Lesson Plan

When Couplets Leave Shakespeare

Ever wonder how couplets moved on from Romeo & Juliet? Simple! They worked their way into the hearts of children in other forms of poetry such as epigrams written by Shel Silvertein. In this lesson, students compose and share epigrams.
Kirstin S.
Classroom teacher
Cabell County Schools
Huntington, United States
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My Grades 9, 10, 11, 12
My Subjects English Language Arts

Students will be able to: increase the complexity of descriptive language; explain and compose iambic pentameter; explain and compose rhyming couplets; explain and compose epigrams; manipulate blogging site (adding pages, content; sharing/ viewing other blogging sites)

English Language Arts
Grades 9
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Using the Ted Ed website, students will watch "The Case Against 'Good' and 'Bad'" video. They will identify three words from the video that could be used in place of the words 'good' and 'bad'. In addition, they will have to add two words to each list. Teacher will then ask for students to share their responses and document those on the board or use Elmo to project on SmartBoard.  These lists will be kept handy for when students begin to compose their epigrams.

Allow 7 minutes for this activity.

2 Direct Instruction

Use the Folger Library's "Living Iambic Pentemeter" lesson, the teacher will engage the students in a review of iambic pentemeter (the sounds, beat, and feel) using examples from William Shakespeare.  This lesson comes with instructions for the teacher as to how to prepare and execute the activity; there is also a video of this activity that will help the teacher prepare and faciliate this lesson.  (Note: this lesson needs preparation of materials and organization.  I would suggest reviewing the actvity and setting up materials at least one day before doing this activity in one's class.)

Allow 10 to 13 minutes for this activity.

3 Guided Practice

Shel Silverstein's website offers a set of guided practice handouts associated with several types of poetry; teachers can access the guided practice for epigrams in the 2013 Poetry Workshop Kit in the Lessons and Activities link under the Resources tab.  Teachers will guided the students through labeling the first epigram for needed criteria and composing the first epigram.  Students will then work collaboratively to finish the remaining two epigrams.

Allow 10 to 12 minutes for this activity.

4 Independent Practice

As an extended part of a potential poetry unit that incorporates this lesson, students can create and manage a poetry blog to publish their original poetry.  Prior to this step, teachers need to educate and facillitate the set-up of a Blogger blog.  This set up will include how to manipulate the site for text and images as well as lessons in blogging/ website safety.

Students will add an Epigram page to their Writing Blog. In a 1x5 paragraph, students will discuss iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets, and epigrams and the possible messages and content that could be communicated using this type of poetry. Students will also post three examples of original epigrams.

Allow 15 minutes for this activity.

5 Wrap-Up

Teachers can use this app (Speak It!) to have students share one of their epigrams with the class.  Students can either download this app on their own device (with parent permission due to cost) or the teacher can extend their own Apple devices for the students to share.  The app allows the user to type in text that they wish to share as well control the voice and speed at which the text is shared.  This app will definitely be useful for students who are not apt to read their work aloud (modification).