2.03 – Introducing Types of Poems: Slide Deck (English Lesson)

There are so many types of poetry. This slide deck, created by Katherine Pearce, introduces students to a number of different types:

  • Free verse
  • Spoken word
  • Haiku
  • Form poems
  • Found poetry
  • Limericks
  • Sonnets
  • Concrete poems
  • Sound poems.

By introducing students a number of different types of poetry, you provide them with additional tools in their proverbial toolbox to move from consumers to creators.

Some students will challenge themselves to expansive free verse poems, while others will find a place writing dozens of limericks, or haikus. What matters is that students are creating and expressing, and that they understand that the format they are using to create and express is valid.

English Course Pack: Unit Two – Poetry

This assignment is part of the The Full English Course Park. This piece is part of Unit Two: Poetry, which focuses on engaging with literary / poetic devices, reading and appreciating poetry, writing poetry, and creating a unique artifact filled with personal expressions.

If you would like to say thanks, consider buying me a coffee. But that is neither required, nor expected.

2.03 -Types of Poems: Slide Deck

Step One: Free Verse Poems

When you open up the slide deck, it starts with a familiar format: The free verse poem. Slide 4 explains that there are no real “rules” when it comes to writing a free verse. This will immediately put students who are nervous about rhyming requirements at ease.

This is a great opportunity to point out that the Where I’m From poem was also a free verse poem, that focused on using the Poetic Device repetition.

Slide 5

When moving on to slide 5, the exact same definition for free verse poems is presented, but it’s presented as a free verse poem.

Feel free to ask a student to read that poem, and engage with any discussion that comes up about how “it’s the same thing”.

Highlight the use of line breaks and indentations.

Question what those do, and how they change things.

A Little Break to Understand

Feel free to write a sentence on the board, such as “The cat climbed the stairs, looking for something tasty to eat, but then it fell, fell, fell, all the way down.”

Ask students to write that as a free verse poem, adding line breaks and indentations, and have them compare with one another.

If you’re feeling up to it, tape them to the wall, and engage in a gallery walk where students check off which ones strike them as the most impactful.

With that out of the way, ask – again – how indentations and line breaks change something.

Then, move on to explore how they impact the pauses and flow of a reader – comparing it to how music notes change the length and timing of sound.

Slide 6

Here students can read three different free-verse poems, and talk about which ones they like, which ones they don’t, what they might mean, and the impact makes.

You can take as much time as you want here to allow students to write their own free verse poems. They should be free to write about whatever they want, but some students may need to be pointed in a focused direction. Consider asking them to choose to write about one of the following:

  • A location that is meaningful to them
  • Someone that is important in their life
  • A fictional experience that they enjoy
  • Something they’ve dreamed about
  • Hopes for the future
  • A memory that stands out
  • Their feelings about writing poems

Slide 7

Here is where you will dip your students’ toes into the world of spoken word poetry. After watching this video, host a discussion and ask students to consider what makes a free verse poem that is read aloud, different than one silently read from the page.

Don’t Feel Pressured to Move Quickly

This one section could be an entire 75 minute period. This could be longer than one 75 minute period. Perhaps you spent one day understanding and looking at free verse poems, another day writing and sharing them, and then a third day converting some to spoken word, and hosting a poetry cafe.

Take all the time you need, and meet your students where they are in the process. Don’t feel the need to constantly press forward, if you want to take a moment to indulge.

Step Two: Haikus

You may want to start by clapping out some words:

  • Hell – clap – o – clap!
  • How – clap
  • are – clap
  • you – clap
  • do – clap – ing – clap
  • to – clap – day –clap
  • jon – clap – a – clap – than – clap?

Just go with it. Embrace the clapping. At some point someone might ask what’s going on. Then others might provide an answer. “Obviously,” they’ll say, “the claps are syllables!” And from there, you run with it.

Have everyone go around the room clapping out their name, or their favourite food.

Then, introduce Haikus!

Five, seven, five. That’s what you want them to take away from this experience. The number of syallables in each line of a haiku.

Here’s an example.
I’m not saying that it’s great,
but it fits the mold.

At this point, I think in Haikus, and can have a full conversation (haiku, right there) using nothing but haikus.

But, you’ll likely want to explain that haikus are also used to represent nature, and while not needing to fit a specific theme, often do.

Students enjoy writing haikus. Everyone can do it. Some won’t be as strong as others, but all expressionsare valid.

Even the student who writes:

The sun’s very hot.
Hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, hot.
The sun is so hot.

Step Three: Form Poems

Form poems are difficult to read, and difficult to write. They’re poems where they way something is written – the shape of it, the layout of it – conveys meaning.

This could be a poem where each line gets longer, or shorter, or undulates in a wave.

E. E. Cummings wrote a great form poem titled “A Leaf Falls”.

This slide deck includes a poem that was very much influenced by that poem.

After showing it on the screen, invite students to read it. Give them time to figure it out. Eventually they will see that it reads: Cl(a life forgotten)ocks tick.

