In this unit plan from veteran teacher Kechia Williams, students read poems on change and growth and contemplate the idea of belonging, while learning the distinguishing features of poetry.
- Understand and appreciate poetry
- Understand the following literary terms: form, stanza, lines, free verse
- Demonstrate the ability to make connections between a text read independently and his or her prior knowledge, other texts, and the world
- Demonstrate the ability to draw conclusions and make inferences
- Demonstrate the ability to express and explain ideas orally with fluency and confidence
- "Change" from Changes: A Child's First Poetry Collection by Charlotte Zolotow or a poem of your choice
- Poetry Evaluation Questions printable
- Computer and printer
- Transparency and overhead projector or computer projector
- Writing paper
- Choose a poem for students to read and analyze. I recommend "Change" Charlotte Zolotow by (published in her book Changes: A Child's First Poetry Collection). Make sure the poem you choose contains the aspects of poetry and form that you want to teach during this lesson.
- Make a copy of the poem for each student.
- Make a transparency of the poem or load it on your computer and set up the projector.
- Make a class set of the Poetry Evaluation Questions printable.
- Optional: Make a handout of the following poetic terms (along with any other terms you want to teach in this lesson), then print a class set for students to refer to as they read and discuss the poem.
- form: the way a poem looks; the arrangement of the words on a page
- lines: literal lines of text in a poem; may or may not be sentences
- stanza: lines arranged in a group within a poem
- free verse: a poetic structure that sounds like conversation; a poem without a formal structure
Step 1: Ask students to think about a favorite poem or a favorite song they have recently read or heard. Have them describe what makes that poem or song memorable.
Step 2: Introduce the poetic term form by asking the students if they have ever noticed the shape of a poem. The way a poem looks, the arrangement of the words on a page, is form.
Step 3: Tell students that poems are made up of lines, which may or may not be sentences. Explain to the students that when lines are arranged in groups, each group is called a stanza.
Step 4: Explain to students that a poem's form can help readers understand its meanings. Some poems have a formal structure, while others sound more like conversation (these are called free verse poems).
Step 5: Have students read an excerpt from Charlotte Zolotow's "Change" or the poem you chose. Allow students to turn to a partner and discuss the form of the poem, referring to the numbers of lines and stanzas.
Step 6: Have students read the entire poem.
Step 7: Distribute the Poetry Evaluation Questions printable. Have students individually evaluate the poem using the questions.
Step 8: Read the poem aloud and have students share their responses to the questions. Pose these additional questions to facilitate further discussion:
- Are the seasons seen as things that change or things that stay the same?
- Does the speaker feel that life has changed?
- How do you know?
Step 9: Continue the discussion by asking students the following questions:
- What is change?
- What types of things change?
- Does change promote growth? If so, how? If not, why?
Supporting All Learners
Provide students with hard copies of the poem and project the poem with a transparency or projector. Allow students time to read the poem multiple times on their own silently and out loud. Read the poem out loud with the class.
- Ask students to write a short response or a poem about the following question: How have you changed this school year? Think about how you were when you first entered this classroom and think about how you are now.
- Have students respond to the following quotation from "The Yellow House on the Corner" by Rita Dove, an American poet:
You start out with one thing, end
up with another, and nothing's
like it used to be, not even the future.
- Have students write a paragraph or complete a graphic organizer about the following topic: Think about a change in your life. How did it help you grow?
- Discuss different poetic forms with students, such as limerick, sonnet, haiku, etc.
Invite students to ask their parents and family members the following questions:
- How important do you think it is to belong?
- Do you think it is better to "go with the flow" or to make your presence known?
Have students share their family members' answers during a class discussion the next day.