Teaching Resources: Poetry Lesson Outlines

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A selection of poetry lesson plans and resources for use in the upper years of Primary Schools and throughout Secondary Schools.


  • Poetry Lesson Outlinesfor Primary and Secondary Schools

  • Page 2 Poetry Lesson Outlines

    Poetry Lesson Outlines

    A selection of six poetry lesson plans and associated resources for use in the upper years of Primary and throughout Secondary schools

    Designed and produced by Mark Grist as part of the Well Versed Poetry in School project.


    Session 1 N+7 Suitable for Years 6-9 p. 3

    Session 2 Lipogram Suitable for Years 6-8 p. 6

    Session 3 Tanka Suitable for Years 6-8 p. 8

    Session 4 Sestinas Suitable for Years 9 and 10 p. 10

    Session 5 List Poems Suitable for Years 6-9 p. 12

    Session 6 Kennings Suitable for Years 5-7 p. 14

    Appendix One Extracts for N+7 p. 16

    Appendix Two An Introduction to Tankas p. 17

    Appendix Three Two Sestinas p. 18

    Appendix Four Blank form for writing sestinas p. 21

    Appendix Five Bruce Lansky List Poems p. 23

    Appendix Six 50 Ways of Looking at a Sheep p. 24

  • Page 3Poetry Lesson Outlines

    Session 1 - N+7

    Advised Age RangeSuitable for Years 6-9

    Preparation NeededYoull need:

    - an assortment of dictionaries- a paragraph that you want the students to work on (See Appendix One) - each student will need to bring in a book/song lyrics/a famous speech that they can use as a stimulus.

    Learning ObjectiveTo create poetry formulas inspired by the N+7 form of poetryTo apply these formulas to a text to create own poems

    Key WordsNounOulipoDictionary

  • Page 4 Poetry Lesson Outlines

    Time Activity Resources needed

    00-10 Word Tennis.

    Split the pupils into pairs, A and B

    Choose a noun for A to say, then B has 3 seconds to say a word that is linked to As word (it neednt be a noun).

    They will keep bouncing words backwards and forwards until someone stumbles. The winner should raise their hand, once the rally is over so that you can see which pairs have finished. Do this three times so that pairs can have a deciding match, should they need one.

    10-15 Write the three words you started each round of Word Tennis with up on the board. In the same pairs, give the students a minute to come up with 3 things that they all have in common. Then get feedback from them.

    15-20 Explain that all three words are nouns that today theyre going to write a new form of poetry where nouns are very important. Hand out a short extract from a text of your choice. The opening chapter of Genesis/Little Red Riding Hood/any famous text will do fine. Juliets balcony speech works very well if you include proper nouns.

    Suitable extracts can be found in Appendix One

    20-25 Pupils have a few minutes to highlight all the nouns in the text. When theyve done this, talk through the text and agree what the nouns are.

  • Page 5Poetry Lesson Outlines

    25-35 Theyre now going to create their N+7 poems. They should take dictionaries best to get a wide range of them for this as each dictionary will create a different poem. Once they find each noun in the dictionary, they should replace it for the entry 7 places below. This can create such changes as

    To be or not to be? That is the questionBecomingTo beagle or not to beagle. That is the quiche.

    Youll need an assortment of dictionaries one per student (or one per pair if you want to have them working together).

    35-55 Once the students have done this, get them to read their poems out. Then explain that theyre going to create their own N+ or N formula for the text that theyve brought in.

    Older students may benefit from seeing Ross Sutherlands Little Red Riding Hood at this point.

    The students then work through their text, applying their new rule and seeing what is produced.

    Watch Ross Sutherland performing Little Red Riding Hood here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhmAa19bMBI

    Additional notes

    This session works particularly well in the library as long as the students are allowed to talk quietly.

    A range of resources to apply their rules to and a very simple noun game (which works well on an interactive whiteboard) can be found herehttp://www.softschools.com/language_arts/grammar/noun/balloon_game/

  • Page 6 Poetry Lesson Outlines

    Session 2 Lipogram

    Advised Age RangeSuitable for Years 6-8

    Preparation NeededPurchase a copy of George Perecs A Void for the school library.

    Learning ObjectiveTo understand what a lipogram is.To apply the rules of a lipogram to our writing.To create our own lipograms from scratch.

