March 11, 2015
by Brandy Metzger
Lesson Plan:

Determining the Theme of a Poem

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Students will be able to analyze the events in the poem to determine the overall theme. Students will be able to summarize a poem.

(7 minutes)
  • Activate prior knowledge by having students discuss theme. Ask: What is a theme? What are some examples of theme? How can you determine the theme of a text or poem? Have the students first discuss with a partner, and then share their ideas as a whole group.
  • Read Hug O’ War by Shel Silverstein to the class. As a class, talk about the words in the poem that indicate the theme of love/friendship: hugs, giggles, kisses, grins, and cuddles.
  • Emphasize that careful reading of a poem will help to determine theme.
(15 minutes)
  • Define the word theme as the subject of a piece of writing or art. Theme can be either one word or it can be a complete sentence that describes a lesson learned in the text. Explain that, for today's lesson, we will be looking for a single word to describe the theme of a poem.
  • Show students copies of The Scream, The Bathers, The Bath and Romeo and Juliet.
  • Ask students to write down or orally answer what they feel is one word that tells what each piece is about.
  • Pass out copies of the poem "The Cold Within" to the class.
  • Read the poem aloud and define new vocabulary words: happenstance, birch, tattered, idle, bespoke, spite, forlorn.
  • Direct students to look back at stanza one and model how to re-state the stanza in your own words.
(25 minutes)
  • Divide the class into 6 equal groups and assign each group one stanza (2-7). Task each team’s students with re-writing the stanza in their own words.
  • Circulate to all groups and help those that need assistance with the task. Once all groups have re-written their stanzas, the poem will be read again using the student’s re-writes.
  • Initiate a class discussion on what the theme of the poem might be. Possible answers include: prejudice, hatred, greed. Challenge students to point out evidence and details in the poem that support the theme. (It is important that all answers that can be supported by events in the poem be allowed.)
  • Ask: How does the author of the poem reveal that theme in the text?
(15 minutes)
  • Distribute a blank piece of paper and tell students they will be writing a summary of the poem. Review expectations of how to write a short and sweet summary.
  • Instruct students to include the theme of the poem as they write a summary of the poem.
  • Enrichment: Ask struggling students to choose their theme and highlight things in the poem that prove their idea. If students seem stuck, provide an example as scaffolding to get them started.
  • Support: Have advanced students write their own poem with the same theme, as an extension activity.
  • Art pieces can be displayed on an interactive white board.
(5 minutes)
  • Pass out sticky notes to students and ask them to write a definition of theme. Students will write their name on the note and turn it into the teacher as an exit card.
(3 minutes)
  • Ask: What are some things that can help you remember what “theme” means?
  • Allow students to define the term in their own words and generate an anchor chart to display in the classroom.

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