Lesson Plan One: Reading and Writing the Different Styles of Poetry.
Poetry styles range from culture to culture. Haiku, tanka, villanelle, quatrain, cinquain, diamante, triolet, limerick are just a few of the many poetry styles that are well known in the western world. The first step for this lesson plan is to create a handout on either a hard copy or electronically describing the different styles and the culture they originated in. For example, the villanelle is of French origin, while the haiku is of Japanese origin. For the next part of the lesson, locate at least two examples of each style of poetry. These can be from the same poet, such as two quatrain stanzas from Khayyam’s “The Rubaiyat.” Spend some time on the Internet or at the library seeking these examples and make copies to go with the vocabulary list of different styles. Should you choose to use hard copies to give to a number of students, place these in a lightweight binder for each student to read from. Teach two or three poetry styles a day, spending at least a half hour per style. On a blackboard or whiteboard write down the metric rhythm of each style. For example, a quatrain can be written as:
Once your students learn about each style, allow them to compose a poem of their own as part of their homework.
For the second part of this first lesson, introduce experimental poetry. Also refered to as avant garde poetry, experimental poetry has gained popularity in the past few decades. For many poets, avant garde is the easiest to compose since there are no set rules in this style, except that it be creative, integrating portions of other styles and even create a unique style that a poet may repeatedly use over and over again. Experimental poetry also includes visual or artistic means that can be created with colored pencils, paints, or even in a paint program like Photoshop. Show the students how to lightly pencil an outline of any object, then along that outline in ink, write a poem. Several different colored inks can be used, such as red, blue, green, and purple to attract the eye. Recommended websites for this lesson plan: Poetry Through the Ages, Poetry From the Heart, and Types of Poetry. This lesson plan is suitable for those between the ages of 8 and 18.
Lesson Plan Two: Biographies of Famous Poets
While everyone knows at least a handful of famous poets and one of their popular poems, a lesson in the biographies of famous poets can actually help the student of poetry understand the makeup of the poet and why certain poems by the poet are more well known than others are. For this plan, teach a brief biography of at least five famous poets from a western nation. Here are some suggestions:
England: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Burns, Rudyard Kipling, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Shakespeare.
American: Emily Dickenson, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sherman Alexie, Marilyn Hacker.
Canadian: Margaret Atwood, Pierre Labrie, Alice Major, Tom Marshall, Al Pittman.
French: Charles Baudelaire, Jean de la Fontaine, Victor Hugo, Anais Nin, Paul Verlaine.
German: Goethe, Bertolt Brecht, Hermann Hesse, Rainer Maria Rilke, Friedrich von Schiller.
Russian: Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Boris Pasternak, Alexander Pushkin, Anna Akhmatova, Joseph Brodsky.
Spanish: Federico Garcia Lorca, Antonio Machado, Lope de Vega, Jose Ortega Torres, Luisa Castro
After a brief biography is composed, assemble them into electronic or hard copies to teach the students. For each poet, one of their poems can be included for this lesson plan. There are many foreign poets whose works have been translated into English. Visit your local library for translations that cannot be found on the Internet. Some recommended websites for this lesson plan: Famous Poets, Canadian Poets, and Famous Poets and Poems. This lesson plan is suitable for those between the ages of 11 and 18.
Lesson Plan Three: Poetry For Children
There are some poets who have written poetry especially for children. Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, and Robert Burns have all written poetry suitable for children. One fun way to teach poetry to children is by genre. Fantasy, fairy, humor, adventure are just a few worth mentioning. A trip to the local library is helpful for this lesson plan. Some suggestions:
Adventure: Rudyard Kipling and Robert Browning. Some of their books: “Poetry for Young People” by Kipling and “Poetry for Young People” by Browning. Available through Amazon and Alibris.
Fairy: Christina Rossetti, Shakespeare, George Darley, Alfred Noyes. The best book for this is “The Magic Casement.” I still remember when I picked up my copy at a library book sale many years ago. Edited by Alfred Noyes and first published in 1906, this book contains some of the best poems in the realm of fairy and fantasy. The best part is this book is electronically available through Internet Archive.
Humor: “Daddy Fell Into the Pond” by Alfred Noyes, “Beautiful Soup” by Lewis Carroll, and “Gus the Theatre Cat” by T. S. Eliot are a few examples of humorous poems for children. These and more can be found at Children’s Poetry.
Make hard copies of the poems in a font size large enough for children to read easily, like Times New Roman size 14. Stick the poems in a colorful paper binder to use as a teaching tool and include a bibliography for reference. Allow your young students time to write a poem of their own for homework. Some recommended websites for this lesson plan: Rudyard Kipling Poems and The Children’s Poetry Archive. This lesson plan is suitable for those between the ages of 6 and 10.