaches and content would support this at each year level?‍‍‍‍‍

Nicole Flaherty suggests: 'Dead Poet's Society' (1989) as a way of incorporating film into poetry studies

Poetry can be a gruelling and difficult topic for middle school students, so finding a way to engage them with poetry from lesson one is essential. When I think of poetry, I think of the inspiring 1989 movie ‘Dead Poet’s Society’. Students love the use of technology in the classroom and showing film excerpts at the beginning of a lesson helps to get them interested in the topic. ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ shows themes of love, betrayal, loss, fear and curiosity. When beginning a lesson on poetry, I would show one of the first scenes of the movie:
In this scene, English teacher John Keating begins a lesson on poetry with a lesson on life. He makes students laugh and tests their curiosity. In a later scene while discussing some famous poets and their poems, John Keating uses a range of vocal expressions to read the poetry to his class and encourages them to see poetry from a different point of view:
The excerpt below focuses on the idea of conformity and uses Robert Frost’s famous poem ‘The Road Less Travelled’.
While watching these excerpts, students learn to view poetry in a different light. It demonstrates ways to be different and encompasses creativity. It also gives teachers some ideas on ways in which they could teach poetry to a class without the traditional textbook or ‘sit down’ lesson. This movie would also be a great film study for students in years 9-12. Permission would have to be sought as it involves some death and violence – however is rated PG.

Sarah M suggests:

Like we discussed in class, a good starting when studying poetry is to look ‘what exactly is poetry’. How do we define poetry, and why is poetry important?
Below is an example of a detailed lesson plan that focuses on looking at just this. I think this will be a useful resource for all teachers when they are planning a unit of work around poetry for their english classes.
Example Lesson Plan: Poems about Poetry by Madeleine Fuchs Holzer, Ed.D
This unit is recommended for use with grades 9-12.


These lessons focus on poems about poetry itself:
Ars Poetica by Archibald MacLeish 
so you want to be a writer by Charles Bukowski
Poetry by Marianne Moore. What is poetry? Why is it important? The poets included in these lessons address these questions, as only they can, from their experience as poets. As you might suspect, Archibald MacLeish, Charles Bukowski, and Marianne Moore have different takes on the subject. We ask your students to learn from what these poets have written, debate the various perspectives, and create their own personal definitions. As a possible culminating activity, we ask students to write an Op Ed piece defending why they think poetry is important—whether they "dislike it," like Marianne Moore, or not!
Aligned with the Common Core Standards, these lessons address the three Literacy areas—Reading, Writing, and Speaking and Listening. They can be used at the beginning of a poetry unit, in a unit on persuasive writing, or in any other way conjured by your own imagination. To make sure you reach diverse learners, feel free to adapt any or all parts of these lessons to your students’ learning styles.
Studying the Poems
Students will:
  1. Understand and synthesize multiple perspectives to develop a definition of poetry
  2. Understand and synthesize multiple perspectives on why poetry is important
  3. Write an argumentative essay
  4. Defend their interpretations with evidence
  5. Understand the importance of strong imagery in writing
Whole Class Warm-up: What is poetry?
  • Ask students quickly to write their own definition of poetry in their journals or on a sheet of paper.
  • Whip around: Teacher starts: Poetry is…then goes around the room asking students to add something to form a class definition. Students can repeat what others have said, or add new thoughts.
  • If a student is having a problem, she can say "help and skip." At that point you may give her an example of two poems (one rhyming one not) you have selected for this purpose from the collection. (Click the following link to access)
  • Return to this student after all others are finished for her contribution.
  • While the students are going around the room, you should keep a list of the key words/ideas they generate on the board for future reference.

Small Group Work:
  • Divide your class into groups of no more than four students each
  • Ask each group to come up with a tableau (a still portrait with no words) to illustrate what they think are common subjects for a poem.

1. A vivid or graphic description: The movie was a tableau of a soldier's life.
2. A striking incidental scene, as of a picturesque group of people:).
3. An interlude during a scene when all the performers on stage freeze in position and then
resume action as before.
4. A tableau vivant.
Click here for further explanation of a tableau

• Give them 10-15 minutes to decide what their tableau would look like and practice getting into their still poses
• Depending on the length of your class, and the number of small groups you have created, you can either ask:

  • One or two groups to present their tableaux to the class
  • Half the groups to present to the other half of the class and switch, or
  • Each group to present their tableau to the rest of the class
  • • When you ask a group to present, ask the others to watch closely. Count down to the tableau—3,2,1 hold. Have them stay in pose for a few minutes, then relax.
  • Ask the observers the following questions:
  • What did you notice in the tableau?
  • What positions were people in? High? Low? Far apart? Together? Touching?
  • What are they doing? Why do you say this?
  • How does it make you feel? Why do you say this?
  • On the board, record the key ideas, feelings and evidence that come out of this conversation.

Collaborative Reading:
This reading activity focuses on the poems as a group in order for the students to grapple with the multiple perspectives on poetry presented.
  • Ask your students to get back in small groups. (You may or may not want them to stay in their groups from the previous activity based on how well they functioned and what more they could learn from working together on reading.)
  • Give each group a copy of one of the three poems
  • Ask each group to pick a recorder/reporter, and a facilitator who will make sure each person in the group speaks
  • The facilitator asks
          • One person to read the poem out loud to the group
          • Another person to read the poem out loud
          • What jumps out at you in the poem?
          • What does the poet think is important in poetry?
          • What is not important?
          • What images does the poet use to make his/her point? Give examples.
          • How do these images add to your understanding? How do they make you feel?
          • How does the poet feel about poetry? How do you know?
  • The recorder/reporter takes notes on what the group says and checks back with group members to make sure her notes accurately represent the conversation

After Reading the Poems:
We suggest three activities here. You can choose to do one, a couple, or all three, depending on your goals for your students. Nonetheless, we recommend you conduct the first whole class discussion, and, if you choose to do more, conduct the others in whatever order works best for you.

