A Lesson on Titles and Place with "Americans"



In this lesson students will:

  • Consider how a title interacts with the body of the poem
  • Investigate the ways images create a place within a poem
  • Write a poem based on a meaningful place



While sometimes a poem's title can provide context or a summary of the poem, other times the title functions as its own line in the poem. Elevated above all other lines by its status as title, it becomes a key to be applied to the body of the poem. A sense of place in a poem can also act as its own force, the setting of the poem influencing the tone of the poem. A deep sense of place in a poem can help the reader slide easily into the poem's world. Together, these two formal elements can create a poem that asks to be re-read and investigated.


Encountering the Poem

  1. Have a student read the poem out loud
  2. Read the poem aloud again yourself, this time having students circle details that feel specific to a place.
  3. Discuss the details that students circled.
    1. What place do they create?
    2. How is your sense of this place different than it might have been if these details were not included?
  4. Consider the poem's title.
    1. How does the title show up in the body of the poem?
    2. What does the title suggest about what's happening in the poem?
    3. How does the title affect our interpretation of the place being described?
  5. Read the poem aloud a final time.
    1. How are all of these details working in conjunction to convey a greater meaning?


Writing Prompt

Have students pick a place that's meaningful to them. Ask them to make a list of details they remember from that place, and encourage them to consider all of the senses. Ask them to consider things in that place that are beautiful, ugly, and mundane. Give them five minutes, and encourage them to list as many details as they can. Then, have them write a poem using as many of these details as they can.


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