Ask students to discuss it.

Some might say that between each tick of a clock, entire lives are lost, memories are erased, or lives end. There have been a number of interpretations. This is a great time to point out that all interpretations are valid, too, if they can be supported.

Death of the author, and all that.

Step Four: Found Poetry

I have a collection of old encyclopedias that I saved from the dumpster many years ago. During found poetry time, I take a volume to the front of the room.

I ask students to come up.

I rip out pages.

They scream.

My heart breaks a bit.

But, this book was going to be destroyed. I saved it. And the students are about to give it new life.

By explaining black out poetry, and pointing them at the website https://blackoutpoetry.glitch.me/# where they can digitally create their own, we co-construct a number of examples, before they are released to create their own pieces.

There are a number of different approaches students will take – circling words, drawing pictures that reveal only one or two pieces of information, or blacking out everything they don’t want.

The one key thing I ask them to remember is: They are not writing a summary. They are creating a unique experience using the pre-existing document.

And sometimes, I ask them to get some random sheets in their backpack that never made it into a binder, and turn those into poems too. Old science worksheets are reborn as beautiful poetry!

Hot Tip: Search your photocopy room for forgotten copies from all sorts of departments. Better yet, if a closet that hadn’t been opened in thirty years contains some ancient purple risos!

Step Five: Rhyming Poetry

By the time you get to slide 18, you will have your own technique of moving through the slide deck, and providing time for students to write their own pieces after learning about them. But, rhyming poetry is a piece that requires a little bit more theory.

Not a lot more theory, but a little bit.

They need to understand letters: AABBA

Once they have that down, and understand the number of letters = the number of lines, and the lines with the same letter rhyme, they’ll be able to explore a number of different types of rhyming poetry.

If you are feeling very brave, you can teach them about rhythm.

˘ — ˘ — ˘ — ˘ — ˘ — for example is a grouping of five iambs (unstressed and stressed syllables). Iambic pentameter turns any old sonnet into a Shakespearean sonnet.

Limericks often follow similar patters.

˘ ˘ — ˘ ˘ — ˘ ˘
˘ ˘ — ˘ ˘ — ˘ ˘
˘ ˘ — ˘ ˘
˘ ˘ — ˘ ˘
˘ ˘ — ˘ ˘ — ˘ ˘

You could also let students know that just writing a 99559 poem, and that will likely end up sounding like a limerick too.

There are all sorts of little extensions you can add here, if you’re feeling up to it – and have the time for it.

Step Six: Concrete and Sound Poetry

Concrete Poetry

Concrete poetry are poems that look like something. It could be a poem about your old house, in the physical shape of your own house. It could be written in multi-coloured jelly pens from the 90s, shaped like a beautiful woodland landscape, adorned with a mushroom hut, the type you might envision faeries living in, telling the epic tale of why a relationship must end through free verse poetry, on the back cover of a year book.

Or it could be a poem about video games, in the shape of a sprite from that video game.

It is really up to you.

Students should understand concrete poems very quickly.

Sound Poetry

Sound poetry creates meaning through soundscapes, often achieved through onomatopoeia. The example here attempts to replicate an 80s/90s era arcade.

Feel free to create your own dramatic reading of it, and email it my way. I’d love to have a listen.

Step Seven: Spoken Word Poetry

As we bring this slide deck to its conclusion, you will find yourself returning to Spoken Word Poetry. And a TED Talk. People have lots of opinions about TED Talks, but I feel that Sarah Kay’s If I Should Have a Daughter was wonderful at the time, and holds up to this day.

It introduces spoken word, it acknowledges the fear some students have with writing poetry, and if scaffolds interesting techniques to approach poems.

By the end of this slide deck, students have hopefully written a number of poems.

I like to end by asking them to consider which one could work as a spoken word poem – or which one they might like to develop further as a spoken word poem.

Focus on tone, volume, pacing… all of it comes together here.

And then, we hold a Poetry Cafe and students share with each other in a formal, yet informal setting.

And everyone has a delightful time!

The Impact

This slide deck does all the heavy lifting that the Poetic Devices slide deck wasn’t able to. This introduces students to a number of poem types, allows them the time and space to create a number of poems, and sets them up to proudly present another piece.

They have now transitioned fully from consumers to creators!

English – Unit Two: Poetry

English Course Packs: Full Units

Unit One: Literacy Skills
Unit Two: Poetry
Unit Three: Literature Circles (In Progress)
Unit Four: Creative Writing & Choose Our Way Tales (In Progress)
Unit Five: Essay Writing (In Progress)
Unit Six: Culminating Tasks (In Progress)

Written by…

Michael Barltrop has been teaching since 2006, integrating comics, video games, and TTRPGs into his classroom. He has been the head of English, Literacy, Special Education, and Assessment & Evaluation and Universal Design. Feel free to reach out through Twitter @MrBarltrop!

Feel free to support the website hosting by buying him a coffee or sharing this post on facebook, twitter, or whatever social media is trending these days.

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