Whole class discussion:
To develop a definition of poetry.
To develop an understanding of the importance of strong images in writing.
Make sure all students have copies of all three poems. Ask each recorder/reporter to answer the following questions:
  • Who is your poet?
  • What does your poet think is important in poetry?
  • What is not important?
  • What images does your poet use to make his/her point? Give examples.
  • How do these images add to your understanding?
  • How do they make you feel?
  • How does the exercise we did with tableaux relate to this discussion?
  • What is the relationship between a physical tableau and an image in a poem?

Facilitate a discussion that develops a shared set of understandings about each poem and the poems as a group. After reading these poems, how would your class define poetry? How does the use of images contribute to the points the poets want to make? What makes an image strong? How might the students use strong images in their own writing?

Poets Debate:
Goal: To synthesize multiple perspectives. To develop skills of argumentation, speaking and listening.
• Divide your class into three groups.
• One group will represent Archibald MacLeish ("A poem should not mean / But be"), one Marianne Moore ("one discovers in / it after all, a place for the genuine"), and the third Charles Bukowski ("it will do it by / itself").
• Each group will construct a well-developed argument to represent the ideas of their poet on the following questions: What is poetry? Why is it important? What do you need to know to write poetry?
• Follow the rules you usually use for having debates in your class.

Writing Activity
Goal:‍‍‍‍‍ To understand the structure of an OpEd piece.‍‍‍‍‍ To write a persuasive essay on the importance of poetry.
Link to definition of ‘Oped’[[]]
  • Give your students a model of what you think is a great OpEd piece.
• Have them read the piece, then write in their journals what they think are the key features of this kind of writing.
• Ask them to turn and talk to the person next to them about the key features.
• Conduct whole class discussion on features of an OpEd.
• Ask your students to write an OpEd talking about why poetry is important. They should use evidence from the three poems read earlier, as well as any other sources you may want to provide.
• Ask them to have their partner (from the turn and talk) critique their piece. Remind them to start with positive comments about the piece and then offer suggestions for improvement.
• Publish the OpEds on the school's web site or in another appropriate way with a title suggested by students.

Vocabulary Words
Ask your students to list words in the poems they do not understand.
These might include: Palpable,Mute,Medallions,Casement,

Kurt R suggests:

rap in curriculum.pdf
rap in curriculum.pdf
rap in curriculum.pdf

Faye Blanch & Gus Worby Article- “The Silences Waiting: Young Nunga males, curriculum and rap”.
This article extensively covers reasons for rap to be integrated in a curriculum for young Indigenous males. Although, the article is reasoning that rap be integrated in the curriculum, it has awakened the thought of how to motivate students in areas of disinterest. Poetry and its content, is an area which I believe I have weaknesses and find myself striving to be engaged with its materials. Understanding that I find it hard to be motivated, has allowed me to understand that not all students are likely to engage with the materials presented in poetry. The article is a starting point for understanding how to engage specific students with the materials taught in English. Rap is a way to instil engagement in Indigenous youth, but it is also a stepping block in helping them achieve learning outcomes.

In the Australian Curriculum, the English strand has many individual learning outcomes. I will study some of the outcomes prescribed for middle years (6-10), and relate it back to how rap can help students in general achieve these goals.
  • The Year 6 curriculum outcome ACELA1515- “Understand that different social and geographical dialects or accents are used in Australia in addition to Standard Australian English.” This outcome has been taken from the Language strand and the activity will be related back to this outcome.
    • The activity and assessment task would be for students to construct rap lyrics that incorporate their cultural backgrounds and understandings. It is essential that students use correct literary techniques in constructing their lyrics and give reasons for inclusion of specific content. The lyrics once finished, could be displayed around the classroom to allow other students to read and understand how other cultures influence Standard Australian English.
    • The previous assessment piece could be used to further develop students’ understanding of techniques used in poetry. The teacher may introduce song lyrics to demonstrate structure, techniques and voice that are used in creating the lyrics. Then compare the lyrics with pieces of poetry and have students analyse the similar and different techniques being used in the texts. The techniques that could be focused on include repetition, rhyme, onomatopoeia, imagery, personification, simile, and metaphor. They could also interpret how songwriters and poets both use structure to make their pieces more influential and impacting. Finally, students could compare the types of emotions they feel from reading each text and use it to understand why the piece is being written.
  • Another learning outcome can be taken from under the Literature strand in the Year 8 English curriculum. ACELT1632- “Create literary texts that draw upon text structures and language features of other texts for particular purposes and effects.” ACELT1768- “Experiment with particular language features drawn from different types of texts, including combinations of language and visual choices to create new texts.”
    • The learning task will again relate to rap. In the activity, students are to develop either a music video or play, using their own written rap lyrics to guide them. This activity may be done in pairs or groups of three. The aim of the assessment is to create a visual demonstration, using the language features of different forms of literature. In this case it would be best to identify with the language features of poetry. This activity is aimed at being interactive and to motivate students’ creativity, while trying to engage students with materials presented in poetry.
It is important that we engage students with the materials and curriculum we present. I’ve used rap as an example, of trying to engage Indigenous youth in the learning outcomes associated with poetry. I see teaching as an opportunity at engaging students and allowing them to discover knowledge and abilities that they haven’t thought possible.
What techniques as an English Teacher could you use to help engage students and motivate them to achieve their learning potential? Feel free to comment, as it will help me develop as a teacher towards engaging and motivating students in my teaching practices.

