Student writing poetry

Poetry Writing Lessons for Grade 8

Planning Guide

Creating Learner-Focused Schools

* Madison-Oneida BOCES- This document may not be reproduced in any form without the expressed written consent of the District Superintendent or his designee.

LU Title: Poetry and PerformanceAuthor(s): Beth Konkoski
Grade Level: 8School Address: County Route 10, Lisbon, NY 13658
Subject Area: EnglishSchool Phone/Fax: (315)393-4951


Poetry has a specific vocabulary when it is discussed and workshoppedWrite four poems from models, prompts and experiences in class
Posters, programs and invitations contain specific, essential informationRevise and edit a poem for inclusion in a class anthology
Image, theme and voice serve various purposes in poetryPeer tutor another student’s poem
Understand that free verse poetry does not rhymeUse techniques of self-evaluation to analyze own work
Poetry reflects ideas, thoughts and experiences of the poetDesign a poster, program or invitation for a community poetry reading
 Prepare a poem for a reading and read the poem before an audience at an 8th grade Coffeehouse reading


  • Poetry can be a vital, real part of everyone’s life. What place or importance does poetry have in my own life? Does poetry belong to everyone? How do I know? 
  • How does the life and experiences of a poet affect the poem he/she creates?


 Dead Poet Society Reading: a circle reading with candles where students bring in poems, their own or those of published poets, to share aloud with the class.

Connection to State Learning Standards

Content Area: English/Language Arts and Technology

Level: 8th grade

Benchmarks: Creating documents for a public performance. Hosting and taking part in a community poetry reading. Benchmarks: Writing poems.
Standard: 4: Language for Social Interaction. Standard: 2: Language for Literary Response and Expression.

Unit Theme:

Poetry and Performance

Standard: Technology 5 Standard:
Benchmarks: Creation of desktop publishing documents for a public event. Use of fonts, clip art and graphic design. Benchmarks:

Learning Experiences

Declarative Knowledge

What declarative knowledge should e in the process of acquiring & integrating? As a result of the unit, the student will know or understand…What experiences or activities will be used to help students acquire & integrate this knowledge?What strategies will be used to help students construct meaning, organize and/or store the knowledge?Describe what will be done.
1. Specific Poetry vocabulary2. Purpose of image, theme and voice in poetry3. Understand free verse4. Poetry reflects ideas, thoughts and experiences of a poet5. Proper information on a poster, program and invitation1. Web of poetry terms, writing definitions using a graphic organizer2. Use model poems to identify terms3. Reading poems, analyzing poems, writing their own poems4. Reading poems, analyzing their own poems5. Small group work: generate list of necessary information, create assigned poster, program or invitation1. Students will write poems which require them to understand the terms that have been defined2. Construct their own sense of the terms by using them in their own work3. Write poems in free verse, analyze poems of other students and poets to determine lack of rhyme and what makes the poem a poem despite the missing rhyme4. Studying Szymborska’s poem and reading a brief article about her life5. Organize ideas and choose only necessary information 1. In the days following the poetry terms, students will write poems which require them to use a working knowledge of terms such as stanza, image, simile, metaphor, theme and voice2. Write poems

Learning Experiences

Procedural Knowledge

What procedural knowledge will students be in the process of acquiring & integrating? As a result of this unit, students will be able to:What will be done to help students construct models, shape & internalize the knowledge?Describe what will be done.
1. Use images to create an “I am” poem2. Identify, analyze and compare images in various poems3. Write a poem with a specific theme4. Write a poem from visual prompts5. Analyze another poet for theme6. Use another poet’s ideas and themes as a prompt for their own poetry1. Using image knowledge, generate ideas about themselves in metaphor style. Ex: if I was a piece of furniture I would be…because… Each metaphor becomes a stanza in the poem.2. Use “Ornamental Sketch with Verbs” and “She Sweeps with Many Colored Brooms” to consider images in poems on the same topic.3. Read “First Lesson” “The Swimming Lesson” and “Learning to Bat”. Use these poems and class discussion to write a poem about learning something new.4. Use four art transparencies to generate writing, image dense, then use writings as a beginning to a poem based on one of the transparencies.5. Read Szymborska’s poems and a short bio of her life. Discuss themes by having each student write a statement of theme for each poem, then share as a large group.6. Use the themes from Szymborska’s poems to generate their own poem.See column to the left

