19 Popular Poems Taught in High School Lesson Plans

Remember the first time you taught a poem to your high school English class? If you’re like me, it went something like this:

Me: Read poem (30 seconds) followed by an open-ended question, something like “What do you think of this poem?” followed by 30 seconds of silence.

Students fiddle.

Me (in a frustrated tone): Doesn’t anyone have any thing to say about this poem?

Smarta$$ Student (hand raised in the air): No.

End of Lesson.

48 minutes of busy work mixed with chaos.

A few poemless years later, I created poetry lesson plans using popular poems taught in high school. I’ll share a few with you before I get to my list of poems.

  1. Poetry Analysis and Annotation with Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” This forms the foundation for analyzing poetry.
  2. Speed Poetry Analysis with Any Poem. Best taught after students have a basic understanding on how to analyze and annotate a poem.
  3. Sound Devices in Poetry (PDF download).

Now, on to my list of popular poems taught in high school.

Popular Poems for High School Lesson Plans

  1. "Dreams" and "What Happens to a Dream Deferred?" by Langston Hughes. Two poems. One poet. Great lesson. Check out the Langston Hughes page to achieve your lesson plan dreams.
  2. "The Road not Taken" by Robert Frost. Check out this Symbolism in the Poems of Robert Frost Lesson Plan. It's part of the Robert Frost unit.
  3. "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas. Here's a YouTube clip from Interstellar you might want to share.
  4. "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks. Poetry can be written with slang. Try annotating this and see what happens. You'll be pleasantly surprised. Good examples of alliteration and internal rhyme.
  5. "How do I Love Thee?" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Nothing like  a hyperbolic love poem for a group known for hyperbolic declarations of love.
  6. "My Mistress Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun" by William Shakespeare. This makes a good study on satire, a good companion piece to other love poems, or a good introduction to sonnets.
  7. "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop. This poem talks about loss and makes a good poem for teaching metaphors.
  8. "Because I could not stop for death" by Emily Dickinson. Check out the Emily Dickinson page for lesson ideas.
  9. "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams. Sometimes poems deal with everyday occurrences. This makes a good model for getting students to write their own poems.
  10. "O Captain! My Captain" by Walt Whitman. Whitman's tribute to Abraham Lincoln makes a good study for extended metaphors and symbolism.
  11. "I Hear America Singing" by Walt Whitman. Just check out the Walt Whitman page for ideas on Whitman's poems.
  12. "I, Too" by Langston Hughes. Makes a great companion piece to Whitman's classic.
  13. "The Lamb" and "The Tyger" by William Blake. Check out the William Blake page, but only if you want to.
  14. "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost. Here's a lesson plan, analysis, and me singing "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" in my classroom.
  15. "Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost
  16. "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth. Check out the English Romantics page.
  17. "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carrol. Here's an animated YouTube clip (below) as an aide to teaching this popular poem.
  18. "Eldorado" by Edgar Allan Poe. More on Poe's poetry here.
  19. "The Eagle" by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Great poem for teaching imagery.



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