Keywords for defining poetry from Friday 9am group

different formations
hidden beauties
freedom of expression
liberation from convention
special/coded language
open to interpretation/translation
double meanings

  • How might we achieve a coherent scope and sequence in poetry?

  • How much time should be spent on poetry?

  • What are the most engaging and constructive assessment tasks for poetry?

  • How will focus points within the Australian Curriculum/ IBMYP be addressed (eg Indigenous and Asia perspectives)?

Cody Says:
Poetry is often used to express an idea, emotion, image or to tell a story. Poetry is also made up of different elements, some that may or may not be used in each of them.Here are some basic elements to keep in mind when working with poetry.
- Tittle- Imagery- Plot- Diction- Rhythm- Metre- Repetition- Rhyme- Art
One of my favourite things to do when I visit schools is to hold a "poetry race." I'm sure your future students will enjoy this fun--and easy--poetry activity as much as I do. Whether you do this activity as a competition or simply for fun, your students will die laughing as they become totally unglued while trying to recite this tongue-twister of a poem.
  • How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
    If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
    He would chuck, he would, as much as he could,
    And chuck as much as a woodchuck would
    If a woodchuck could chuck wood.
  • Scoring:
    40 seconds and over: Too slow. Your grandparents could say the poem faster.
    30 to 40 seconds: Not bad. You're probably a faster talker than the President.
    20 to 30 seconds: Pretty good. You've been gifted with a fast pair of lips.
    15 to 20 seconds: Excellent. You can out talk anyone around.
    14 seconds or less: You are a tongue tying champion!

  • A word to the wise: the more often your students practice reading this poem out loud, the faster, and smoother, they'll be able to read it.
  • Here's one more tip: tell them to take about three deep breaths before they start reading. They might be able to read the whole poem on a single breath of air.
    OK, Are they ready? Get set. Go try it again!
  • A Poem Is A Little Path
A poem is a little path That leads you through the trees.
It takes you to the cliffs and shores, To anywhere you please.
Follow it and trust your way With mind and heart as one,
And when the journey's over, You'll find you've just begun.

  • Another way to get children involved is for them to act out poetry. I found this one on

[[#x-My Noisy Brother from (n.d.). poetrytheaterdetail. [online] Retrieved from: [Accessed: 4 Apr 2013]]]My Noisy Brother from (n.d.). poetrytheaterdetail//. [online] Retrieved from: [Accessed: 4 Apr 2013]

Narrator: My brother’s such a noisy kid, when he eats soup he slurps.
Brother: (Slurps)
Narrator: When he drinks milk he gargles.And after meals he burps.
Brother:(Pretends to burp)
Narrator: He cracks his knuckles when he’s bored.
Brother:(Cracks knuckles)
Narrator: He whistles when he walks.
Brother: (Whistles)
Narrator: He snaps his fingers when he sings,
Brother: (Snaps his fingers while singing) La la la!
Narrator: and when he’s mad he squawks.
Brother (angrily): Squawk!
Narrator: At night my brother snores so loud it sounds just like a riot.
Brother: (Snores loudly)
Narrator: Even when he sleeps
my noisy brother isn’t quiet.

Mat Philps suggests:
An idea that a mentor teacher I observed under used in his class was utilizing a resource found on Youtube called the "My Favourite Poem Project". The Poem Project is made up of young people reciting their favourite poems, as well as providing a description of the person reciting it and why the poem is important to the reader. The channel description on Youtube describes it as:
Americans reciting and commenting on poems poets such as Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Julia de Burgos, Langston Hughes, Sone-no Yoshitada.”
The class that the project was used in was considered to be filled with “at risk” students, meaning that the reliability between the people speaking in the Youtube videos and the students was paramount to its effectiveness. One of the poems studied and the one that provoked the strongest reaction from the students was a reading of “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks:

We Real Cool -
The Pool Players
Seven at the Golden Shovel
We real cool. We
Left School. We
Lurk late. We
Strike Straight. We
Sing Sin. We
Thin Gin. We
Jazz June. We
Die Soon.

The poetry project was used as a foundation for discussion of poetic techniques amongst the students. The students were shown a video from the project, given a copy of the poem’s text and then asked to identify different poetic techniques that they could find within it (similes, alliteration, metaphors etc.). Following on from this, the students were asked to find their own poems or song lyrics and demonstrate their knowledge of poetic techniques by analysing their chosen piece. The freedom of choice given in choosing their own poem or song peaked the student’s interests in the topic which was important given many students own difficulties in finding poetry to be an accessible area of study.
Although the work wasn’t assessed, it proved to be a strong starting point for these students to examine and understand poetic techniques and theory.

The My Favourite Poem project can be found at -

Addition From Reegan Mastrangelo
I have located a quality resource for the teaching of poetry,the BBC "Off By Heart" initiative which also contains some competitions and rewards for a high level of student/teacher participation and performance. The website to find out about the initiative is here and i have also attached the teaching notes included in the program.


