How to Teach Poetry with Images Part III

Poetry, Mosaic Ceiling (Washington, DC)
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by takomabibelot

This is the third installment on “How to Teach Poetry with Images.” For the first installment click here and for the second click here. As a refresher my brother, a TESOL teacher in TX, asked about teaching figurative and connotative language. I suggested poetry.

In our last post we discussed authoring poetry using images. Let us now turn to responding to poetry. Using images to analyze the word choices authors use aligns well to the CCSS. It also moves beyond the peck and hunt of, “Find a poem that uses a simile, a metaphor, allegory, etc.”

How It’s Done

Sue and I use canonical poetry for this activity such as: Preacher, Don’t Send Me by Maya Angelou

Preacher, Don’t Send me
when I die
to some big ghetto
in the sky
where rats eat cats
of the leopard type
and Sunday brunch
is grits and tripe.

I’ve known those rats
I’ve seen them kill
and grits I’ve had
would make a hill,
or maybe a mountain,
so what I need
from you on Sunday
is a different creed.

Preacher, please don’t
promise me
streets of gold
and milk for free.
I stopped all milk
at four years old
and once I’m dead
I won’t need gold.

I’d call a place
pure paradise
where families are loyal
and strangers are nice,
where the music is jazz
and the season is fall.
Promise me that
or nothing at all.

  • Have students complete read the poem and complete a free response.
    • If you want to scaffold here are a few prompts:
    • What struck you forcibly?
    • What might be “clues” to meaning?
    • What puzzled you?
    • What words hold deep meaning?
  • Then have students circle words or phrases that affect the tone of the poem. Tone refers to the poet’s attitude toward the material and/or readers. Tone may be playful, formal, intimate, angry, serious, ironic, outraged, baffled, tender, serene, depressed, etc.
  • Have students circle 10-12 words or phrases you feel contribute to the tone of the poem.
  • Then have students list the words.
  • Here is an example from a student
1. when I die
2. ghetto
3. rats eat cats
4. grits and tripe
5. I’ve seen them kill
6. need
7. please don’t
8. promise me
9. streets of gold
10. milk for free
11. pure paradise
12. jazz
  • Then have students search for images of that poem either in a magazine or using the web.
  • Give every students an “image tableau.” (fancy way of saying construction paper).
  • Explain to students they are to arrange the images on the tableau based on the meaning of the poem and how the words affected tone.
  • Put students in small groups and have them explain their tableaus.
Student Example of Image Tableau
Student Example of Image Tableau

Using the tableaus creates a space for students to consider how word choice affects meaning.

We put the birch on the top, but we focused on being able to go only one way. There is a traveler… We picked the sigh thing because of the stanza of him sighing. We put the picture to the side because it is not important.-Student discussing A Road Not Taken

I noticed that certain words contribute to the point of the poems more. The images gave me a picture. The image tableau showed what was most important to the writer in the poem. Discussing with other people gives you a chance to hear others’ interpretations. -A Student


6 responses on “How to Teach Poetry with Images Part III”


  • RT @jgmac1106: Here is my three part series on teaching poetry with images: #edu106 #ctedu #digiuri


  • Greg McVerry

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