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Lesson Plan

Is a Sentence a Poem?

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Is a Sentence a Poem?

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Minilesson
Estimated Time 50 minutes
Lesson Author

Haley Fishburn Moore

Hopkinsville, Kentucky


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Instruction & Activities


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • analyze a one-sentence poem to develop a working definition of poetry.

  • apply the working definition to their creative work.

  • justify critically assertions regarding their classification of their creative work.

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Instruction & Activities

  1. Have students view the image that you've chosen and write a sentence of less than 20 words describing the picture. You can have students choose which picture to describe or pass out pictures to the class, ensuring a wide range of difference is represented in the class. You may, of course, also use only one picture for the entire class.

  2. Students should set their sentences aside as you begin a discussion of poetry.

  3. Lead a class discussion that focuses on the following questions:

    • What is a poem?

    • What makes a poem a poem?

    • Does a poem have a certain look, length, feel, purpose?

    Compile students' responses on the board or on chart paper, so that they can return to the information later in the lesson.

  4. Have students compare their definitions with those in Wikipedia entry on the word poetry.

  5. Read the chosen one-sentence poem. Lead a class discussion that focuses on the following questions:

    • What are the poem-like qualities in this piece?

    • Is it a poem (take a vote if necessary)?

    • What makes it/ does not make it a poem?
    Encourage students to refer to the Wikipedia entry and their own notes on the board or chart paper.

  6. Using the Interactive Venn Diagram chart out students' observations about what makes a poem and what makes a sentence. Optionally, you can use the Venn Diagram to explore the features of the particular poem that you've chosen.

  7. Have students return to the sentence/poem that they wrote at the beginning of the session, and complete the A Sentence as a Poem handout, revising and formatting their sentences into a poems. Alternatively, this step can be completed as homework or a journal entry.

  8. If time allows, ask for volunteers to share their sentences/poems and reflections.

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  • Individual students can publish their sentence poems using the interactive Stapleless Book.

  • Collect the sentence poems and publish them as a special insert to the school newspaper or create a class chapbook for students by following the instructions at the Creating a Chapbook page. Sites which provide additional information on chapbooks are linked in the Resources section.

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As with any creative writing activity, assessment needs to be open-ended. Phrase comments as questions so as not to discourage students from future creative attempts. Instead of commenting, “This simile doesn’t really work,” write, “How could this simile work better in the poem?” or “Is there a simile that is even more specific and unique?” If you choose to grade the sentence poems, do so based on what students have learned about poetry. Did they include figurative language and descriptors? Did they justify themselves well when answering whether their sentence was a poem?

Another option is to have students individually write their definition of poem before beginning the activity, have them repeat the process after the activity, and grade the final definition, comparing it, of course, to their first definition. Did the student’s definition change? Was this for the better? Did the final definition include ideas discussed during the activity?

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