The main focus of the program is to develop children's ability to not only read and understand poetry, but also to recite poetry in a way which will effectively capture the interest of others. The teachers notes provide excellent advice and excersises on how to advance student's skills in:
  • Memorising and understanding poems
  • Dealing with nerves when addressing an audience
  • Working in groups
  • Vocal exercises to help speaking

Additionally, the program outlines ways in which parents and the community can be included in the learning of students, which I believe is an important element often overlooked.
While this program occurred in 2009 in another country, i still believe it could be considered a useful resource for all future teachers in the field of poetry. The set list of poems is extremely relevant, with poets such as Dahl, Wordsworth and Blake all on the set list. Also, the exercises outlined in the teachers notes will help students of all ages when it comes to reading, understanding and performing poetry.

Brayden Chambers says... here are a few peoms and poem activities used by by prac mentor teacher
Poetry activities.doc
Poetry activities.doc
Poetry activities.doc
poems for Y8 .doc
poems for Y8 .doc
poems for Y8 .doc


Tom Keough Says - Here is just a unit outline that my mentor teacher gave me. I think it will be pretty helpful to those teaching poetry its aimed at year 9 but it could easily be adapted to higher or lower grades.
1 Writing List Poems.doc
1 Writing List Poems.doc
1 Writing List Poems.doc

At my placement school they are very proactive with poetry and go to a lot of effort to ensure there is a lot of interest and enthusiasm around poetry.
They look at making poems that are:
- relative
- contemporary
- funny
- interesting

One part of their poetry unit is animal poems, this is an example to get the students engaged and enjoying poetry.
by Norman MacCaig

Frogs sit more solid
Than anything sits.
In mid–leap they are
Parachutists falling
In a free fall. They die on roads
With arms across their chests and
Heads high.
I love frogs that sit
Like Buddha, that fall without
Parachutes, that die
Like Italian tenors.
Above all, I love them because,
Pursued in water, they never
Panic so much that they fail
To make stylish triangles
With their ballet dancer’s

[[#x-My Noisy Brother from (n.d.). poetrytheaterdetail//. [online] Retrieved from: [Accessed: 4 Apr 2013]-William Palmer says:]]William Palmer says:

A useful strategy that I have been shown for approaching poetry actually came to my attention during Flinders University's English topic, 'ENGL1101 - Approaches to Literature'. It was supplied in the form of a handout, and is called 'Phiddian's Universal Critical Elixir'. I have been unable to find any online representations or referencing information, so I will transcribe the handout below:

Phiddian's Universal Critical Elixir

To be taken (not too seriously) in the event of flagging inspiration in the face of poems.

Many people seem to have trouble with poetry, and to treat poems as malicious riddles to which only certified poetry lovers can answer. This view is unfortunate. You just have to read poetry a bit more slowly and carefully than you do prose to gain access to its riches. If in difficulty, try asking these questions:

1. What is the poem about?
  • Summarise its meaning in a few words.

2. What is the poem's point-of-view?
  • Who speaks? Is it the poet speaking for her or himself, or some other sort of voice?
  • What is the scene?
  • Who is addressed?
  • What sort of audience does the poem assume?

3. What is the poem's form?
  • What is the rhyme-scheme?
  • What is the formal structure?
  • How does form relate to content and tone?

4. What is the poem's context?
  • When and where was it written?
  • By whom was it written?
  • Does it have any particular personal and/or historical resonances?
  • Does the poem belong to a literary genre or movement?

5. What is the nature of the poem's language?
  • What is the tone (or register) of the language?
  • Is language used in figurative ways?
  • What symbolism and imagery is used?
  • Are there any ambiguities, puns, and conceits that need to be understood?
6. What is the poem's purpose?
  • Does it seek to convince you of something?
  • What are the poem's thematic concerns? (e.g. love, death, God, alienation, the workers' revolution, nature)

7. What is the poem's effect?
  • How good do you think the poem is?
  • How does it relate to your life and concerns?

NOTE: This is not meant to be a definitive list of the aspects of poetry. It is most certainly not meant to be used as an equation by which you can mechanically solve poems, nor should you expect to be able to answer all the questions for every poem you meet. In particular, some of the questions about form and context will require specialised knowledge which you will not always have time to gain.

It is a provisional and introductory guide to some of the more serviceable questions. It is targeted at poetry, but it should also be of some help for novels and plays as well.

This handout seems particularly helpful when introducing people to poetry when they have not had much prior experience with it. Again, I am not sure of who to credit this to, but I may seek to use this or a similar guide to approaching poetry in the Middle School years, as it seems a logical and well-structured way of getting to the nuts and bolts of what a poem is.

