This lesson would form part of a larger unit on poetry where it is assumed students have been exposed to a range of poems including poems that contain free verse.
This lesson demonstrates how a teacher and their students can jointly construct a piece of free verse poetry that uses similes, metaphors and personification (i.e., figurative language) through the shared writing practice. Through the joint construction of an enlarged piece of text, the teacher models, seeks ideas from the cohort and makes explicit links to the learning intention. The text is either handwritten or digitally produced by the teacher.
Literacy Glossary in the Literacy Teaching Toolkit for an explanation of figurative language terms.
Note for teachers
Free verse poetry:
- does not usually rhyme
- does not have a set structure
- may have rhythm to appeal to its readers.
(Wing Jan, 2009, p.268)
Links to the Victorian Curriculum – English
- Understand, interpret and experiment with sound devices and imagery, including simile, metaphor and personification, in narratives, shape poems, songs, anthems and odes (VCELT316).
- Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive print and multimodal texts, choosing text structures, language features, images and sound appropriate to purpose and audience (VCELY329).
Create literary texts that experiment with structures, ideas and stylistic features of selected authors (VCELT327).
- Identify the relationship between words, sounds, imagery and language patterns in narratives and poetry such as ballads, limericks and free verse (VCELT344).
- Experiment with text structures and language features and their effects in creating literary texts (VCELT355).
- Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive texts, choosing and experimenting with text structures, language features, images and digital resources appropriate to purpose and audience (VCELY358).
We are learning to write poetry that contains similes, metaphors and personification.
I can think, share, or contribute at least one example of a simile, metaphor or personification to our shared writing poem.
Extend the success criteria (outcome):
I can use simile, metaphor and personification when writing a poem. I can justify why I have used particular similes, metaphors, and personification in my writing.
- Introduce the learning intention explaining that together, the teacher and class are going to write a poem which creates pictures with words. A useful technique to create pictures with words is to use figurative language such as simile, metaphor, and personification. Check students' understanding of these terms but further elaboration will occur during the shared writing process.
- To initiate free verse, it is useful to start with something abstract, such as the notion of colour, smell, taste, size, texture, shape and brainstorm a list of words that describe it. For this example, the colour blue was selected as the impetus to create pictures with words.
- Ask students to turn and talk to a partner about what the colour blue reminds them of. Return to the whole group and record suggestions in a group brainstorm, e.g., Blue reminds me of:
- a baby crying
- early in the morning
- feeling sad
- feeling lonely
- my brother
- a hot sunny day with no clouds in the sky
- the beach
- a long car journey.
- Begin writing the poem by selecting from the brainstorm and elaborating on the first example of the baby crying. Ask students to think of their younger siblings or babies they know. What happens when babies cry? What does the crying sound like? Why do they cry? Include an example of the student's input and write the first line of the poem, for example:
- Blue is the cry of a newborn child as it demands to be fed in the early morning.
- Discuss the use of metaphor in this first line (e.g., when one object is referred to as if it were another object). The colour blue is the cry of a newborn baby. Ask students to choose another suggestion from the brainstorm to write another metaphor. For example, if 'feeling lonely' is chosen, encourage students to think of an example when they felt lonely. What did it feel like? Where were they? Include students' input, for example:
- Blue is lying on my bed when all of my friends are at a party.
- As the metaphor is written, model poetry conventions such as a capital letter at the beginning of each line and the comma at the end of the line.
- Model how to use a simile in the poem. Similes compare two objects with the word 'like' or 'as'. Choose an example from the group brainstorm (e.g., 'quietness') from the group brainstorm and use
think aloud to describe a mental picture of quietness and write about it. For example:
like the quiet stillness of the old man next door sitting on the verandah watching the world go by.
- Students choose another suggestion from the brainstorm to write another simile, for example, the beach. Encourage students to think of a time when they were at the beach. What did it look like? What did it feel like? Write similes with student input, for example:
The shimmering sea is as blue as the sky above.
- Model how to use personification in the poem. Personification is when human characteristics are given to a non-living thing. Select an example for illustration from the brainstorm, e.g., the long car journey. Use the
think aloud strategy to describe a mental picture of a family in an old blue car that is packed full of people and bags. Write, for example:
The old blue car groans with the weight of its passengers as it slowly claws its way past.
- Ask students to select another suggestion from the brainstorm to write an example of personification, for example, about sadness. Encourage students to think of an example when they felt sad. What did it feel like? If sadness were alive what would it do? Record suggestions for students to see. Write an example with student input:
Sadness wraps around me in a blue foggy haze.
- Ask for student input from the brainstorm one last time to complete the poem. For example, students choose 'peace' for the last line. Model a simple metaphor to complete the poem, for example:
- Together, read the poem and move the lines around so that they have the most impact. Some minor editing is undertaken to make the poem flow. A completed version is reassembled (see below).
- Return to the success criteria to check how successful the group has been. Can students turn and talk to a partner to explain what a simile, metaphor and personification are? Were students able to think, share or contribute a simile, metaphor or personification example to the shared writing? Students write their name on a sticky note and place on an A3 poster with the heading 'Simile', or 'Metaphor', or 'Personification' if they feel confident with these forms of figurative language. This can be used to inform further teaching.
- Blue is the cry of a newborn child as it demands to be fed in the early morning.
- Blue is lying on my bed when all of my friends are at a party. Sadness wraps around me in a blue foggy haze.
- Blue is like the quiet stillness of the old man next door sitting on the verandah watching the world go by.
- The old blue car groans with the weight of its passengers as it claws its way past.
- On its way to a shimmering sea which is as blue as the sky above.
- Blue is peace.
- Experiment with figurative language:
- For example, suggest an adjective such as 'wrinkled'. Ask students to list all the things they know are wrinkled (e.g., baby's skin, old people's hands, elephant hide, an unmade bed). Students select one of these and form a simile (Wing Jan, 2009, p. 274).
- Select an object such as the 'sun'. Ask students to think of other objects that are like the 'sun' (e.g., beaming face, bald head, wicked smile). Students select one of these and form a metaphor (Wing Jan, 2009, p. 274).
- Select an object such as a 'door'. Ask students to think of the door as a living thing. What qualities might it have? (firm and resolute, strong, weak, inviting, foreboding). Students select one of these and form an example of personification.
- Explore the placement of prepositional phrases and adverbials in a line of poetry e.g., Sadness wraps around me in a blue foggy haze. In a blue foggy haze, sadness wraps around me.
- Does the placement of the prepositional phrase 'in a blue foggy haze' make a difference to the meaning if it is foregrounded at the start of the line?
- Is the focus still on 'sadness' or has it changed?
- If the title of the poem is 'Blue' should the prepositional phrase be foregrounded?
- Students manipulate other lines of the poem to explore this concept.
- Guide a small group to jointly construct a free verse poem incorporating the use of figurative language.
- Students write their own free verse poem containing figurative language.
Students can be pre-tested to determine if high-ability students have a good grasp of:
- free verse
- could be paired together for the discussion components of the task
- who have a good grasp of figurative language could be grouped together to co-construct their own free verse.
- could be asked to justify the figurative language choices they have made in their co-constructed free verse.
- could be asked to write a poem with specific constraints. For example, writing a poem using only one poetic device.
- could be asked to produce a visual text to show their use of imagery.
- could research more complex forms of figurative language to use in their free verse.
- could publish their pieces to a wider audience.
Wing Jan, L. (2009). Write Ways: Modelling Writing Forms (3rd Ed.), South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press