More Than Rhyme: Poetry Fundamentals   Western Reserve Public Media
Why Teach Poetry? Resources Teacher Materials Watch Online Introduction to Poetry Tools Used in Poetry Applying the Tools
Introduction to Poetry

Introduction of Poetry Unit and Definition of Poetry



This is an introduction to what poetry is. Students will taste a variety of foods that cause a powerful reaction. They will then discuss the idea of whether or not humans tend to enjoy powerful experiences. Using information they have learned about poetry, they will attempt to define it.


Standards Addressed

Reading Standards for Literature 7-12

  • 7th/8th grade Craft and Structure, number 4

  • 7th/8th grade Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity, number 10

  • 9th/10th and 11th/12th grade Craft and Structure, number 4

  • 9th/10th and 11th/12th grade Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity, number 10



  • Class sets of note sheets to help students follow lesson

  • One or more of the following concentrated flavor sources:

    Sour gumballs

    Concentrated lemon juice and cups

    Condensed sweetened milk (plus a can opener, spoons and cups)

  • Visual aid such as chalboard, overhead transparency, Elmo or Smart Board to help with note-taking



  1. Pass out note-taking materials and explain their purpose.

  2. Have students answer the first question on their note sheets: What is my own definition of poetry?

  3. While students are writing, set up food materials in front of the class to build interest. For example, you can make a huge, dramatic deal of lifting the lid off the can of condensed milk, stretching out the gooey concoction. Also be thinking about which students to call upon for the best results. You won’t want someone too “cool” to react.

  4. After students write out their own definitions of poetry, ask for volunteers to read theirs. Are there negative ones? Take a short moment to discuss why poetry might leave a negative impression. Agree without going into a great deal of explanation.

  5. Write out your own definition for students to copy: Purposely powerful words chosen to cause a reaction. Explain that you’ll make sense of that shortly.

  6. Call up students to the front and ask everyone to watch carefully as your volunteers either chew the sour candy, drink a swallow of the concentrated juice or taste a spoonful of the condensed milk.

  7. Point out that the reactions were powerful and that all except the volunteers seemed to enjoy them. Raise the question of whether or not humans tend to enjoy powerful experiences and discuss.

  8. The class may come to the conclusion that people do like powerful experiences, but only when they’re safe. There is a difference between riding a rollercoaster and riding in a school bus with a drunken driver. Have students create a list of safe, powerful experiences that are enjoyable. Possibilities include novels, movies, video games, haunted houses, gossip, reality shows, amusement parks and costume parties.

  9. Help the class reach the conclusion that humans actually enjoy reacting to safe, powerful experiences.

  10. Explain that people who make foods more powerful use artificial flavorings or boil out the weaker elements. Ask the students how to make language more powerful. When they can’t answer specifically, explain that writers use tools to do that, and that this unit will be teaching them those tools. Also explain that knowledge of the poetic tools allows people to manipulate the emotions of others and to know when someone is trying to manipulate theirs.

  11. Instruct the students to keep a notebook of the projects they do in this unit.


Formative Evaluation

Use this question as an exit ticket or, if time permits, a discussion with a partner and report to the group activity: Considering what you just learned in today’s class, why do movies such as “Titanic,” “The Notebook” and “Independence Day” have so many repeat viewers? Students must be able to justify their answers.

It is to be hoped that your students will realize that humans enjoy safely experiencing powerful scenes that evoke emotional responses, and that they will then mention specific scenes from those movies as examples. Copyright© Northeastern Educational Television of Ohio, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Power of Emotion Introduction of Poetry Unit and Definition of Poetry