Mitchell Taylor Suggests:
Poetry is quite hard to define. Its purpose and form vary so much. Poetry is always in verse form (stanzas) and doesn’t always follow the rules of grammar and punctuation. Often poetry is designed to evoke emotion about chosen topics. Poetry is usually very descriptive and is able to convey emotions quite easily. Poetry has a kind of rhythm, which is most apparent when reading poetry aloud.
To effectively read poetry aloud, we must understand what the poem is about and what emotion the author wanted to convey about his/her particular topic. Next, we must try to figure out the rhythm of the poem. In rhyming poems this is very straightforward, but in free verse poems it is not always apparent. Looking for stanzas, full stops and commas are effective ways of figuring out the rhythm of the poem.Pace and tone are also very important in reading poetry aloud. Pace refers to the speed at which the poem is read. The topic addressed in the poem will help you decide the pace you will use. Tone refers to the emotional feeling behind your spoken words. If your tone doesn’t match the words you’re saying it can change the entire meaning of your communication. For example, sarcasm is a good example of how tone can change the meaning of the words being spoken.I personally find poetry and engaging and dynamic form of language. For students to understand structure, form, conventions and correct language a lot of explicit and implicit teaching and scaffolding needs to occur. The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll I believe is a great hook to capture the imagination and minds of students. It is engaging, dynamic, unique, creative and will leave students talking about the poem after the lesson has finished. As well as this, the poem contains an abundance of foundational and vital poetic conventions, these include:
Simile: Is a comparison between two things using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’. For example, the boy ran like the wind.Metaphor: A metaphor is like a simile but the comparison suggests that one thing is another (rather than like the other). For example, the teacher was an ogre.Personification: Is a writing technique that gives human qualities to objects. For example, the plastic bag danced and swayed as the breeze lifted it higher and higher into the air.Free Verse: Is a form of poetry that doesn’t follow any rules of rhyme or organisation. Free Verse poetry is often very descriptive and the writer must focus on selecting words that vividly descriptive the items/events in the poem. Lots of similes and metaphors should be used. Personification also lends itself to this form of poetry.Alliteration: Is a poetic writing technique that involves the repetition of consonants. Generally the repeated sound occurs at the beginning of the words. For example, slippery, slimy silver snakes slithered slowly southward.Assonance: Is a poetic writing technique that involves the repetition of vowel sounds. It is not concerned with rhyming but involves a continued vowel sound. For example, icy eyes opened wide.Rhyming Scheme: This refers to the pattern of rhyming in poems. It describes which lines rhyme with which.Limerick: A form of poetry that utilises a particular rhyming scheme ( a a b b a). They are funny poems that often have a punch line.
A glossary of terms is critical for students. This is because students are grappling with a completely new style of language, and they maybe able to listen and understand the poem, however, it could be suggested that students are not listening and comprehending. This is because students do not understand to correct terminology as to what they are actually listening to. A start on a poetic glossary of terms is:
ALLITERATION: The repetition of consonant sounds, especially at the beginning of words.
ANTONYM: words that are opposite in meaning
ASSONANCE: The repetition of similar vowel sounds in a sentence or line of poetry.
BLANK VERSE: A line of poetry or prose in unrhymed iambic pentameter.
CONNOTATION: The personal or emotional associations called up by a word that goes beyond its dictionary meaning.
DENOTATION: The dictionary meaning of a word.
FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE: A form of language use in which writers and speakers mean something other than the literal meaning of their words. (E.g. hyperbole, metaphor, and simile)
FORM: the arrangement, manner or method used to convey the content, such as free verse, couplet, limerick, haiku...
FREE VERSE: Poetry without a regular pattern of meter or rhyme.
HOMONYM: Two or more distinct words with the same pronunciation and spelling but with different meanings
HOMOPHONE: two or more words with the same pronunciation but with different meanings and spellings.
HYPERBOLE: an exaggeration of the truth
IMAGE: A concrete representation of a sense impression, a feeling, or an idea.
IMAGERY: Figurative language used to create particular mental images
METAPHOR: an association of two completely different objects as being the same thing
METER: The measured pattern of rhythmic accents in poems.
RHYME: The matching of final vowel or consonant sounds in two or more words.
RHYTHM: The recurrence of accent or stress in lines of verse.
SETTING: The time and place of a literary work that establishes its context.
SIMILE: A figure of speech invoking a comparison between unlike things using "like," "as," or "as though."
STRUCTURE: The design or form of a literary work.
SYMBOL: An object or action in a literary work that means more than itself, that stands for something beyond itself.
SYNONYM: One of two or more words that have the same or nearly the same meanings.
TONE: The implied attitude of a writer (or speaker) toward the subject and characters of a work.
( Quizlet, 2013. Accessed online at )

An effective way in which I personally believe will hook students onto poetry and in particular The Jabberwocky, is to simply read it aloud. The terminology, wording and formatting will has students interested and left asking questions as to what a “Jubjub bird” and a “Bandersnatch” is.

JABBERWOCKY by Lewis Carroll
(From Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)
Twas brillig, and the slithy toes
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy roves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
(Lewis Carroll, Jabberwock. 2013. Accessed online at

As well as reading the poem out to students, I personally believe ICT is an effective way to communicate to students. I found this YouTube clip on the Muppets reading out the poem of the Jabberwocky, all in the correct language and terminology. I believe that year 7’s would still relate to this clip, as it is funny and engaging whilst still communicating the Jabberwocky effectively.

LucyT suggests turning poetry into drama. I was thinking about the opportunities that are available for many other subjects to perform or have a presentation night that makes the subject fun and something to be shared with family and friends. But it seems that English lacks this outside of the classroom fun, which i believe makes subjects like Music and Drama more appealing to students. It was in this regard that i started thinking about ways to move English outside the classroom and i came across this website: which has a section called Poetry Theatre. Below is an example of a poem written by Linda Knaus called “Bad Hair Day”. The website has broken the poem up into parts so that it can be easily performed by students. Perhaps not a bad idea for getting students to write their own poetry theatre that they can then work in groups to perform for parents and friends or perhaps even to primary school students. I think that this just brings a new life and energy to poetry, especially since most students complain about how boring poetry can be!

