This poetry lesson plan is a great way to introduce your pupils to descriptive poems, also helping them to review or remind themselves of what they have learnt on specific topics at school.
To start with a list of topics should be written on the board, on a worksheet or hand out cards. Some suggested topic ideas could be: War, Victorian England, The Tudors & The Stuarts, Transport, Ancient Egypt, The environment. Alternatively you may like to suggest a book that has been read in class.
Once the topic has been chosen you should then ask pupils to pick a character, person or object relating to this topic. This will provide the basis on which their poem is written - from the chosen subject's point of view. Some ideas on what to choose are: A soldier in the war, an Egyptian pharaoh, a Tudor gentleman, a school bus on its way to school, a child in the playground, a tree in the rainforest.
Once your chosen topic and subject has been decided you should then present your pupils with a list of three questions to think about:
What can you see?
What can you feel?
What can you hear?
For the main teaching activity pupils should then be asked to come up with ideas for the sorts of things that their character/person/object would be able to see, feel and hear. They should be as descriptive as possible with their answers and can use something more than once as long as it is described in a different way or is performing a different action. If pupils just provide you with an object or noun, then prompt them for a description of it and what it is doing. Here are some examples for the topic 'A Soldier in the War'.
What can you see? Tired soldiers huddling together, huge bombs exploding in the air, machine guns hammering away, bright bombs lighting up the sky, planes soaring above me.
What can you hear? The rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire, the roar of planes flying overhead, the cries of soldiers fighting for their lives, the pounding of soldiers' feet marching into battle.
What can you feel? Sadness all around me, the wet squelchy mud beneath my feet, the cold rain drizzling down my neck, the fear for my life from the enemy attack, the pain in my swollen feet.
When a sufficiently large and varied amount of ideas have been presented, pupils can then begin to translate their ideas into the form of a poem. Pupils should start by picking one of the questions and writing it down as the first line of their work. They should then write four lines of descriptions to fit the selected question using some of the ideas - alternatively they may like to create and use some more of their own descriptions as they go along. The poem should be laid out as below.
What can you see?
Bright bombs exploding in the sky, lighting up the dark and dangerous night
Soaring planes overhead, darting and dodging away from enemy fire
Brave men fighting fiercely, battling for their lives,
Fighting for their country, for their children and their wives.
Once one of the questions has been completed the pupils should then tackle the remaining two questions, setting their work out in the same way and creating two more verses to the poem.
This is a 5-10 minute activity. Ask pupils to work in pairs to read their poem to their partner. Their partner is to provide feedback; something they like about the poem and a suggestion on how it could be improved.
This is a one-hour activity. Alternatively the introductory work can be done in class (20-30 minutes) and the poem can be written as homework.