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Lesson Plan

Using Classic Poetry to Challenge and Enrich Students' Writing

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Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 40-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Susan Ruckdeschel

Susan Ruckdeschel

New York, New York


International Literacy Association



From Theory to Practice



Through this series of lessons, students are introduced to classic works of poetry. They learn to interpret multiple perspectives while reading, analyzing, and discussing these works. After looking closely at and discussing each poem collectively, students work together to co-create an open-ended writing prompt or "link" to stimulate an authentic writing experience. This poetry writing allows them to "try on" or imitate a range of poetic styles and forms. It also guides them to develop their own voice, improve their writing skills, and deepen their understanding and appreciation of poetry.

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Certo, J.L. (2004). Cold plums and the old men in the water: Let children read and write "great" poetry. The Reading Teacher, 58(3), 266271.

Students are often provided with models of what teachers consider to be "great" works of poetry, but this can often bias them for or against a specific style or interpretation. In addition, providing specific writing prompts when teaching poetry can lead students down a particular path resulting in work that is limited in form and process.

When students are presented with the works of poets such as William Blake, John Milton, and Emily Dickinson, among others, they can read models of "great" poetry and use it to generate ideas for their own writing. Students develop their own voice, as they experiment with the meaning, style, form, and elements of the original poems.

In addition, in this lesson, the teacher and students cocreate a poetry writing prompt or "link" (as opposed to the teacher assigning one), which serves as an authentic prewriting activity. This involves the entire class brainstorming ideas for writing by examining the particular poem. These poetry prompts should be rich with choices and as open-ended as possible, connecting the poem to the student's own world. When creating links, teachers can also sneak in concepts such as rhyme, use of poetic devices, or other skills that are appropriate for the students' grade and ability levels. Once the link is created, it should not be used as a template assignment or a writing prompt to be followed exactly, but rather as a list of possibilities to help writers get started. This gives students the opportunity to explore meaning and their unique perspectives.

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