Poetry Lesson Plans: Speed Poetry Analysis

Speed Poetry Analysis


Dust off your poetry lesson plans and your lesson plans on poetry analysis–better yet, throw them away–because once you do speed poetry analysis, you’ll never look at poetry lesson plans the same.


Beat!  Beat!  Poetry Drums

I thought I had great poetry lesson plans, poetry analysis activities, and excellent poetry teaching skills…

“Mr., your class is boring,” said Walt. “Your poetry lesson plans, poetry analysis activities, and poetry teaching skills aren’t very good. It’s like watching leaves of grass grow or something. It’s about time I teach you a lesson.” Walt took a wrench out of his pocket and struck me on the head. I woke up in a classroom. The teacher was reading “O’ Captain! My Captain!” The teacher was me.

Walt turned to me, “Now you’ll understand how we feel.” After listening to myself for an hour, I looked at the clock. Only 14 seconds had passed. I tried to sleep but I kept swatting me in the head whenever I put my head down. I couldn’t take it anymore. I stood up, ran to the window, and jumped out, head first, onto the pavement below.

I was the teacher again. On my desk lay poetry lesson plans, poetry analysis activities, and a copy of the Portable Walt Whitman.

I share my favorite lesson with you. It’s called Poetry Speed Analysis.


ELA Common Core Standards Covered

Teaching poetry with this lesson plan covers the following ELA Common Core Standards.

  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. L.9-10.5  Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. 
  5. L.9-10.5a  Interpret figures of speech (e.g., euphemism, oxymoron) in context and analyze their role in the text
  6. SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  7. SL.9-10.1a Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
  8. SL.9-10.1b Work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed.
  9. SL.9-10.1c  Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
  10. SL.9-10.1d  Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.

Speed Poetry Procedures

Before doing this assignment, students should know how to annotate and analyze a poem.

Instruct students to adhere to the following schedule.

  • 5 minutes: Annotate a poem. Each student should annotate the same poem individually. Five minutes, obviously, will not allow them to annotate the entire thing, but it will get them started.
  • 1 minute: Explain the assignment. Each group will have exactly 20 minutes to prepare a presentation on the same poem. The presentation must last exactly three minutes. The group’s spokesperson will discuss the poem and instruct the entire class. It must include analysis, interpretation, and insight.
  • 2 minutes: Form groups; move desks; choose captain; choose spokesperson.
  • 20 minutes: Analyze the poem and prepare the presentation.
  • 2 minutes: Move desks back and pack things up.
  • 1 minute: All spokespersons leave the room.
  • 3 minutes: Group 1 spokesperson presents. The presentation must last exactly 3 minutes, even if it means the spokesperson speaks for one minute and stands with his hands in his pockets for 2 minutes. If the spokesperson is still speaking at the 3 minute mark, give her the hook.
  • 3 minutes each: Groups 2-7 present. Each group spokesperson walks in right when the previous spokesperson ends.

Speed Poetry Assessment

Break the assignment into three categories:

  1. Analysis – You may want to collect each group’s annotations to properly assess this or just collect the group leader’s paper with everyone’s name on it. Another option is to assign a paragraph analysis. The spokesperson must present the group’s analysis to the class.
  2. Presentation – Does the presentation take up 3 minutes. How well did the group prepare the spokesperson. It’s OK to give the spokesperson a higher grade than the rest of the group.
  3. Participation – monitor the class and give a participation grade to each student. The spokesperson will, in most cases, receive an automatic ‘A’ on participation and you may choose to excuse them from the paragraph analysis.

Teaching Literary Elements with Poems

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