    Key WordsLipogramVowel

    Time Activity Resources needed

    00-10 Write the alphabet on the board where everyone can see. Get students into pairs ask them to stand behind their desks. Theyre going to attempt a conversation as if theyre friends who havent seen each other in years. The first person must start the conversation with a sentence that begins with the letter A. Their partner can then respond using a sentence that begins with the letter B and so on. The challenge is to see whether you can work all the way through the alphabet.

    10-15 Get students to write 3 or 4 sentences that explain what they did at the weekend. They can make the events up.

    Now, get them to highlight all the letter As in the text. Get students with less than three letter As to raise their hands. For the following exercises, these students will use the letter E instead of letter A. The others will use the letter O instead of A.

  • Page 7Poetry Lesson Outlines

    15-25 Explain that lipograms are poems where one or more letters have been excluded. To write lipograms, the students have to try and give the same information that they have already written without using the letter A. So for example

    I walked to Grandmas

    Could become

    I skipped over to my Mums Mums house.

    Notice that walking is quite different to skipping thats ok. Theyre just using the original text as inspiration for these new pieces of writing.Get the students to read their work out.

    25-50 Now the students are going to write their own lipograms. Give each table a vowel. That table are not allowed to use it from this moment onwards. Theyre going to create their own stories of 250-300 words using one of the following first lines.

    I was extremely scared.

    Slowly, he pulled out the sword.

    My Birthday party was crazy.

    I got lost on my stroll to town.

    50-60 Get the students to read their lipograms out.

    Additional notes

    Particularly able students could try writing without two vowels.

  • Page 8 Poetry Lesson Outlines

    Session 3 Tanka

    Advised Age RangeSuitable for Years 6-8

    Preparation NeededRead through Appendix Two An Introduction to TankasAsk students to bring in a photo of them at a time when they were happy

    Learning ObjectiveTo understand what a tanka is.To create our own tankas based on a happy memory.

    Key WordsTankaSyllable

    Time Activity Resources needed

    00-05 Discuss syllables then ask students to try and write an answer in 7 syllables for each of the following questions.

    Where is your homework?Why is your brother crying?What would you like for dinner?

    Get the students to read out their answers to the class and check together whether they are 7 syllables long.

    05-15 Explain that the students are going to be looking at a Japanese form of poetry called a tanka. In some ways tankas are similar to Haikus as they also involve using syllables.

    An Introduction to Tankas can be found in Appendix 2

  • Page 9Poetry Lesson Outlines

    15-30 Write the following on the board5 syllables7 syllables5 syllable7 syllables7 syllables

    Explain that were going to write a tanka together. The students are to think of a moment when they were scared/nervous. They should make notes one what happened/how they felt/what they remember. They are going to get just one minute on each line.

    For the first line, write the following on the board. Tell us when it was

    Second lineWhat were you doing?

    Third lineWhat were you worried might happen?

    Fourth lineWhat really happened?

    Fifth lineWhat did you learn from this?

    30-35 Students read their tankas out.

    35-50 Students now create tankas about a memory they should brainstorm as many words/feelings as possible to go into their poem based upon that memory. The pictures theyve brought in are the inspiration. Once they have enough words and feelings they can write their own tanka.

    50-55 The students should share their tankas with others on their table and count the syllables to see whether theyve used the correct number.Then read them out to the rest of the class.

    Additional notes

    This lesson would work particularly well after working on Haikus. It may be a good idea to run a haiku refresher at the end of the previous lesson to get the students ready for more work on syllables.

  • Page 10 Poetry Lesson Outlines

    Session 4 - Sestinas

    Advised Age RangeSuitable for Years 9 and 10

    Preparation NeededYou need to book a computer room for the class to useExamples of sestinas see Appendix 3There are blank templates in Appendix 4You may well want to research the sestina!

    Learning ObjectiveTo understand the rules of a sestinaTo begin writing our own sestinasTo retain our sanity throughout the process (optional)

    Key WordSestina

  • Page 11Poetry Lesson Outlines

    Time Activity Resources needed

    00-10 Students come in to find two copies of Sestinas on their tables. They have to see whether, in pairs, they can come up with three rules of sestinas, by using the poems theyve got to come up with their guidelines. They then share these in discussion with the class.

