Writing a Eulogy Poem

I used this lesson on the first day of class as a way to introduce poetry and poetic techniques and to engage personal material, allowing students an opportunity to reflect.

Sequence of Activities:

Introductory Work (10 min):

Introduce myself, background and teaching, the course, Writing the Community program.

On the board, define poem together. (What does a poem do? What are our expectations of a poem? What do you need to make a poem? How are poems like or unlike other kinds of writing? 

Define eulogy. (A way to praise and honor the dead, a way to remember what made a person/place/thing special and unique.)

Definitions for the Day (5 min):

Look at handout with “Definitions for the Day” (attached): Eulogy, Repetition, Anaphora, Metaphor, Simile, Sensory Description 

Read through definitions and examples

Model Poems (15 min):

Read at Sherman Alexie’s poem “Eulogy”:

  • Discuss students’ observations
  • Read portions and break apart using techniques
  • What makes it a eulogy? What is a eulogy for? Is it only for his mother? (This allows us to talk about how he is not just eulogizing his mother but his native language which died with her and other elders. He is also in a way eulogizing his native culture and eulogizing the loss of language and ritual that cannot be recovered) 

Read my sample poem “My Journal Was A Hiding Place”:

  • Use it to discuss both literary tools and how eulogies can also be about things we have lost and places that either we no longer have access to or that do not exist or exist in the same way. 

My Journal Was A Hiding Place 

My journal was a hiding place
Inside its covers, I scrawled my hopes and fears
Onto its pages, I wondered questions I felt afraid to face
My journal was a hiding place

My journal was a hiding place
For the girl too shy to admit on the outside
All her dreams of who she wanted to be
My journal was a safe place to dream

My journal was a hiding place
Inside a cabinet in my childhood bedroom
Tucked there safe and free
My journal was for my eyes only

But my journal’s hiding place was way down low
And when the storm came and the house began to fill
There was no other place for the water to go
And the waves took the words away 
A hiding place no more
No memories to restore

Writing Exercise (20 min):

Write a eulogy for a person, place or thing. Use repetition and at least one metaphor/simile.

Questions to consider: 

  • What made that person/place/thing unique? 
  • What was your relationship to that person/place/thing?
  • Why does it matter to you that they/it is gone? 
  • How is the world lacking from its absence? 
  • How will that person/place/thing be remembered? What are ways you can keep the memory alive? 

If you feel stuck, you can draw a t-graph first at the top of the page and brainstorm people/places/things you have lost or no longer have access to and then pick the one that feels most immediate or urgent or the one that is calling to you at this moment. 

I circulated as they were writing to help them with ideas or to clarify. 

Sharing (10 min):

Time to share what they have written aloud. I also always offer to read someone’s if they would prefer me to share what they’ve written.  






Introduce literary tools such as repetition and metaphor/simile. Talk about eulogy as a writing and poetic form. Use reflection in poetic writing.

Education Level: 

Junior High




Lesson Plan

Time Frame: 

1 hour and 15 minutes

Prior Knowledge/Skills: 


Required Materials: 

Paper and pencil/pen Definitions for the Day handout

Literary model: 

Sherman Alexie's "Eulogy" Lisa O'Neill's "My Journal Was a Hiding Place"

Lesson Plan: