5 Middle & High School Lesson Plans from Writing the Community!


Every semester, our Writing the Community teaching artists submit lesson plans for inclusion in our K-12 lesson plan archive. Here are five new ones, developed in Fall 2023 and geared toward middle and high school students.

Writing Bravely

In this lesson plan, which draws on the work of three Palestinian and Palestinian-American poets, Eva Sierra invites students to consider the bravery inherent in writing truthful and honest poems. After reading and discussing poems by Fady Joudah, Maya Abu Al-Hayyat, and Mosab Abu Toha, students brainstorm where and with whom they feel brave, as well as where and with whom they do not. Then they write poems inspired by the following prompt: "Imagine a world where you are totally safe and free to be brave. What would you say? Who would you stand up for? What would you let the world know?"

What is Poetry?

Poet, bookseller, and rabblerouser Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "What is Poetry?" describes the literary form as "the shook foil of the imagination" and "a voice of dissent against the waste of words and mad plethora of print," among other things. After reading the poem--and using rewordify.com to check any phrases that are unfamiliar to them--Taylor Johnson asks students write their own 10-line-or-greater poem, with each line starting with "Poetry is ..."

Autobiographical and Archeological

Inspired by a line in Suzi F. Garcia's "A Modified Villanelle for My Childhood," Saraiya Kanning asks students: "How can a poem about yourself be mythical? How can a poem be archeological?" After discussing the poem and these questions, writers craft autobiographical poems about themselves in which they are encouraged to dig as deep or imagine as boldly as they wish: "Magical can mean telling a truth about yourself through metaphors, exaggerations, symbolism, or wild imagination," Kanning writes, "You want wings? Give yourself wings. You want to be a fire-breathing dragon? Be a fire-breathing dragon." Extension activities include playing with rhyme, creating a self-portrait out of words, and writing a villanelle.

Voice, Speaker, and Audience

When we write, it's important to think about who we're speaking to. To emphasize audience, Saraiya Kanning encourages students to write a poem using the second-person "you." This lesson plan is inspired by the gentleness and self-compassion of Marcus Amaker's "Give Yourself Some Flowers," in which the poet implores his readers to, "Treat your body / like a well-rounded planet / built for all seasons." After writing their own poems, students can also experiment by writing in the second-person plural ("we") or illustrating one of Amaker's stanzas.

Writing Direction, Creative Mapping

In Joy Harjo's "Directions to You," she writes, "You will not always be lost. / You are right here, / In your time, / In your place." Drawing inspiration from the poem, this lesson plan by Saraiya Kanning asks students to think about directions expansively, and to brainstorm different places and peoples they can write directions to, before crafting their own list poem. Two expansion activities are also offered: one that involves creating drawings and maps of the written directions, and another that prompts young poets to use one line from Joy Harjo's poem as the first line of a new poem.

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Photo by Artur Rutkowski