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
Tools Used in Poetry




Students will briefly review the concept of connotation. They will then look at their “floozy woman” pictures and talk about how the sound of the word affects their perception of the picture. They will then look at the sounds used to create an effect in three poems.


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 (distributed earlier)

  • A chalkboard, overhead transparency, Elmo or Smart Board

  • Copies of poems included with this lesson plan

  • Soundtracks that include a few moments of calliope music and a few moments of the theme from the television show “Gunsmoke”



  1. Have the students take out their Poetry Notes handouts.

  2. Review the connotative lesson by asking students to imagine a 19-year-old male playing the guitar on the front porch of his house. Have them picture the male, what he’s wearing, his music, the house décor visible through the window, the landscaping, the mailbox, the car in the driveway, etc. Then when they have a clear picture, tell them that you are going to change one thing — the guitar for a banjo. Many will chuckle. Ask them why. You may get answers such as “the guy lost teeth and IQ points” or “the car is now up on blocks.” Discuss the connotations and why a writer should be aware of them. (Awareness of connotations can be thought of as purposely powerful because entire pictures and feelings can be created with a single word.)

  3. Tell the class that we are beginning study of the next poetry-writing tool and that it’s called sound. It means being aware of the sound a word makes. Then explain that your sister wouldn’t allow her daughters to say the word fart when they were growing up. Instead, the sister taught them to say poofer. Have them decide if poofer is a worthwhile word and in some ways more appropriate than fart. After you calm the class back down, enforce the idea that a word has a meaning but it also has a sound and sometimes that sound can strengthen or detract from the meaning. As an example, ask the class why the word ugly is well-sounded. (One uses an “ugh” sound in order to say it.) Then ask them if they know what pulchritude means. It sounds ugly, but it means beauty.

  4. Ask the class to do another imagining exercise. They are going to film a scene of a first kiss. Set the scene for them — perhaps under the football bleachers on a Friday night. Freeze them just as their characters are about to kiss, then tell them you’ll add the soundtrack. Then play or sing some calliope music. (A variety of calliope music is available at SoundSnap at The students will probably laugh or complain. Tell them to try again, but this time play cowboy music or the opening theme to “Gunsmoke” (readily available on Youtube). Make them determine that the proper sound is necessary to set the tone.

  5. Read “The Harbor.” Discuss that in the first stanza, the author is passing through a run-down, ghetto-like area. The second stanza is a sudden break in the surroundings and the third is an open and long beach. Tell them that liking the poem isn’t necessary (few students do) but ask them to judge whether or not the author supported his imagery with sounds. (First stanza: repeating “ugh” and “ha” sounds that are ugly; second stanza: repetitive “b” sounds that explode out suddenly; third stanza: long, lazy sounds like the double L’s, double G’s and sets of double E’s.)

  6. Read “Jabberwocky.” Were students able to form a picture even though many of the words were nonsense? Discuss what slithy means and the idea that the toves were gyring and gimbling. What do the sounds suggest? What does the sound of galumphing suggest? Is the boy slouching? Riding some great beast?

  7. Have the students add to their notes that an author’s awareness of sound can emphasize his meaning and tone. Because of that, an aware author can influence a reader subtly and control him without his knowledge.

  8. Discuss the meanings of alliteration and onomatopoeia as specific sound devices.

  9. Read “The Highwayman,” available at, together for enjoyment and to look for examples of sounds and words chosen for their connotations.


Formative Evaluation

Pronounce some onomatopoeia words for the class in an exaggerated way, writing them on the board:

  • Drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip

  • tiCK, toCK, tiCK, toCK, tiCK, toCK, tiCK, toCK,

  • tinkletinkletinkletinkletinkle –tink

Then ask them to come up with examples of their own and spell them out as sounds. Copyright© Northeastern Educational Television of Ohio, Inc. All rights reserved.
Imagery Comparisons Enjambed Lines and Word Placement Personification Hyperbole and Understatement “The Harbor” (PDF file) “Jabberwocky” (PDF file)