Teaching Different Types of Poetry: Concrete & Dramatic
I heard whimpering down the hall. It was coming from Mr. Gradenomor's classroom. I poked my head inside and saw Mr. Gradenomor in the fetal position under his desk. He was covered by student papers. "What's wrong?" I asked.
"Can't read another horrible poem..." he gasped.
I picked a paper up and read a student poem:
Your love is like the trees
floating in the breeze
Your love is like a dove
It fits me like a glove
Too bad I have to kill this bird
On my head it dropped a turd.
I had to help my colleague. I gave him some advise on teaching dramatic poetry and concrete poetry. I think I'll share those teaching ideas with you.
Teaching Dramatic & Concrete Poetry
In dramatic poetry the speaker is clearly somebody other than the poet. Dramatic poetry often contains dialogue and is sometimes written in the form of a play. This includes dramatic monologues (think Shakespeare). Other examples include "The Runaway" by Robert Frost, "Incident in a Rose Garden" by Donald Justice, "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning, and anything written by Shakespeare.
- Read and discuss several Shakespearean monologues. Have students write one of their own or update the language in one.
- Read a short story and convert it into a dramatic poem.
- Write a letter to yourself from a famous person. Convert the letter into a poem pretending it's the actual person who wrote the letter.
Concrete poetry is an excellent way to teach students the relationship between structure and content. In a concrete poem the shape of the poem suggests the poem's meaning or subject. Examples of include "A Christmas Tree" by William Burford and "Pendulum" by John Updike.
- Draw a picture of an ordinary object such as an umbrella, a pencil, an Ipod, or a cell phone. Next to it write a description. Convert the description into concrete poetry shaped like the picture. Make sure the words express meaning as a poem should.
- Make a list of various types of people. Write concrete poetry describing that person.