Classroom Lesson Plan: Getting
Started With Poetry
A large selection of poetry collections
Copies of "Last Touch"
for each student
Copies of Poetry Response
Chart for each student
Class sets of additional poems selected by teacher (see
the Teacher Tool "Creating
Poetry Lessons" for directions on assembling appropriate
sets for your students)
Copies of "Teaching Book
Buddies" for each student
Jonathan Holden's lesson plan is also available as a PDF
file. See Materials Needed, below, for links to student
activity sheets related to the lesson.
Teacher: Jonathan Holden, Nathan Hale Elementary School,
Grade Level: Fourth
Listen to, read, and enjoy a large variety of poems.
Mr. Holden's class reflects the general demographics of Nathan
Hale Elementary. The majority of the students are African
American; there are several Hispanic students and one Caucasian.
The group has widely differentiated skills and abilities,
and Mr. Holden notes that there are many resilient children
overcoming great obstacles in the class as well.
In this lesson, Mr. Holden introduces his students to the
pleasures of poetry. His primary goal is to help them develop
a love of reading and poetry in particular while developing
the comprehension and critical-thinking skills they need
to remain engaged readers.
As he helps them get started with poetry, Mr. Holden emphasizes
the oral nature of the form and focuses his initial lessons
on sound (rhythm and rhyme) surprising language. He chooses
poems that are readily accessible to all his students and
ones that present experiences to which they can relate personally.
By asking them to write poems themselves, Mr. Holden introduces
students to the poetic craft from the inside out. Not only
do they have the opportunity to play a bit with language
as they express their own experiences, but as readers they
become more sensitive to such language play in the works
of others. Asking students to share what they are learning
with younger students in the semi-formal setting of a Book
Buddy meeting helps Mr. Holden's students solidify their
learning and develop confidence in themselves as readers.
Use language effectively to create knowledge, make meaning,
challenge thinking, and expand their literary envisionments.
Respond to what they have heard through informal writing.
Discuss poetic language and form.
Experiment with writing their own poems, modeled on those
they have heard and read.
Share what they are learning about poems with Book Buddies
in a younger class.
Expected Products From Lesson:
Informal response writing to a variety of poems.
A number of original poems based on poems students have
heard and read, including poems that are direct imitations
of published poems. (See "Imitating
Poetic Forms" in Teacher Tools for directions for this
A publication of revised poems from each student.
A lesson, planned and implemented, for teaching younger
Book Buddies about poetry.
Instructional Strategies Implemented:
Multiple poetic read-alouds
Modeling reading poems with expression
Modeling thinking about effective use of sound (rhythm
and rhyme), effective language, and the pleasures of poetic
Modeling responses to poems-"What I like," "What I don't
like," "Puzzles," and "Connections."
Student discussion of their responses in small groups and
in full-class meetings.
Teaching elements of poetic form: use of white space, line
breaks, titles as integral to body of poem, repetition, use
of sound, etc.)
Individual and small-group coaching.
Modeling poetic revision.
Demonstrating methods and criteria for publication.
Collaborative Structure of Class:
In Mr. Holden's room, the bookshelves are jammed with literature
appropriate to a range of reading levels and on many topics,
and students are urged to self-select books above and beyond
the texts assigned for instruction. His students sit at tables
in groups of four. Each student has a plastic crate holding
his or her books, folders, and other supplies. A round table
to the side of the room provides a staging area for Mr. Holden
to meet with individuals or with small reading groups. At
the front of the room is a carpeted area where the class
gathers for class meetings. Often they return to their individual
tables to respond to the literature, in writing, in discussion
with their tablemates, or with a combination of writing and
Teacher reads and models response to the poem "Last Touch."
Teacher discusses poem with class, reviewing information
in poem to clarify meaning.
Teacher reviews guidelines for a good discussion, reminding
students that personal connections are often key to good
Teacher charts response structure on board. (See "Structuring
Literary Responses" in Teacher Tools for help.)
Students return to small groups with copies of "Last Touch."
Individually they spend time charting their personal responses
to thee poem.
Students share and discuss responses in small groups while
teacher circulates, coaching and supporting discussions.
Students return to the rug for whole-class reflection on
Teacher facilitates discussion: "How is a chart like this
helpful to you? How can a chart help you understand difficult
parts of a poem?"
Teacher models concept of a poetry slam, using Elizabeth
Swados's Hey You! C'Mere: A Poetry Slam.
Students use randomly selected topics to create instantly
improvised "slam" poems that emphasize rhythm and sound.
Students share and enjoy their poems in both small groups
and in a full-class gathering.
Note: the following components of the lesson are not seen
on the video, but are part of Mr. Holden's overall plan.
With a new poem, teacher and students repeat the processes
of oral reading and discussion.
Teacher models ways to develop questions by asking, "Who?,"
Where?," "What?," "When?," "Why?," and "How?" and to use
those questions to understand the poem.
In small groups, students read and discuss another poem
using the questions for support as they work to develop a
strong mental image of the poem's content.
They use evidence from the poem to support their answers
to their tablemates' questions.
They participate in a whole-class discussion on the process.
They discuss what they have learned about poetry so far,
and how they might share some of that with their Book Buddies.
Follow-Up or Culminating Activities:
Students will read and understand a short poem and respond
to it for homework.
Students will write and revise their own poems, eventually
selecting several for publication.
Students will plan and execute a short lesson for their
Book Buddies, sharing what they have learned about poetry.
(See "Teaching Book Buddies"
Sample: Teaching Book Buddies" for examples of how
Mr. Holden's students responded to this assignment.)
Students may be assessed on a daily basis through:
Participation in large- and small-group discussions.
Written responses to poetry.
The following activities might receive holistic or scaled
evaluation (see Assessment and Evaluation:
Some Useful Principles for a detailed explanation of
holistic and scaled evaluation).
Revised poems. See "Student
Samples: Revised Poems" for some samples of the
work produced by Mr. Holden's students.
Lesson plan for Book Buddy sharing.