Introduction to Poetry (Conor Hilton)


  1. Assess students’ feelings about and experience with poetry 
  2. Introduce poetry as a genre and lay the groundwork for an expansive understanding of and approach to poetry 

I. Welcome (5 minutes)

  1. Share objectives 
  2. Take roll 
  3. Ask for questions 

II. Writing Prompt: "How do you feel about poetry?" (10-15 minutes)

  1. Have students think and write for 5-7 min 
  2. Once students have finished have them condense their response to one word (or two or three) and write it on the board 

III. Discussion (10-15 minutes)

  1. Start discussion by reading out the spread of feelings/reactions on the board 
  2. Invite further thoughts and expansion. Be sure to set this up so students can be honest and open without fear of repercussions (this hasn’t been a problem in my experience, but is worth working on from the start of the semester) 
  3. Ask follow-up and clarifying questions: "What are your experiences with poetry in the classroom?",  "Any favorite poems?", "What is poetry?"

IV. Definition (10 minutes)

  1. Build on the conversation you’re having where students are identifying how they feel about poetry and why and work towards crafting a definition of poetry 
  2. May be valuable to break into small groups here to mix things up a bit 
  3. Draw attention to what “poetry” will be for your course, point to specific readings on the syllabus and give a sense of how expansive the genre is for you

V. Close Reading (10-20 minutes)

  1. I typically have assigned a short poem or two to read for this class period (something like “Harlem”, by Langston Hughes) 
  2. Pull the poem up and read it out loud (multiple times if time allows) 
  3. Dig into the language together, doing some close reading 

VI. Closing (5-10 minutes)

  1. Recap what happened/learned (ideally a pre-assigned student does this) 
  2. Reminders of upcoming assignments & readings