By studying song lyrics, students learn to identify six poetic devices: alliteration, metaphor, onomatopoeia, personification, rhyme, and simile.
- Grades: 9–12
- Unit Plan:
This lesson is intended to be an introduction to poetry and will focus on learning six poetic devices. Students will identify the poetic tools within music lyrics and then teach a specific tool using their favorite song.
- Identify six poetic devices: alliteration, metaphor, onomatopoeia, personification, rhyme, and simile.
- Determine the purpose of poetic devices as either emphasizing meaning or the sound of words.
- Respond to a journal entry.
- Transfer learning while becoming the “teacher” of an assigned poetic device.
- Poetic Devices (PDF)
- Writing journals
- CDs of any representative songs/CD player (optional)
Set Up and Prepare
- Copy the Poetic Devices printable for each student.
- Divide students into six groups and assign each group one of the poetic devices to study.
- Select a variety of songs that appropriately exemplify the six poetic devices being taught. Gather the lyrics to each song. If you wish to play the song for the students, have the song available. Helpful websites are lyrics.com or lyrics.astraweb.com. You may want to choose songs that you like, songs that your students’ prefer, or both. Print and copy each song’s lyrics for each group. If possible, provide multiple examples of each poetic device. A suggested list might be:
- Alliteration – Nursery Rhymes, ex. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
- Metaphor – Billy Joel’s You’re My Home
- Onomatopoeia – Any song that uses a word that sounds like the word it represents, ex. “Boom!” “Bang!”
- Personification – Paul Simon’s At the Zoo
- Rhyme – Joe Jackson’s Summer in the City
- Simile – Garth Brooks’ The River
- Write the following quote to be used as a journal prompt on the board:
"Poetry withers and dies out when it leaves music, or at least imagined music, too far behind it. Poets who are not interested in music are, or become, bad poets." (Ezra Pound - American Poet and Critic)
Step 1: As students enter the classroom, play any one of the songs that you will be teaching in this lesson to create interest.
Step 2: Once seated, instruct students to respond to the quote in their journals. Allow ample to free write.
Step 3: Generate a brief discussion about the quote, asking students to verbally respond. Make sure students understand the connection being made to poetry and music. Ask why they think Ezra Pound is making that connection.
Step 4: Inform students that they will be learning how similar music and poetry are by learning six poetic tools that both musicians and poets use to emphasize meaning and sound.
Step 5: Distribute the Poetic Devices printable. Review the terms and their definitions with the students. Discuss how the poet, musician, or author would use each device to play with sound or meaning within poems, songs, or other material.
Step 6: Divide the students into their groups. Inform them that they will become experts about their particular poetic device and how the musician uses it within the music. Then, they will each be responsible for finding their own examples of the poetic device in a song, poem, rhyme, or other written material of their choice.
Step 7: Distribute their poetic device to study and the example lyrics. Instruct them to chorally read the lyrics in their group and write examples on the poetic device printable in its appropriate section. They can highlight the examples on the lyric sheet as well.
Step 8: Circulate the room as groups are working, assisting with finding the examples and further explanation if needed. Encourage groups to review their favorite songs, poems, or other written material at home and find a good example of their assigned poetic device. Inform them that they will be given class time to discuss creative presentations as they will be the “teachers” of this tool.
Step 9: Allow groups appropriate time to creatively plan their presentation. If desired, encourage them to use pictures, dramatization, play the music, etc. Each student will be responsible for contributing his/her own example, but the group must decide how to collectively present or “teach” the class the concept of the assigned poetic device.
Step 10: During the presentations, instruct the “audience” to write down specific examples of the poetic tool on the Poetic Devices printable in the remaining sections.
Supporting All Learners
Peaking students’ interest with the study of their own music is a great way to build background and hook all learners.
- Continue the study of poetry by teaching this lesson once again, but using your favorite poems as examples instead of music lyrics.
- List the following words on the board: fear, courage, beauty, pain, and strength. Instruct students to write their own symbols, similes, metaphors, and other poetic devices based on these universal themes.
- Allow students to study the use of personification in the sonnets of William Shakespeare. Emphasize that Time, Love, and Death are the abstractions most frequently humanized. Have them compare Shakespeare's sonnets to the lyrics of their favorite pop artist. Then, have them journal a response to the following: "Do you find that similar abstractions are used today, or are there other elements more often given human qualities?"
The homework assignment for this lesson will have each student review their favorite songs, poems, or other forms of writing that will exemplify the assigned poetic device.
- Complete a journal prompt
- Complete Poetic Devices printable during presentation
- Teach a lesson about a specific poetic device with group
Did students correctly teach the devices? Did the other students understand the concept of the devices taught? What other types of writing can be used to exemplify poetic tools?
Evaluate the group’s performance as well as each student’s contribution.