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In this lesson, students create self-descriptive poems using words cut from a newspaper


Language Arts  


6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Introduction to Poetry

By – Lella Dougherty

Primary Subject – Language Arts

Grade Level – 6-12

Concept / Topic to Teach:

  • How to write meaningful poetry without bounds.
  • How to use words as symbols.

NC ENG I Standards Addressed:

    2.02 Create an extended definition.

    5.01 Learn literary genres.

    6.01 Learn strategies like parallelism, specific word choice, variety and details and be able to use them.

General Goal(s):

    Students will lose their fears of writing poetry, will begin to understand what poetry is and how it is created. Students will make poetry personal

Specific Objectives:

    Students will use strong words to define themselves and their goals. Students will learn to look at word meaning in a different way. Students will learn the definition of poetry, understand it, and create it using word choice, organization, and line length for effect.

Required Materials:

    Newspapers, different colored construction paper, paste, scissors, envelopes

Anticipatory Set (Lead-In):

    Have students do a personal inventory that includes such questions as “What are your values? What do you love the most? What is your goal this year, after high school, etc? What is your favorite animal, food, subject in school, etc.?” Most teachers have one and have already had students complete them. If you have not, it is probably a good idea to do this the day before. Ask students to define poetry. Have a student look it up in text. Then ask what really makes up poetry. They will come up with the word “words,” but you may have to guide them to it. Then show them the newspapers and tell them, “Here are thousands of words. There are plenty for you to find and create a poem for yourself.” Move desks aside and clear the floor. Everyone sits on the floor.

Step-By-Step Procedures:

    1. Tell students, “Your first job is to cut out all the words you find that relate to you.” Hand out newspapers, scissors, and envelopes for students to keep their words in.

    2. Model finding words. Pick up a section and go through it, thinking aloud as you go. For example, pick up the sports page and say, “I don’t really play or even watch too many sports on television, but I’ll see what I can find. Oh, look, here’s the word ‘hope.’ That fits me. Here’s the word ‘freedom.’ That’s important to me.” Go on for a few minutes.

    3. Then have students find and share words. They will begin cutting them out right away. Most will become excited about it at this time. Have students spend about 30 minutes finding words and helping each other. Hand out construction paper, letting students choose the colors. Hand out paste. Be sure to tell students to put paste on a piece of newspaper to avoid problems.

    4. Model stringing words together on your own paper to make lines to express yourself in your own poem. When you finish, glue your poem on the paper. Show students that you are not using the words like: the, an, a, is, are, etc. and that it’s okay because when you add them, they don’t really add to the meaning in this type of poetry. Some lines don’t even have verbs. You are trying to say something using as few words as possible. Try different combinations and different shapes for your poem and different line lengths. Talk with the students about which words work best and why. 5. Have students create their own. They will and should ask for and get ideas from others.

    6. Have students explain and display their work. (You’ll love the results.)

Plan for Independent Practice:

    Have students choose a person, place, or thing that is important to them and has a meaning beyond itself. (Definition of “symbol.”) Have them write their own poems using words they find in stories they have just read, in magazines, etc., but without cutting them out this time. Share.

Closure (Reflect Anticipatory Set):

    Review and recreate the definition of poetry to include some of the discoveries you have made together, such as poems use words carefully, use fewer words to say more, don’t always have a shape or rhythm or rhyme, etc. Talk about other genres and how poetry is distinct from them. Talk about other types of poetry.

Assessment Based On Objectives:

    Participation and poems will be the end assessments. Teacher should ensure success in those two areas by monitoring and participating with students during the exercise.

Adaptations (For Students With Learning Disabilities):

    Rarely needed. Pairing may be used to help some students. If a student has few English Language skills, magazine pictures may be used to help a student define who he or she is.

Extensions (For Gifted Students):

    This can be easily extended through topics, such as characterizations in literature (and products may be used to compare and contrast protagonist to antagonist or text to text characters.)

Possible Connections To Other Subjects:

    This can be connected to the teaching of symbolism, mood, and tone. It can also be used to generate ideas for personal narratives.


Lella Dougherty


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