Lesson plan

Poetry Themes

Encourage your students to translate their understanding of theme to poetry. In this lesson, students will evaluate the theme of poems by sketching pictures and citing text evidence.
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Poetic Personification pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
Grade Subject View aligned standards
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Poetic Personification pre-lesson.

Students will be able to identify the theme of a poem using text evidence.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(10 minutes)
  • Display and distribute "The Road Not Taken" from the Reader’s Theater: Poems of Robert Frost worksheet. Read through it once aloud to the class. Then, break students into groups of four to discuss the topic and setting of the poem. Provide a blank sheet of paper for each group.
  • Instruct students to circle all the unfamiliar words in the poem and then write a list of words the poem makes them think about (e.g., woods, choices, paths to take) on their sheet of paper. Allow them to draw pictures and visualize the words and setting of the poem.
  • Ask groups to share their notes with the class while you write them on the displayed teacher copy.
  • Ask students to share what they think is the theme of a poem. Tell them the theme is the main lesson or message the author is trying to convey. Write their responses on the board for reference later.
(12 minutes)
  • Tell students today they’ll evaluate the theme of a poem. Explain that sometimes poetry can be interpreted different ways, so it’s important to have text evidence, or proof to support a claim from the text to make sure the ideas about the theme are based on the text.
  • Reread aloud "The Road Not Taken" poem and think aloud key details in each stanza. You could mention the two roads, the characteristics of the roads, the fact that the poem mentions a traveler, and the poem's setting of the roads in the woods. Sketch a picture next to each stanza and underline the text evidence for every thought.
  • Think aloud possible themes of the poem (e.g., you won’t regret trying something new or going against the grain can have great benefits). Mention text details to support the theme you choose.
  • Show the video of the reading of "The Road Not Taken." Ask students to look back at their guesses about the theme of "The Road Not Taken" on the board. Ask for students to share if they want to add or eliminate any of the themes they listed.
(20 minutes)
  • Distribute and display the poem the "Caged Bird" by Maya Angelou and read it aloud to the class. Tell students they'll now separate into groups of six and discuss the poem's topics to understand the theme of the poem.
  • List the following questions on the board for the students to answer while in the groups:
    • What do you think, notice, or like about the poem?
    • Does anything confuse or bother you about the poem?
    • What images do you picture in your mind when reading the poem?
  • Allow them to answer those questions orally in their first group. Reassign group members so students are in new groups and then pass out a sheet a paper to each student. Ask them to answer the questions aloud again in their new group, but this time write their responses on lined paper. Provide sentence stems that focus on citing the text evidence for each answer. For example: "In the first stanza, ____."
  • Come together as a whole group and discuss the theme of the poem (e.g., caged things long for freedom or being free brings happiness). Make sure the students mention the text evidence in their opinions about theme.
(7 minutes)
  • Show the video of the reading of the "Caged Bird."
  • Distribute a new sheet of paper and ask students to write down the theme they choose for the "Caged Bird." Remind them to use the text evidence from the poem to support their answer.


  • Provide the following sentence stems for the discussions and writing portions of the lesson:
    • "The theme of the text is____."
    • "In the first/second/third stanza, ____."
    • "In the poem, I noticed ____."


  • Allow students to evaluate one of the other poems from Reader’s Theater: Poems of Robert Frost worksheet and share their ideas during the closing of the lesson.
  • Allow them to write a poem or prose with a similar theme found in one of the poems from today.
(8 minutes)
  • Distribute a copy of "The Minor Bird" and ask students to read the poem aloud to themselves. Then, ask them to reread the poem and make notations of interesting ideas and/or to sketch a picture next to each stanza.
  • Have students write the theme of "The Minor Bird" on the back of their lined paper from the Independent Practice.
(8 minutes)
  • Allow students to share their ideas about the theme in the poem "The Minor Bird." Write the themes on the board.
  • Ask students to consider the messages from "The Road Not Taken" and "Caged Bird" and the poems' style in general. Ask the following: "What are the similarities and differences in the poems? How are the themes from both poems similar or different?" For example, both poems compare two things: a caged bird vs. a free bird and a frequented road and one less traveled.

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