Learning Experiences

Extending and Refining

What knowledge will students be extending and refining? Specifically, they will be extending and refining their understanding of…What reasoning process will they be using?Describe what will be done.
How poems create images and get themes across to the reader. ComparingClassifyingInductive ReasoningDeductive ReasoningError AnalysisAnalyzing PerspectivesConstructing SupportAbstractingOther: 1. Read poems aloud, two sunset poems students will discuss difference in language after listening to the poems and the class will discuss how the poems “see” the sunset. Then students answer questions about the two poems, leading to comparison questions and a short essay.2. Learning something new poems: students read three poems and complete a graphic organizer chart comparing the experiences of the three poems’ speakers.3. Szymborska’s poetry. Students will listen to poems read aloud and will attempt to write down themes. Then in small groups (Think, Pair, Share) students will analyze two poems again for theme and language use. Students will eventually write their own poem based on one of Szymborska’s poems.
Planning Guide Unit:


Key Questions:

What are the key elements, traits, or dimensions that will be evaluated?

Are the identified elements of equal importance or will they be weighed differently?

Element #1Element #2Element #3Element #4
ElementsScale CreativityAccuracyOrganizationClarity/appeal to reader
4Document uses very creative font, graphics, slogans and layoutAll necessary information is present; spelling and grammar are correctInformation very easy to read and understand; uncluttered layout, space used extremely wellLanguage and graphics state purpose clearly and draw a reader to the event
 3Document uses creative fonts, graphics, slogans and layoutAll necessary information is present; spelling and grammar are mostly correctInformation easy to read; layout generally clear, uncluttered and space used wellLanguage and graphics state purpose and are likely to draw a reader to the event
 2Document attempts to use creative fonts, graphics, slogans and layoutMost of the necessary information is present; document contains spelling and or grammar errorsInformation somewhat difficult to read; layout cluttered and disorganized, space used poorlyLanguage and graphics state purpose somewhat unclearly, may not attract readers to the event
1Document does not use creative fonts, graphics slogans and layout Document lacks much significant information; frequent spelling and grammar errorsInformation very difficult to read; layout seems to have no sense of organizationLanguage and graphics are unclear or do not state purpose; unlikely to draw readers to the event.

 NOTE: Rubric or other performance assessment instruments may be used.

Have You Considered These Yet?

Learn to Learn Skills:

 At the end of the unit students do a Poetry Reflection document which asks them to think about what they liked, didn’t like, what their attitude might be about poetry in the future, etc. In a class discussion we consider what a person needs to do to “get better” at poetry.

Assessment Modifications:

 I am not sure I like the way I assess this unit. I would like to have students do a self-assessment of their work, which is somewhat in place with checklists for the big projects.

As far as modifying the assessment for students of various abilities, poetry is really available to all students. I find that many of my “strugglers” really come alive with poetry, so it is no problem to assess all of the students the same way.

Unit Schedule/Time Plan:

 It took about 4 weeks to do all aspects of this unit. However, my 8th graders had already written a lot of poetry this year so the exercises were really fast and they are comfortable with taking a list of criteria home and writing a poem overnight. If poetry is just being introduced, I would suggest a lot of class time for the writing so students can receive teacher feedback and bounce ideas off of each other a lot. It takes a lot of trust on everyone’s part to make this unit work.

Written Overview:

 Students receive 1-4 points for effort and attitude during the poetry unit in each of the following areas:

_____Writing the four poems

_____Desktop publishing assignment

_____Group poster on Poetry’s Value/Impact

_____Reading at the Coffeehouse

_____Poetry Reflection Document

This rubric is also shared with the students and they are asked to fill it out for themselves. On the poetry reflection document they are asked to comment on the scores they gave themselves and to reflect on their level of satisfaction with the effort they put forth during this unit.

This unit is an opportunity to use the ELA Standard for Social Interaction in a meaningful way. Teachers can generate poems in any way they choose, although the unit does contain some specific exercises that I have used.

The exercises in the unit give students particular work with poetic voice, theme and use of strong sensory images. Most exercises use prompts and published poems as models. All poems are written in free verse.

Once students have poems, a class anthology and community poetry reading can result. For the reading students will create the advertising documents-poster, program and invitation using Clarisworks. Students peer review the poem they will read, include it in the class anthology and show up at the Coffeehouse Poetry Reading to share their work for friends and family. The reading site should be done with real atmosphere, posters about poetry, music, candles, food, coffee, etc.

Students are responsible for greeting guests, introducing their guests to the teacher, reading their poem and behaving as good audience members while others read. It is an astonishing experience to watch 8th grade students overcome their awkwardness and fear to read their own work.