Teaching Alliteration in Poems for High School Students

Poems with Alliteration

Here’s a quick lesson plan on sound devices in poetry. I won’t be offended if all you do is download it and click away. Of course, you’d miss a great primer on poems with alliteration.

Sound Devices in Poetry Lesson Plan


Teaching alliteration requires finding quality poetry that is challenging enough for upper level students. These examples will help you teach the purpose and effect of using alliteration in poetry.


ELA Common Core Standards Covered

Teaching alliteration 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.9-10.10 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.
  4. 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.

Key Points When Teaching Alliteration in Poetry

Poetic picture with link to poetry lesson plans.

Imagine having 11 complete poetry units with handouts and lesson plans completed. You don’t need to imagine. These units are teacher ready and student ready. Just print, make copies, and accept accolades from colleagues and students.

Before teaching alliteration in poems for high school students, it’s good to have some objectives in mind.

  1. Students should know what alliteration is, the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words. Simply knowing the definition, however, is not sufficient. It has no relevancy, inside or outside the classroom, if the learning stops here.
  2. Students should be able to identify examples of alliteration on their own. This, however, has little usefulness outside of an English class.
  3. Students should be able to explain the purpose for the alliteration and analyze how it contributes to the theme of the poem. Now students are developing critical thinking skills that will improve the quality of their thinking.
  4. They should be able to write poetry containing alliteration.
  5. Students should be able to use alliteration in their own writing to communicate more clearly. Now we’re talking mastery. Using alliteration and other literary devices to communicate more clearly brings them closer to being a master of words.

Before we analyze poems with alliteration, let’s take a look at how mastering alliteration can help you communicate better.

Poems with Alliteration

Poem: “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

Example: Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary (1); rare and radiant maiden (11); And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain (notice the deft use of consonance as well)(13); Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, / Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before (19-20).

Poems with Alliteration

Quoth the Raven: Check out the Poetry Study Guide, Part 2 pdf download by clicking the picture.

Analysis: One purpose of alliteration is to draw attention to specific words. When combined with other sound devices–rhyme, assonance, consonance, rhythm, meter, for example–the effect multiplies. In line 1, Poe repeats the w sound, with the last example being weary. Weary also happens to end a couplet, drawing added emphasis to it. The critical reader and thinker, therefore must ask himself, why? The narrator could be weary with life, the reason for which is given throughout the poem; Poe may emphasize the narrator’s weariness as a clue that perhaps he’s fallen asleep and the entire episode is a dream or an hallucination.

Rare and radiant are used to describe the lost Lenore in line 11. A rare and radiant beauty would stand out in a dreary setting such as this, much like the alliteration and assonance of rare and radiant stand out in this line. Two lines later, we return to silken and sad, whose alliterative nature combines with uncertain and rustling–examples of consonance, to wrap the reader much like wind blown curtains would. The final example contains deep, darkness, and doubting paired with dares and dreams, highlighting the hopelessness the narrator feels.


Poems with Alliteration

Poem: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Example: He held him

Analysis: The repetition of the alliterative phrase “He held him” draws attention to the power possessed by the ancient mariner. It’s curious that the mariner could not successfully hold the wedding guest with his hand, yet succeeded to hold him with his eyes.


Poem: “Clooney the Clown” by Shel Silverstein

Example: And while the world laughed outside. / Cloony the Clown sat down and cried.

Analysis: Shel Silverstein provides numerous alliteration examples in his poems, including the last two lines of “Cloony the Clown.” He finishes this poem with an ironic couplet, a proper ending to an ironic poem. The focus in the first line of the ending couplet is on world; the focus in the second line is on Clooney himself, highlighting the contrast between what the world expects out of Clooney and what Clooney is able to provide.


Poem: “Death Be Not Proud” by John Donne

Example: One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, / And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

Analysis: The alliterative couples short/sleep, wee/wake, and death/die emphasize the shortness of death and the glory of the resurrection.

List of Recommended Poems with Assonance, Consonance, and Internal Rhyme

Begin teaching alliteration in poems for high schools students with the following.

  1. “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe – In addition to being a master of suspense with his short stories, Poe is a master of sound devices with his poems. Teaching alliteration in poems for high school students begins with Poe. Use this analyzing sound devices in poetry lesson plan to make the most of the master.
  2. “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Not exactly light reading–Coleridge delves into the world of the supernatural as the ancient mariner unburdens his soul with the telling of an horrific tale. This poem should be read and discussed as a class. I recommend an annotated version. Gothic images abound. Encourage participation by allowing students to respond in pictures and writing.
  3. “Clooney the Clown” by Shel SilversteinClooney the Clown has everything for the dramatic teenage soul: sadness, being misunderstood, depression. In addition to alliteration, “Clooney the Clown” makes a great poem for teaching irony.
  4. Much madness is divinest sense” by Emily DickinsonDickinson, thought by many to be an insane recluse, gives her own version of madness. As a prereading activitiy, have students write a paragraph on what it means to be “mad.”
  5. “Birches” by Robert FrostFrost glorifies youth with his symbolic portrayal of birches. Brainstorm a list of things students do that older people don’t (keep it clean).
  6. “Death be not Proud” by John Donne – Donne ponders death in one of his more famous sonnets. This makes a good poem for analysis and annotation.

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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