A page from the "Poetry through the Ages" exhibit...

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Sample lesson plan: Term paper or thesis
Time for Activity: Term paper - 4 to 6 weeks. Thesis - One semester.
Materials Needed:
  • Computer and access to the "Poetry through the Ages" exhibit.
  • Books and online research materials for movements and poets. Many of these materials are cited in the Bibliography section of this exhibit; others may be found in libraries, bookstores, and by using a search engine.
  • (For thesis) Paper cut into 6x9 sections, for handwritten chapbooks of poetry, to simulate the experience of the original purveyors, who wrote centuries before typewriters and computers.


There have been many poetic movements, communities, and clusters of innovative poets through the centuries - the Sapphites and Pindaric poets of Ancient Greece, the Mozarbic Arabs of medieval Spain, the Provencal musician-poets of early France, the Italian Renaissance poets, Elizabethans and Romanticists of England, and the Transcendentalists and Beat Poets in America, among others. What forms did a poetic movement present to inform future poets and anticipate future expression? This term paper or thesis looks at the cultural events that shaped and motivated a movement, the types of works they created, how they spread to other peoples, and their legacy. The four-part goal is for the student to learn about the movement’s poets and forms, become familiar with the history and culture of the area, learn which forms and eras were influenced by the movement, and write poems consistent with that movement.

Action Steps:

  1. Select and research a particular movement - Provencal musician-poets, Italian Renaissance poets, Romantics, and so forth.
  2. Identify the poetic forms that dominated the movement - e.g. Provence: canso, rondeau, rondel, triolet, ballade
  3. Read a variety of works from the poets who created and/or advanced these forms. Research the poets themselves, and what prompted their themes and treatments of subject matter.
  4. Compose the first part of the paper on the history, culture, landscape, arts, and poets of the era.
  5. Trace out the growth or migration of the movement over time. For instance, the Provencal musician-poets traveled to other parts of France, plus northern Italy and Eastern Spain, seeding movements in all three places - most especially, Italy’s romantic period of canzones, canzonettas, ballata, and sonnets that started the heartbeat of the Renaissance. Write the second part of the paper on these migrations, and how they influenced poetics for centuries to come.
  6. Learn to write poems in all of the key forms practiced by the movement. For a term paper, include two or three of these poems as part three of the assignment. For a thesis, create a chapbook that not only includes three or four examples of each form, but also introductory essays on how the form was developed - and its possible variations (for instance, rondeau once had five active variations before settling on its final 15-line, three-stanza form).
  7. Deliver the poetry from your paper or thesis in a public forum - either in the classroom or a scheduled reading. Tell the stories behind each poem - the story of your subject, and the tale of the form’s development.