Your students are bound to need more than the definition of imagery to really get it. Understanding imagery involves interpreting and analyzing the author's purpose for using a specific image or set of images. Here are some excellent poems for high school or middle school students.
Teach students how to annotate and analyze a poem before focusing on one specific element. There are multiple levels of understanding imagery. Your lesson plans should incorporate the following:
The definition of imagery: I thought I was pretty cool in high school because I knew that imagery was the use of vivid or figurative language to represent objects, actions, or ideas. No one else though I was cool except for my English teacher who gave me an 'A' on my literary terms matching quiz. Then I realized simply knowing a definition means nothing.
Identifying imagery: Being able to identify imagery raises one above the level of primates, but it still falls short of mastery.
Interpreting imagery: Explaining why the author chooses a particular image and what effect it has on the poem's theme puts one in the upper echelon of poetry analysts.
Using imagery: Being able to use imagery to convey more clearly a specific message equates to mastery.
Examples of Poems Using Imagery
When teaching imagery in poetry focus on its function. The following examples of poetry using imagery will help:
- "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth - Write this poem on the board, identify the images, and comment on how they contribute to the poem's theme. Wordsworth suggests that being one with nature equates to being one with the Universe or God. The first two stanzas are full of images; the final two stanzas contains the poet's reflections about the images.
- "The Eagle" by Alfred Lord Tennyson - This short poem takes 10 seconds to read and 45 minutes to analyze. The first stanza focuses on the harshness of nature. The second stanza focuses on the majesticness of nature. I recommend reading this poem aloud and throwing something (like a thunderbolt) against the wall on the last line. Remind students that authors use imagery in poetry to create a specific feeling.
- "Rocking" by Gabriela Mistral - Mistral uses images of the divine sea and connects them to the rocking of her son. She then connects the image of the sea to the image of God, equating motherhood to godliness.
- "Summer" by Walter Dean Myers - As you've probably guessed, "Summer" describes summer using images of "Bugs buzzin from cousin to cousin," and "Juices dripping running and ripping" (3-5). "Summer" makes a fun poem for young scholars to learn imagery.
- "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe" - Poe's classic serves as an example for just about every element of poetry. Imagery is no exception. Discuss how Poe's images contribute to the ominous setting of the narrative.
- "Eulogy for a Hermit Crab" by Pattiann Rogers - Rogers description of a hermit crab conveys her love of nature and the majesticness of all god's creatures.
More Famous Poems
The following list of poems will help you as you teach imagery in poetry:
- "The Love Song of J. Alfred Proofrock" by T.S. Eliot
- "To a Mouse" by Robert Burns
- "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost
- Anything by Keats, Shelley, Byron, Blake, or Wordsworth
- Anything by Frost
- "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams
- "In a Station of the Metro" by Ezra Pound
For examples of short stories for teaching imagery, follow the link.
Citations not in the public domain come from the following:
Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2002.
For specific examples of imagery, check out the elements of poetry study guide.