Lesson Plan for Narrative Poems - An Introduction to Poetry


Narrative poetry is being used to introduce ninth grade students to poetry because of its storytelling format. Students will hopefully feel more comfortable about the genre when they see it can be used in some of the same ways as prose and that some types of poetry have few if any rules about form.
1. Students will identify previously learned literary devices in the poem, including point of view, plot, setting, simile, metaphor, rhyme, alliteration, repetition, symbolism, foreshadowing, and onomatopoeia.

2. Students will be able to discuss the plot of the poem using stanza and line numbers.

3. Students will journal based on  one of several reader response and analytical prompts based on the poem presented in class.

4. Students will begin to appreciate the value of listening to and reading poetry aloud.

Learning Standards:
Analyze, interpret and compare a variety of texts for purpose, structure, content, detail, and effect.
1.C.4a  Use questions and predictions to guide reading.
1.C.4e  Analyze how authors and illustrators use text and art to express and emphasize their ideas
  Analyze and evaluate the effective use of literary techniques in classic and contem≠porary literature representing a variety of forms and media.
2.A.4d Describe the influence of the authorís language structure and word choice to convey the authorís viewpoint.
Apply listening skills in practical settings
  Poem "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes - copied with space for marginal notes
  1. Begin class by asking students what they know about poetry. Take a handful of answers before transitioning into explanation. Emphasize to students that not all poems rhyme or follow strict formats, and today we are going to look at a type of poem that will seem familiar to them. For today, I do not want them to take notes, but to simply listen to and read the poem and participate in the discussion around it. I will, be tracking who participates to award participation points.
  2. Pass out copies of Alfred Noyes' "The Highwayman." Explain/review what a stanza is, and ask students to read the first two stanzas to themselves. When finished, read those stanzas aloud to them. Discuss the differences in reading the poem silently versus orally. Hopefully they will see that the poem is more vivid when read out loud.
  3. Allow students to take turns reading the poem out loud. Do not pause for questions until poem is complete, but leave about 30 seconds between stanzas and encourage students to make marginal notes for the discussion to follow.
  4. Begin discussion with students of the poem. Ask them what they thought it was about, how it made them feel, and what was the general mood. Then together, look for examples of:
         a. simile
         b. metaphor
         d. repetition
         e. foreshadowing
    Discuss with students how these devices made the poem's story more interesting to them.
  5. Present the following questions on the board/overhead:
    1. Why do you think this poem might be more easily understood when read aloud? What things did you notice about the spoken language of the poem?
    2. The landlord's daughter is named Bess and the ostler is named Tim. Why do you think the highwayman is not given a name in the poem?
    3. The colors red and black are used and repeated in the poem. What do you think they might symbolize?
    4. Bess makes what we might call "the ultimate sacrifice" for her love. What would you have done in her place and why?
  6. Give students the rest of the class period to complete journal entries based on one of these prompts. If time allows, several students will have the chance to share their entries, and/or I will share mine.

Because this lesson is meant to be a fun and somewhat informal introduction to poetry, measurable assessment will be limited. I will certainly decipher from student reactions and participation just how much they are recalling the literary terms we discuss. On a more formal basis, I will evaluate the students' comprehension of the poem's plot and themes from their journal entries.
After reviewing Dr. Bonadonna's comments about not beginning a lesson with too many questions, I had to go back and check my introduction to make sure I wasn't doing just that. I decided to leave things as they are, because in most classes, there are a few students who like to show what they know and I like to give that chance up front. By only pausing to take a few answers, I am not putting too much pressure on them before transitioning into my own teaching. Most importantly in this lesson is to let the poem be the center. It's a great story with beautiful language and will hopefully capture their intrigue.

After all we hear about active reading, I also second guess my choice of reading the poem straight through without pausing for questions. In this case, I really want the students to feel the suspense build. Allowing them limited time to make their own notes is my compromise between these two strategies.