Poems Using Personification for High School

Poems with Personification

It’s tough teaching personification in poetry if you don’t know of any poems with personification. No need to despair, poems using personification abound. Here’s a list to get you started.

ELA Common Core Standards Covered

Teaching personification in poems may cover the following ELA Common Core Standards.  This is for your administrator, not your kids.  Kids need student-friendly worded objectives.

  1. RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text
  2. RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
  3. RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
  4. RL.9-10.10 By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
  5. L.9-10.6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
  6. L.9-10.5  Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. 
  7. L.9-10.5a  Interpret figures of speech (e.g., euphemism, oxymoron) in context and analyze their role in the text.

Key Points When Teaching Personification in Poetry

Teaching this topic well requires going beyond memorization and identification. It requires mastery.

  1. Students should know what personification is. Simply knowing the definition, however, is not sufficient.
  2. Students should be able to identify personification in poems, if they are to understand the purpose of it.
  3. Students should be able to explain the purpose of personification and analyze how it contributes to the theme of the poem.
  4. Students should be able to write poems using personification.
  5. Students should be able to use personification in their own writing to communicate more clearly.

List of Recommended Poems with Personification

1. “The Cat and the Fiddle” by Mother Goose – Do I really expect you to teach nursery rhymes? Not really, but many students are already familiar with personification and don’t even know it, for example, “the dish ran away with the spoon.”

  • Lesson Idea: Instruct students to list examples of personification in poetry. They will stare blankly at their desks and/or twiddle their thumbs. They’ll swear up and down they have no idea what you’re talking about. Read them “The Cat and the Fiddle” or any other nursery rhyme containing personification. Make fun of them.

2. “Two Sunflowers Move in the Yellow Room” by William BlakeBritish Romantic Poets mastered the use of figurative language, personification being no exception. Since sunflowers do not speak or count (you may need to explain this to the class stoner), this is an excellent example of personification. The question to be asked is why does Blake use personification to describe this scene with sunflowers.

3.  “The Train” by Emily Dickinson – Dickinson’s description of trains reflects the hustle and bustle of life, which she ironically never actually experienced, being a reclusive heart-broken freak.
4.  “She sweeps with many-colored Brooms” by Emily Dickinson – The “she” in this poem is a sunset, the “housewife in the evening west.”

  • Lesson Idea: Instruct students to describe a natural phenomenon using personification. Examples include earthquakes, thunderstorms, blizzards, twisters, sunrises, tsunamis, fog, etc.

5.  “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth – Wordsworth describes dancing daffodils with heads gathered in a crowd next to waves that also dance.

  • Lesson Idea: Try this speed poetry analysis.

6.   “Brown Penny” by William Butler Yeats – An excellent love poem for sappy teenagers–it includes run away stars, and moon-eating shadows. Yum!

Teaching Literary Elements with Poems

Understanding literary elements is necessary for literary analysis.  These poems will help you teach literary elements.

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