Original Poem + Characters = Poetry Theatre



I looked in the mirror with shock and with dread
to discover two antlers had sprung from my head.

The kids in my classwere complaining all day,

“We can’t see the board with your horns in the way!”

The teacher was cross. He asked, “What’s your excuse?”

I said, “Well, I think I have used too much mousse.”

Lucy T says:
I read about one teacher's experience of teaching poetry (on and agree with her on several levels.
  • Although in poetry and literature criticism it is very important for students to understand the terms and ways to break down a text it is also very important that we teach them to love literature in some way. As Piper Lynch (2011), says we all speak and remember in poetry and if we put some trust in our students they will show that without being taught allusion, metaphor or simile they are more than capable of creating them.
  • Most students that we meet will not end up studying poetry in depth or need to be able to critically analyse poetry within their world however one of the greatest skills that they can learn from poetry and will need in life is subtext. This will appear everywhere for our students: at work, in conversations, relationships, movies and the list goes on. If we treat poetry with our students as a game or puzzle to be solved (which they already have the answer for – for they live and have experiences that can inform the meaning of the poem) it can lose its intense fear and become more of a joy than a list of features to be found and correct ideas to be identified.
  • Students love to write poems; they love to write songs. They feel the rhythm, the beating of its heart, and its passion. They do not feel its simile, metaphor, allusion, or alliteration.
  • I honestly encourage you all to read about this experience of “The Perfect Poetry Lesson” and about the school environment from which this came from and to think about what practices you will incorporate into your classroom to stop it from being stale. I particularly love this student’s explanation of his teacher doing the same as he had asked from the class “with his brow furrowed and his pencil in his mouth”. And as I have written in another post I love that this student’s teacher had the students read out their poetry in front of family and friends at the music performance. Appreciating and sharing the literature and the authors of the future! (find the article @ (

Bridget Roberts Says:

Suitable Themes for Middle School Poetry:
Themes in middle school poetry lessons must be engaging and relatable. While many poetry areas are important to study, such as Plath or war poetry, in the initial stages students must be ‘hooked in’ by their interest in the theme. For this reason I believe it is important to allow the students independence to choose what poem they would like to study rather than having a set text for everyone. Educators should encourage middle school students to look at current issues they may be facing like bullying, self-esteem, social media, drugs & alcohol, a struggle with identity (‘fitting in’) or international issues like sustainability, poverty (examine the idea of ‘first world problems’), peace or war.

Poems and Poets:
A clever strategy to work out contemporary poets and poems who are well reviewed is to look at poetry competitions and awards and then research the winners poems.
Here are some starting points for where to find poetry award winners:

Queensland Poetry Festival-
Australian Government Literary Arts Awards-
Poetry Contestant Shortlist-
Judith Wright Emerging Poet Prize-

Planning Engaging Learning Experiences:

As a starting point for students in their studies of poetry it is paramount that they have an understanding of different poetic devices, structures and techniques to help them in their understanding and enjoyment of the pieces they will read. Here are some resources which offer ideas on how to teach and explore concepts including rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, consonance and onomatopoeia.
Poetic Devices Example Lesson-
Poetic Devices Illustration Activity-
As previously mentioned on the Wiki, Slam Poetry is a great way of engaging students in poetry as it can be paralleled to the emergence of rap in popular culture.
Engage students by watching Australian and International Slam poets and have students note the poetic techniques they observe. Some good ones are:

Omar Musa-
Luke Lesson-
Katie Makkai-

An engaging learning activity could involve getting students to prepare a sample of work for a mini Slam Poetry competition in class, for a younger grade or parents. Students who excel or are very passionate about poetry should be encouraged to register for the competition. -

Renee Moon Says:

Poetry is language used in a particular way. It can , but doesn’t not always , involve rhyme, rhythm and metre. It is a way of sharing experiences, of telling stories or expressing feelings or ideas. When planning for the teaching and learning of writing poetry I found a great framework from an Australian education website ( see link).

Poetry uses a variety of literacy conventions to suggest connections between things. Poetry can be linked with many topics the following example is a possible teaching/ learning idea to connect poetry with history.

PoeticDevices - TargetsUpperPrimary


Learners will need to know about and understand the backg round of this song,eg bush colonialism,before they fully understand the message.

Possible teaching/learning ideas

  • ListentotheBalladTheWildColonialBoy.

  • Read the words of The Wild Colonial Boy.Explain words that learners may not know. Have learners identify different features of this song, eg repeated words or phrase rhyming words,rhythm,refrains,number of beats in everyline.

The Wild Colonial Boy

There was a Wild Colonial BoyJack Doolan was hiss name,
Of poor but honest parent she was born in Castlemaine.
He washis father's only hope his mother's pride and joy,
And dearly did his parents love their Wild Colonial Boy.

He was but sixteen years of age when he left his father's home,
And through Australia's sunny clime a bush ranger did roam.
He robbed the wealthy squatters,and their stocks he did destroy,
A terror to the rich man was the Wild Colonial Boy.

One day as he was riding the mountains side along,
A-listening to the little birds,their pleasant laughing song,Three
mountedt roopers met him: Kelly,Davis and Fitzroy.And swore
that they would capture him,the Wild Colonial Boy.

