|Grades||3 – 5|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Four 30- to 45-minute sessions|
San Diego, California
Experiencing the language of great poets provides a rich learning context for students, giving them access to the best examples of how words can be arranged in unique ways. By studying the works of renowned poets across cultures and histories, students extract knowledge about figurative language and poetic devices from masters of the craft. In this lesson, students learn about personification by reading and discussing poems that feature this writing device. Then they use the poems as a guide to brainstorm lists of nouns and verbs that they randomly arrange to create personification in their own poems.
Brainstorming Graphic Organizer: This handy graphic organizer will help your students brainstorm imagery about word pairs, which serves as a basis for writing their own poems.
Certo, J.L. (2004). Cold plums and the old men in the water: Let children read and write "great" poetry. The Reading Teacher, 58(3), 266–271.
Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
|1.||Transcribe the poems "The Sky is Low" by Emily Dickinson, "Two Sunflowers Move in the Yellow Room" by Nancy Willard (but frequently misattributed to William Blake), and "April Rain Song" by Langston Hughes onto chart paper.
|2.||Make copies of the Brainstorming Graphic Organizer, the Peer Editing Checklist, and the Teaching Personification Through Poetry Rubric for each student in the class.
|1.||Explain to students that they will be reading poems that contain examples of personification, one type of figurative language used in writing. Use the following questions to discuss personification and arrive at a definition:
|2.||Introduce the poem "The Sky is Low" by Emily Dickinson to students. Conduct a choral reading, assigning different students to each read one line of the poem. Ask students to try and define any unfamiliar vocabulary (for example, diadem) using the context of the poem, providing definitions when they are unable to determine what a word means.
|3.||Ask students to identify examples of personification in the poem. Discuss why Dickinson has chosen to personify the weather. Questions for discussion include:
|4.||Follow the same procedure for "Two Sunflowers Move in the Yellow Room" by Nancy Willard (but frequently misattributed to William Blake). Possible discussion questions include:
|5.||Read and discuss "April Rain Song" by Langston Hughes. Possible questions for discussion include:
|6.||Ask students to compare and contrast the three poems. Some suggested questions are as follows:
|1.||Write "Verbs" on the top of one piece of chart paper and "Nouns" at the top of another. Have these on display next to the copies of the poems you read in Session 1. If you have recorded student responses to the discussion questions, have these posted as well. Have students read each of the three poems aloud and ask for volunteers to remind the class what personification is and how these poems make use of it.
|2.||Ask students to look at the types of things that these three poems are about. What nouns do they notice? What do the poets choose to personify? What kinds of words do they use to do this?
|3.||Keeping the poems in front of the students, ask them to suggest nouns and verbs they think might work well in writing a poem that uses personification. Write their responses on the chart papers labeled "Nouns" and "Verbs." Try to generate at least 20 nouns and 20 verbs; the more words students list, the more options they will have in writing their own poems.
Note: Before the start of this session, transfer the noun and verb lists from Session 2 onto colored paper, one color for nouns, another for verbs. Make enough copies so that you have 10 nouns and 10 verbs for each student in the class. Cut out the nouns and verbs and randomly place ten of each in an envelope for each student.
|1.||Explain to students that they will each receive an envelope containing 10 nouns and 10 verbs. Instruct them not to open the envelope until everyone has received one.
|2.||Tell students that they have one minute to arrange the nouns and verbs in the envelopes into random pairs on their desks. Discourage students from trying to arrange the words to make sense - the stranger the combination, the better.
|3.||When the minute is up, ask students to choose their four favorite noun/verb combinations. Explain that they will use the four word combinations to write original poems containing personification.
|4.||Distribute the Brainstorming Graphic Organizer and review the directions. Ask students for three or four sample word pairs and use them to model how they should fill out the sheet. You can ask for contributions from the class to do this; write student responses on a sheet of chart paper.
For the pair moon/boils, your sample might look like this:
|5.||Once students have completed the graphic organizers, have them return to the responses you have written on the chart paper. Ask students to help you write a sentence using the phrases. Explain that they don't have to use every idea, just the ones that they like the best. Encourage them to link the images from each sentence thematically. For example, if you had the following word combinations: moon/boils, eyes/swing, mind/dances, and smile/shouts, students might write a poem about being asleep and dreaming:
The full moon boils at midnight in a starless sky.
|6.||Students should then write their own poems using the graphic organizers. Circulate as students write their poems. As you notice interesting images in student work, share them with the class in order to keep emphasizing the importance of creating imagery that is new and unique.
|1.||Congratulate students on the work they did on their personification poems. Explain that they will work with a partner to review and edit each other's poems prior to turning their rough drafts into final copies.
|2.||Introduce the Peer Editing Checklist. Explain that each partner will trade his or her poem with the other and then, review it and make suggestions using the questions on the checklist.
|3.||Go over the questions on the checklist with the students as a group. Clarify any questions students have. Emphasize the constructive nature of the process and that students are offering helpful advice.
|4.||Divide students into pairs. Instruct them to trade poems. Give each student a checklist to use as a guide as they review their partner's poem. Have them write comments and suggestions in the spaces provided on the checklist. As students complete their reviews, they should return the checklist and poem to the writer. Circulate while students are working, answering questions and observing.
|5.||Give students time to read the checklists and rewrite their poems.
|6.||Bring students back together to share their favorite personification images from their partners' poems. Ask them to explain why they especially liked the particular images. If students are willing, ask them to read their poems to the class.
Grades 9 – 12 | Calendar Activity |  December 10
Students discuss Dickinson's poem "This Is My Letter To The World" and use it to focus on how audience affects voice.
Grades 3 – 12 | Calendar Activity |  August 30
Students discuss similarities in Burton's illustrations and writing style in her many books, in addition to her use of personification.
Grades 5 – 12 | Calendar Activity |  November 28
As a class, students brainstorm abstract concepts and personify that concept through a drawing or story told about the character who personifies that concept.
Grades 7 – 12 | Calendar Activity |  February 1
Students examine the poem "Dreams" and identify metaphors in each sentence. Groups of students then compose poems with metaphors for dreams.
Grades 3 – 12 | Calendar Activity |  February 14
Students find examples of figurative language and write an original example of each device, illustrate, and share them with the class.
Grades 8 – 12 | Professional Library | Book
Carmaletta M. Williams provides high school teachers with background on Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance as well as help in teaching Hughes's poetry, short stories, novels, and autobiography.
Grades 3 – 8 | Professional Library | Journal
The author of this article advocates using "great" poetry with children, and providing the link between the reading and writing of poetry.
July 31, 2012
December 08, 2011
I LOVE this lesson. This is one definitely going in the files for future use
April 22, 2010
I absolutely loved this lesson. I teach on the middle school level so I decided to use Langston Hughes' poetry and it was a very big success!!!
Kaylee Olney, RWT Staff
February 17, 2010
Thanks for alerting us to the typo, Shavahn! We have corrected the checklist.
Shavahn M Hoyle
February 02, 2010
Peer Editing Checklist has the wrong form of there used. It is written as "their" when it should be "there".
January 31, 2010
I used this idea for my lesson, and it was a huge success! The only modification I made was that I had the students create a haiku poem because it is very short and structured. Some students created more than one. I'll definitely reuse this.