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Poetry Lesson Plan: Teaching Richard Cory

By Jessica Cook

This Richard Cory poetry lesson plan for high school English incorporates tabloid journalism and poetry to help students understand the central purpose of a poem. By relating their knowledge of celebrities to the poem, "Richard Cory," students will be able to analyze the purpose of the poem.

Richard Cory Lesson Plan Introduction

Teenagers may not always like poetry, but most of them love celebrities. You can incorporate your students' idols into this high school English poetry lesson plan on the poem, "Richard Cory." Your students will begin to see that sometimes poetry resembles life, even their own lives.

Richard Cory Lesson Plan: Before Reading

Bring in a few copies of celebrity photographs and display them in front of the room. You may also want to have a few celebrity gossip magazines or tabloids on hand. Make sure you include a variety of celebrities that your students will recognize, including musicians, actors, and athletes.

Ask students to identify what they know (or think they know) about these celebrities. Write down their ideas on the board, underneath each celebrity photo.

Tell students that they are going to read a poem about someone who was famous in his town. Pass out copies of Edwin Arlington Robinson's poem, "Richard Cory."

Richard Cory Lesson Plan: During Reading

As students read the poem, ask them to identify characteristics of Richard Cory: What does he look like? How does he behave? What kind of person is he? Have them list these characteristics in a chart, including a reference from the poem to support their answers. For example, a student might say that Richard Cory takes good care of himself; they know this because he is described as being "clean-favored and imperially slim" at the end of the first stanza.

Students should be able to identify at least one to two characteristics about Richard Cory for each stanza of the poem.

After Reading

When they finish reading, ask students to think about the list of celebrity characteristics they made in the beginning of class. Ask them to consider which of the statements are the truth, and which ones are gossip or assumptions. Discuss the difference between someone's public persona and their real self.

Now re-examine the charts students made as they read the poem. Have them circle the characteristics they feel are truthful, and underline the ones they believe are assumptions made by the townspeople. Discuss who Richard Cory really was vs. who the town thought he was. How did this work out for Richard Cory? How does it sometimes work out for today's celebrities?

Now students can write an essay or short response comparing their own experiences or knowledge about celebrities to the poem. This will help them learn to make text-to-self connections as they read. They could also extend this activity by creating an illustration of themselves; on one side, they can include things that are true, and on the other side they can include the things people perceive about them. This activity will help you get to know your students better, especially if you allow them to keep it as a confidential assignment between you and them.