• Geoff

Quick Description

  • This essay was the cap to a series of exploratory lessons on great poetry. While requiring students to write essays, it was a bit less formulaic in format (it wasn't the five paragraph essay).


  • For students to come up with their own definitions of great poetry and then to apply those parameters to poetry they have picked.
  • To write an essay that forced them to own the formal style a bit - to move beyond the formula of a five paragraph essay.
  • To use the poetry related literature terms in a competent manner - in a context where their understanding is obvious

Original Context

  • I build my entire English 9 poetry unit around the question, "What is great poetry?" and so this essay is the intellectual capstone of that pursuit.
  • As we begin the unit, students jot notes about what they think great poetry is. We then go to the library and search through the books for the five greatest poems. They copy them (or parts of them) and then bring them class next time. We then use them to prove our cases about great poetry.


  • For the essay's writing, the trips to the library, and the brainstorming, we spend about 4 blocks. This includes a little bit of guided revision.

Good parts

  • Students who dared to define great poetry instead of being wishy washy ("it depends") wrote beautiful essays.

You should know

  • Some students didn't read instructions and didn't quote their five poems in their paper and thus failed. Directions had to be clear.
  • Many students did not include the poetry lit. terms in the essay and that hurt them. Next time as part of the revision process I might have them list the terms they use in the margin and then scan their essays to make sure they're actually using them.



Student Example