'Surrender now,Jack Doolan,you see there's three to one,
Surrender now,Jack Doolan,you daring highway man!'He
drew a pistol from his belt and waved that little toy,
'I'll fight,but I won'ts urrender,'said the Wild Colonial Boy.

He fired at trooper Kelly,and brought him to the ground,
And in return from Davis received amortal wound.
All shattered through the jaws he lay,stil lfiring at Fitzroy,
And that's the way they captured him,the Wild ColonialBoy.

Some teaching points include
  • Talk about ideas and feelings with in the song.
    • Who is telling the story?
    • Who is the Wild Colonial Boy?
    • Where is the story set?
    • Find Castle maine on a map.
    • What is the Wild Colonial Boy doing?
    • How does he feel?
    • Why does he feel that way?
    • What are Kelly,Davis and Fitzroy doing?
    • How do theyf eel?
    • What happened in the end?

Keeping up with today’s changing society

As well as reading the poems out to students I believe it is great to include technology. With technology continuing to grow some it is important as teachers to keep up. I found some fantastic poetry Apps in regards to teaching poetry. The following Apps are just some of many I found just by using my iPhone.

Ellen Whitton Offers:

Poetic animation
After examining a great deal of suggestions on this post (they have been exceptionally helpful) I found that there was one contribution that I could make.

The cat piano.jpg
The cat piano.jpg

The Cat Piano

I found this animation a couple of years ago and every now and then it resurfaces in my memory. Last year, whilst on placement, I met a year 8 student who loved Edgar Allen Poe and Nick Cave. I gave him the name of this animation and he seemed to think I was the most brilliant person he’d ever met after that.

I was amazed at the discussion he had with me about it. While I’d only enjoyed the animation and story, he’d taken an in depth look into the origins of the ideas regarding the mythical ‘Cat Piano’.

I understand that many students find poetry daunting and I thought that this would be particularly useful as an introductory piece. Not only does it provide a great story, it also gives students an aural and visual presentation to work with.

Suggested activity: Poetic Bingo.

This activity could only really be used if students have already been introduced to key poetic devices. A great way to introduce them to these techniques would be through the ‘Flashcard’ game on Quizlet -

Poetic Bingo.docx
Poetic Bingo.docx
Poetic Bingo.docx

I remember doing something similar when I was in year 8 or 9, with an episode of Futurama. This task probably isn’t suitable for absolute beginners, but it could be a perfect refresher for older students that are about to begin a more intense poetry unit.

KennethN Writes

Twitter Poetry

I was just watching an interview with a poet who writes under the pseudonym Katie Keys. The interesting thing about her poetry is that it is entirely written and published on Twitter, @tinylittlepoems. This got me thinking about how this be used to engage students, particularly year 8 and 9 students who may find poetry inaccessible. The style is of course brief, but also has its own syntax.

Before discussing ways in which this could be used as a class poetry exercise, obviously we need to talk about Twitter in schools. It’s safe assume that many schools have barred Twitter use on their network and to ask students to use it on their phones may contradict school policy, but more importantly there are equity issues in assuming publicly that all students have a smart phone. Depending on the school you may be able to assume that students have access to a computer and the internet at home, but there is even a risk that parents may not approve the use of social media. Unfortunately the further away you get from using Twitter as your medium the less authentic and less engaging the task becomes. To use any school based network defeats the idea of having your work broadcast, but also these networks are rarely as polished and user friendly as social media websites, detracting from the experience. With all this in mind, I’ll continue to expand on my ideas on this task.

One of the things that Katie Keys noted in the interview was that the poems didn’t need to be that good. The project of hers was to get her creating something every day. There is a disjunction between the idea of creating something arbitrary and in the moment that is going to be on the internet probably for as long as the internet will exist, but this is one of the conventions of the genre. It is important to remind students of safe, intelligent internet practices, indeed this task may be a good vehicle for subtly introducing that concept.

As a hook I found this clip of William Shatner reading Sarah Palin’s Tweets as poetry. Granted the whole thing is a little dated, but depending on the class you could provide the background and they may find it amusing while getting the point.

From what I can gather the syntax of Twitter is that the end of every line is signified with a ‘/’, as you would do when quoting a poem. The poem is ended with a ‘/ /’, and the lines work as they would with most other forms of poetry.

For example:

Roses red,/

violets blue,/

you get the idea./

Poetry!/ / #aspecificaccountsetupfortheassignment

I suggest that teachers try it for themselves. I have, and it takes a while to get use to the 140 character limit and to convey an idea. To demonstrate the idea the task to the students is also important, be it on a Smartboard or being able to show the students a body of work on Twitter. The teacher can create an account for this excise that student can #hashtag. provides some great ideas for creating Twitter poetry, including ‘#5prompt’ which is where a you provide one word and the students then writes five line about it. Also you can go from free verse poetry, to haiku. also has the idea of #Very Short Story and #SixWord poetry.


Messieh, N. (2013) Twiterature – The Art of Literature on Twitter. Retrieved from (2013) Welcome to Retrieved from

Tnmv2 (2009, July 30) William Shatner reads Sarah Palin Twitter Poetry [video file] Video posted to

Skye Foster says:
Some teachers have discussed using rap in the classroom when teaching poetry. I find this a great idea as all students will get involved and realise that the things they love in this day and age, still relate to what famous poets wrote. This will keep them engaged and interested in the lesson. It also ties in with Indigenous study, as music is a strong foundation in indigenous culture and many of their dreamtimes and songs express a lot of emotion and moral. Songs such as Macklemore’s Same Love express hot topics that are full of emotion. For example:

"Same Love"

(with Ryan Lewis)

(feat. Mary Lambert)

When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay,

'Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight.

