• Walt Whitman to Langston Hughes: Poems for a Democracy

    Walt Whitman.

    Walt Whitman sought to create a new and distinctly American form of poetry. His efforts had a profound influence on subsequent generations of American poets. In this lesson, students will explore the historical context of Whitman's concept of "democratic poetry" by reading his poetry and prose and by examining daguerreotypes taken circa 1850. Next, students will compare the poetic concepts and techniques behind Whitman's "I Hear America Singing" and Langston Hughes' "Let America Be America Again," and will have an opportunity to apply similar concepts and techniques in creating a poem from their own experience.

  • Lesson 2: Thirteen Ways of Reading a Modernist Poem

    Planes, (subway) trains, automobiles and World War I

    This lesson prompts students to think about a poem’s speaker within the larger context of modernist poetry. First, students will review the role of the speaker in two poems of the Romanticism period before focusing on the differences in Wallace Stevens’ modernist “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

  • Lessons of the Indian Epics: Following the Dharma

    Bathing in the Ganges, India. A 19th-century photograph.

    The epic poem the Ramayana is thought to have been composed more than 2500 years ago, and like the Iliad and the Odyssey, was originally transmitted orally by bards. This lesson plan is designed to allow instructors to explore Hindu culture by examining the characters of the Ramayana, and the choices they make. Students will be able to explore the Hindu concept of right behavior (dharma) through an investigation of the epic poem, the Ramayana.The epic poem the Ramayana is thought to have been composed more than 2500 years ago, and like the Iliad and the Odyssey, was originally transmitted orally by bards. This lesson plan is designed to allow instructors to explore Hindu culture by examining the characters of the Ramayana, and the choices they make. Students will be able to explore the Hindu concept of right behavior (dharma) through an investigation of the epic poem, the Ramayana.

  • Emily Dickinson & Poetic Imagination: "Leap, plashless"

    Emily Dickinson

    Emily Dickinson's poetry often reveals a child-like fascination with the natural world.  She writes perceptively of butterflies, birds, and bats and uses lucid metaphors to describe the sky and the sea.

  • "World enough, and time"—Andrew Marvell's Coy Mistress

    Andrew Marvell (1621–1678), one of 17th-Century Britain's most illustrious  poets.

    Students explore the metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell's use of tone, imagery, and poetic form as he attempts to seduce his “Coy Mistress.”

  • Analyzing Poetic Devices: Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays" and Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz"

    Theodore Roethke and Robert Hayden.

    Students examine the relationship of poetic form and content, shaped by alliteration, consonance, repetition, and rhythm, in two poems about fatherhood: Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays" and Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz."

  • Arabic Poetry: Guzzle a Ghazal!

    Southern Arabia, Alabaster (gypsum)

    This lesson engages students in the reading and writing of the ghazal, a public, participatory poetic form created by the ancient Bedouins of Arabia and Persia. Students examine the structure of the ghazal, which continues as a poetic form in India, Iraq, and Iran, to derive a definition of this intricate form of word-play, and collaboratively compose their own group ghazals.

  • All Together Now: Collaborations in Poetry Writing

    Pen and paper

    When children hear, write and recite poetry, they understand more deeply the qualities of verse — the importance of sound, compactness, internal integrity, imagination, and line. Working collaboratively on poetry provides a safe structure for student creativity.

  • Lessons of the Indian Epics: The Ramayana: Showing your Dharma

    The Citadel of Lanka, a detail from "Hanuman Visists Sita in Lanka,"

    The story of the Ramayana has been passed from generation to generation by numerous methods and media. Initially it was passed on orally as an epic poem that was sung to audiences by a bard, as it continues to be today.

  • Walt Whitman's Notebooks and Poetry: the Sweep of the Universe

    Walt Whitman.

    Clues to Walt Whitman's effort to create a new and distinctly American form of verse may be found in his Notebooks, now available online from the American Memory Collection. In an entry to be examined in this lesson, Whitman indicated that he wanted his poetry to explore important ideas of a universal scope (as in the European tradition), but in authentic American situations and settings using specific details with direct appeal to the senses.