Grade: Middle
Subject: Literature

#253. Introducing Poetry

Literature, level: Middle
Posted Sun Mar 17 07:33:46 PST 2002 by Brad Donaldson (
North Albany Senior High School, Albany, Western Australia
Materials Required: pen, paper
Activity Time: About one hour
Concepts Taught: Poetic Language and Techniques

1.Students rule up a page into 3 columns; Column 1 labelled: TITLE; Column 2 labelled: POEM?; Column 3 labelled: WHY IS IT/IS IT NOT A POEM?

2. Teacher reads half a dozen or more short passages to class (some poems, some not). In your selection, choose some examples that clearly sound like the way students expect poems to sound, some poems that don't sound much like poems at all, and some examples of prose that sound like poetry! At conclusion of each reading, allow time for students to write down the title (given by teacher) in the first column; YES or NO in the second column, depending on whether they think it was a poem; in the third column a brief, one sentence explanation of why they thought the passage was, or was not, poetry.

3. Students then form into small groups to share, compare and justify their choices. Usually makes for some very lively debate and discussion about what makes a poem, a poem!

4. Each group must, by consensus, eventually arrive at a decision and explanation on each passage in the selection. A spokesperson for each group then reports to the whole class and further discussion/debate ensues.

I have always found this to be a very lively and enjoyable way to introduce poetry appreciation to junior high school students. Sometimes the discussions can become quite heated, too, but it's great to see the kids arguing and involved in an aspect of literature that they don't usually think too much about at all! You'll even hear them mentioning terms like "rhythm", "imagery", "rhyme", "stanza", "emotions", "free verse" etc - very rewarding!