I told my mom, tears rushing down my face

She's like "Ben you've loved girls since before pre-k, trippin' "

Yeah, I guess she had a point, didn't she?

Bunch of stereotypes all in my head.

I remember doing the math like, "Yeah, I'm good at little league"

A preconceived idea of what it all meant

For those that liked the same sex

Had the characteristics

The right wing conservatives think it's a decision

And you can be cured with some treatment and religion

Man-made rewiring of a predisposition

Playing God, aw nah here we go

America the brave still fears what we don't know

And God loves all his children, is somehow forgotten

But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago

I don't know

Students could even go one step further and look at film clips and how they are used to further emphasise a song. I found a clip that has Macklemore discuss his song Same Love, and why he wrote it. This would be helpful to students, and also those who are opposed to the songs meaning.

Rachael Jeisman says...
Poetry activity:
I found this resource on a free teaching resource website (TES Australia) that has thousands of ideas for units, activities, lessons etc. and would be a great resource for all of you to link into. The resources that I found address War poetry - I believe that War Poetry can be one of the most beneficial ways that students can engage with the literary techniques of poetry due to their rich content as well as historical context. These resources engage students in a fun way, encouraging a competitive environment within groups so as to help the 'team' work towards a goal rather than individual students being embarrassed by lack of knowledge. Students are given out A3 sheets of paper with the poems on them (i.e. each table has a copy of each poem) and the teacher has a timer which is set for 2 mins. Students are also handed out the resource sheet that lists the instructions - to find examples of as many of the literary terms listed as possible within those 2 mins and highlight and label them. This allows students who already have a good grasp on the literary techniques of poetry to help those (and in essence 'teach' those) who are not yet as proficient about not only the evidence of literary techniques but also how to identify them.

This activity could be adapted for any year level from 7-10 and could also be used for any genre of poetry. It would be extremely beneficial for students in learning about how to identify literary techniques as it makes it engaging for students whilst also allowing them to share knowledge in a student-centred environment. Discussion that would ensue out of this activity would also be beneficial for students who need clarification - again, adding depth to their knowledge. Out of this task, students will gain knowledge about literary techniques as well as then being able to go on and write their own poetry in a more informed way due to their new knowledge set.

See these resources here:

TES Australia Secondary Team. (2013). War Poetry Lesson - Resources - TES Australia. Retrieved from

Nicholas Bourgeois adds:

Expanding on the question of ‘what is poetry?’ or ‘is this poetry?’ a great example to use is the work of E.E Cummings. Cummings was famous for his avant-garde poetry, however he also wrote quite traditional poetry too (particularly sonnets). His poem l(a is (whilst being thrown into the deep end...) is a great stepping stone into his works as it can be interpreted in so many different ways. This poem is particularly good for engaging students as they are given the opportunity to really dig into the poem and find what meaning is more prevalent for them. When I was first faced with this particular poem I was presented with the question: Is this poetry? The class gave a unanimous ‘no’ however after further coaxing we analysed the jumble of letters and brackets. Utilising different literacies and our collaborative mind, we eventually found a reading that we were happy with.

E. E. Cummings
By reading the bracketed text first, followed by the excluded text, we came to this sentence:

A leaf falls (on) loneliness.

From this reading, we began finding some themes of the poem. The most prevalent for our group was the number 1 and isolation/loneliness. For example:

The exclusion of loneliness from the leaf falling
A single leaf falling

Whilst the task of analysing this poem may require some more advanced thinking, I believe that students will be able to engage well with it since there are so many variables. Students may also have differing opinions and this will be cause for debate and justification of why the student thought this, and how they can justify it.

Nick Vlachos adds:

Poetry is an excellent starting point in the classroom for many enduring understandings about a wide range of texts outside poetry itself including literature, film and general verbal discourse. A unit in poetry extends students' knowledge about poetry itself and how to demonstrate poetic devices but also will naturally improve their reading, spelling, grammar and vocabulary. Importantly, poetry can teach us to understand the less visible meaning behind our words, which is evident in all of our daily interactions.

However, poetry in the classroom can potentially be daunting for students to engage with, not necessarily because of the evident complexities in the language of poetry, but because of its personal nature. By teaching poetry, and somewhat forcing a development in this area through it, a unit in poetry may also help students to become more confident in group interactions, particularly in the presentation of their potentially personal poetry (which could lead to great pride in their work).

Children's books (Dr. Seuess) could be useful at earlier year levels to give student a sense of rhyme, simile and metaphor that allow students to take meaning from simple words, while not being restricted to a meter.
"Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You"
"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose."

At a higher middle school level we could present more complex poetry techniques, many of which have been listed by Mitchell above.

Holding a poetry slam competition in the classroom, allowing students to give out scores for presented poems, could be a fun excercise. However, the biggest challenge I see is getting students to agree to present their poems.

Here is a great example of slam poetry, while dealing with many coming of age issues such as bullies, what do we do when we 'grow up' and living in society:

This is a brief rundown of what a lesson plan of poetry might look like:

Lucy T says:
Perhaps a good way of starting a unit on poetry might be showing parts of the movie or if time permits he last three years of John Keats life as a poet, writer and person during the time in which he lived.