    Two sestinas can be found in Appendix 3

    10-15 Explain that a sestina is a form of poetry where six key words are rearranged in each of the first 6 stanzas. The words always feature at the end of the stanzas and they are rotated by following a formula.The formula is as follows, with the final word of each line in the first stanza being labeled A through to F.


    The most important thing is to get 6 words that youre happy to have feature throughout your poem.

    15-50 Get students to access the following site. It allows students to create their own sestinas by choosing their six words and then working from a frame thats generated for them. http://dilute.net/sestinas/index.php

    50-60 Students read out their Sestinas

    Additional info

    This lesson is for more able students to create a full Sestina will almost certainly take more than one session. Particularly able students may want to work without the websites frame. If they wish to do this, then they can find a more open template in Appendix 4

  • Page 12 Poetry Lesson Outlines

    Session 5 - List poem

    Advised Age RangeSuitable for Years 6-9

    Preparation NeededThere are two list poems in Appendix 5

    Learning ObjectiveTo understand what a list poem is.To create an original list poem.To use repetition effectively in a poem.

    Key WordsList PoemOriginalityRepetition

    Time Activity Resources needed

    00-10 Get students to write a list of things they did this morning before they came to school. The list needs to be boring. They should aim for 8-10 items.

    10-15 Get the student with the most to read theirs out. The other students make a note any time something they put down gets mentioned. Discuss whether these were successful poems. Explain that as a writer, we want to try and say something original, that nobody has thought of and so were going to write list poems whilst using our imaginations.

  • Page 13Poetry Lesson Outlines

    15-20 Get the students to write a list of things that they wish they had done before they came to school. They need to try and write a list of between 5 and 10 things that no one else will put down. When theyve done this, get students to read out their lists and see whether anyone put down the same thing as anyone else.

    20-30 Read What Bugs Me and My Noisy Brother by Bruce Lansky and discuss what makes them successful. Get the students to identify any repetition.

    These poems can be found in Appendix 5

    30-55 The students are going to write a list poem with one of the following titles

    Reasons I cant accept your friend requestWhy I couldnt come to your partyWhere would you rather be?

    They should try to include repetition in their work and should aim for the poem being at least 10 lines long.

    55-60 Students then read their lists out to each other.

    Additional notes

    You may want to take suggestions from the students for other list topics.

  • Page 14 Poetry Lesson Outlines

    Session 6 Kennings

    Advised Age RangeSuitable for Years 5-7

    Preparation NeededYou may want to print off copies of 50 ways of looking at a sheep for the students to work from. This can be found in Appendix 6

    Learning ObjectiveTo understand what kennings are.To create our own kennings.To share our kennings with each other.

    Key WordsKenningNarrative

    Time Activity Resources needed

    00-10 Create a list of professions. The list should be 5-10 professions long.

    10-15 Put these professions to one side for now and work through the Introduction to Kennings PowerPoint as a class.

    An Introduction to Kennings PowerPoint can be downloaded from the Writers Centre Norwich website

  • Page 15Poetry Lesson Outlines

    15-20 Each student should look back at their professions on the list and choose one. They should then attempt to write a kenning poem for that profession (without writing the profession on the poem).

    20-30 The poems then get given to another student, who tries to work out what the profession is. They then write another kenning poem to send back to the person that sent them theirs.

    30-35 The poems go back and the students see whether they can guess what the profession is this time.

    35-55 As a class, read through the poem 50 ways of looking at a sheep and read it through. The students can then work in a pair to create their own kenning about an animal of their choice.

    This poem can be found in Appendix 6

    50-60 The pupils can then read their kennings out to the class.

    Additional notes

    You could also discuss the narrative thats inside 50 ways of looking at a sheep. Are there 50 ways? Why not? Which kennings were the classes favourite?

  • Page 16 Poetry Lesson Outlines

    Appendix One - Extracts for N+7

    Balcony Scene from Romeo and Juliet

    O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And Ill no longer be a Capulet. Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. Whats Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! Whats in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet;

    Little Red Cap from Grimms Fairy Tales

    Once upon a time there was a sweet little girl. Everyone who saw her liked her, but most of all her grandmother, who did not know what to give the child next. Once she gave her a little cap made of red velvet. Because it suited her so well, and she wanted to wear it all the time, she came to be known as Little Red Cap.

    One day her mother said to her, Come Little Red Cap. Here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take them to your grandmother. She is sick and weak, and they will do her well. Mind your manners and give her...


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