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

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The lesson plans presented in Poetry through the Ages are decidedly different than what you’ll find in an ordinary creative writing teacher’s manual. Created by working poets who also teach at all levels, they are designed to bring the love of studying and writing poetry into the hearts of students. They also enable students to study and observe history not often discussed – through the great poetic forms themselves. The lessons invite direct involvement, movement, and expression!

Lesson plans are presented for three groups – middle school (MS), high school (HS) and college. All of them involve studying portions of this exhibit. If you are a teacher, these lessons will help round out your writing curriculum. If you are a student or parent, consider suggesting that these kinds of activities might work well in your own (or your child’s) class. And even though we’ve carefully designed these lessons to be ready to use, we encourage you to evolve them. Adult extension course instructors are welcome to pull from the high school and college lesson plans. Creative writing and literature teachers or professors can revise and hone them for their particular classes and aesthetics. In fact, if you make revisions and they work well, send them to us, and we’ll post them for others.

For now, check out what we’ve prepared for you. Pick a lesson...

Individual Assignments (duration: 1 to 4 weeks)

  • Writing in a Form Featured in Poetry through the Ages
    Pick any of the forms featured in Poetry through the Ages, study its style, structure, era, and practicing poets, and then write a series of poems in that form. For MS, HS, College. Go »
  • Drawing the Lineage of a Form – and Expanding It
    Study the root forms that evolved into a featured poetic form. Take the featured form and give it 21st century expression with current language, style – and possibly a new take on the form. For HS, College. Go »
  • Then and Now – Dueling Essays
    Compare the culture, history, environment, people, and poets behind two featured forms. Write essays comparing and contrasting the eras, and then analyze their strengths and drawbacks to see which era would best suit your style. For MS, HS. Go »
  • Writing Poetic Suites
    Pick two to four different forms from the exhibit. Write a suite of six to ten poems related by theme, event, and/or subject, but compose at least one poem each in the forms you chose. Read the poems aloud in class when finished. For MS, HS, College. Go »

Group Activities (duration: 3 to 6 weeks)

  • The Open Mic Build-Up
    Few public literary events generate more electricity or excitement than a good open-mic reading. Students write their own poems, pick one or two, and then read before the class and tell the back stories of the poems in a classic open-mic format. For MS, HS. Go »
  • Create Your Own Poetry Community!
    Poetic communities and movements have fed literature for centuries. Now it’s your students’ turn. A weeks-long exercise in forming community; developing a common theme, cause or purpose; writing poems to share that purpose; promoting an event; and giving a public reading – including a statement of the movement or community’s aims and goals. For HS, College.Go »

Term Projects, Papers or Theses (duration: half- to full-term)

  • Poetic Movements and their Forms
    Behind most poetic forms was a vital movement or community – a group of poets that shared common values, goals, concerns, sensibilities, and the need to interpret their world through verse. Study particular movements, their histories, cultures, inspirations, poetry, and poets, to see which forms emerged and why. For HS, College. Go »
  • Create Your Own Poetry Chapbook!
    Everyone wants to write a book – especially students in creative writing classes. Using several forms featured in Poetry through the Ages, have students compose 15 or more poems and arrange them into a chapbook, then design a cover, publish them, and make them available for gifts or purchases. For MS, HS, College. Go »
  • A Multimedia Poetry Exhibit
    A full-term project that integrates poetic forms, writing, and 21st century technology. Students take their written poetry collections and shape them into chapbooks or bound collections, MP3 audio files, YouTube video productions, SpicyNodes layered poems downloadable to websites, iPhones or iPods, web-based poems, and postings on blogs or MySpace pages. For HS, College. Go »