Standard Lesson

Finding Poetry in Prose: Reading and Writing Love Poems

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 50-minute sessions
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When students think of love poetry, they almost invariably think of poetry about romantic love. This lesson expands the concept of love poems to move beyond romantic love to explore other kinds of love, particularly the love within a family. Students work in small groups to read and analyze poems that expand the definition of love poetry. They write or select a personal memoir about love, particularly focusing on love within a family. Finally, they compose and peer review found poems based on the memoir.

This lesson was developed as a companion for The Mystery of Love, a PBS documentary featured in the lesson. For additional information on the documentary and those who made it possible see The Mystery of Love Website.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

One of the strongest ways to teach students about how poets and poetry works is to encourage them to write their own poetry. This lesson asks students to create found poetry after analyzing several poems to identify what makes them powerful. As Dunning and Stafford explain, the advantage of found poems is that "you don't start from scratch. All you have to do is find some good language and ‘improve' it" (3). These two teachers note that "poems hide in things you and others say and write. They lie buried in places where language isn't so self-conscious as ‘real poetry' often is. [Writing found poems] is about keeping your ears and eyes alert to the possibilities in ordinary language " (3).

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. 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.
  • 6. 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.
  • 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology




Student Objectives

Students will:

  • read poems that explore the theme of love.
  • identify the diction, detail and tone that makes each poem powerful.
  • select a section rich in detail from a prose piece that they can turn into found poetry.
  • select phrases and words from the to prose piece to compose a found poem.
  • write and revise their found poems, with peer feedback.

Session One

  1. Arrange the class into groups of three to four students, and assign each of the groups one of the four poems listed below:
  2. Depending on the size of your class, more than one group may examine a poem.
  3. Distribute all four poems to each group, and ask them to become experts on the poem that their group has been assigned.
  4. Ask students first to read the assigned poem aloud in their groups.
  5. Allow time for them to make any immediate observations or comments in their groups, orally or in their journals.
  6. Distribute the Guiding Questions for Reading Poems about Love, and ask groups to go through the questions for the poem that they have been assigned. Students can take notes on the question sheet.
  7. As groups work, circulate among students, providing feedback and support as appropriate.
  8. When students have completed their exploration of the poems, reconvene the class.
  9. Ask student groups to lead the discussion on the poem on which they have become experts. (If more than one group worked on a poem, both groups should lead.)
  10. You will probably not get to more than two poems before the end of the session. Explain that the other groups will have time to present during the next session.
  11. For homework, ask students to complete the activity you have chosen to prepare for the next session. The options for this activity are the following:
    • Ask students to write a journal entry of about two pages, using complete sentences, on a family member or family experience. Encourage students to take the opportunity to reminisce on someone in their families or on a recent family event.
    • For homework, ask students to visit the Love Stories Submitted by Our Viewers section of The Mystery of Love Website. Have students read and choose a story from the site before the next session. Make copies of the stories that students choose for reference during the next class session.
    • If students need a more structured writing experience to create their memoirs, complete the ReadWriteThink lesson plan Family Memoir: Getting Acquainted With Generations Before Us before this lesson plan or incorporate the memoir-writing activity as a part of this lesson.

Session Two

  1. Resume the group discussions from the previous session, until all groups have had the opportunity to lead discussion on their poems.
  2. Using the following questions to guide discussion, ask students to brainstorm responses and record their ideas on the board:
    • What are the different kinds of love these poems represent?
    • What other kinds of love might we commemorate in poetry?
    • Why do you think most of us think of romance when we think of love?
  3. Explain that students are going to write their own love poems, using the found poem format.
  4. Define found poems for the class as poems that are composed from words and phrases found in another text. You can also have students read the Academy of American Poets resource Poetic Form: Found Poem, which explains the form of found poetry, includes an example, and discusses the influence of the form on Modern Poetry.
  5. Pass out Found Poem Instructions, which are based on the information in “Found and Headline Poems” from Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry Writing Exercises by Stephen Dunning and William Stafford.
  6. Read through the instructions and answer any preliminary questions that students have about the format.
  7. Distribute copies of the Sample Found Poem or display the sheet using an overhead transparency.
  8. Read through the prose passage and the sample poem.
  9. Ask students to identify where the words and phrases in the found poem were in the original prose passage.
  10. Have students discuss the choices made by the writer as the found poem was created.
  11. In addition to talking about word choice, line breaks, and arrangement, work through the Guiding Questions for Reading Poems about Love, asking students to identify the connections between the Sample Found Poem and the poems read in the previous session.
  12. Pass out copies of the Found Poem Rubric, and have students analyze the Sample Found Poem using the criteria on the rubric.
  13. If students need more general practice with the format before writing Found Poems based on their family and love, introduce either the Word Mover and allow time for students to practice rearranging the words of a famous work or from a word bank into found poems.
  14. Have students get out the family memoir, reminiscence, or story written or chosen for homework.
  15. Step students through the process of composing original found poems, using the Found Poem Instructions.
  16. If class time is short, ask students to write their found poems for homework. Explain that students will complete peer review of the poems during the next session so they should have a completed found poem ready at the beginning of the next class.

Session Three

  1. Review the Found Poem Rubric and discuss any questions students have about the expectations for the activity.
  2. Pass out copies of the Student Assessment Sheet.
  3. Discuss possible feedback that would be appropriate on the Assessment Sheet, pointing out the connection between the categories on the Found Poem Rubric.
  4. Arrange students in groups of four to six, and ask them to read their found poems aloud to each other one-by-one. Alternatively students can work in pairs.
  5. Ask group members to use the Student Assessment Sheet to provide feedback on the effectiveness of one another’s found poems and then to share the assessments.
  6. As students work, circulate among students, providing feedback and support as appropriate.
  7. Once all the students have completed the Assessment Sheet, gather the class and generally discuss the feedback that students have received and any questions that they have about their poems.
  8. If desired, you might invite volunteers to share drafts with the class.
  9. In the remaining time, ask students to revise their poems, taking into account the feedback they received.
  10. Ask students to submit their work at the end of the session or at the beginning of the next class.


  • Have students to write a paragraph in which they reflect on the difference between the effects of the full memoir and the found poem. Use the conversation to talk about poetic form and the ways that poets play with language.
  • With student permission, create a bulletin board to display the “found poems.” Students might, if they choose, add drawings or photographs to their poems.
  • For additional discussion of found poems, tap the student examples in “Found and Headline Poems” from Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry Writing Exercises by Stephen Dunning and William Stafford.
  • The companion site for the PBS documentary The Mystery of Love offers a publication opportunity for student memoirs. Students can share their texts by phone or using the online form.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Review students’ group work on the Guiding Questions for Reading Poems about Love and their individual work on Student Assessment Sheet for engagement and accuracy. Because students write their own love poems as a part of this activity, be sure to review the Guiding Questions after the first session to identify any concepts that need additional instruction or reinforcement.
  • Evaluate students’ found poems using the Found Poem Rubric. In your comments, draw connections to the discussion of love poetry to place students’ work in the context of other love poems.

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