Lesson: Free Verse

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Lesson Objective

Students will be able to identify poetry as Free Verse. Students will be able to write a free verse poem.

Lesson Plan


Students will be about to identify poetry as free verse.

Students will be able to write a free verse poem.

Lesson Plan

Standard/Code/Name:  Poetry       

Do Now (5-7 minutes):


Opening:  Wouldn’t it be nice if there weren’t any rules when you were writing poetry?  You are finally in luck!  We are going to be exploring the world of Free Verse Poetry today!  I world of little rules! 

Direct Instruction (I DO):

Explain that:

·         Free verse poetry is free from the normal rules of poetry.

·         The poet may choose to include some rhyming words but the poem does not have to rhyme. A free verse poem may be just a sentence that is artistically laid out on the page or it can be pages of words.

·         Some forms of free verse separate, or split, phrases and words between lines.

·         Punctuation may be absent or it may be used to place greater emphasis on specific words.

·         The main object of free verse is to use colorful words, punctuation, and word placement to convey meaning to the reader.

Read through a couple different examples of Free Verse poetry.

Fog by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

 It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

·         What do you notice in this poem?

·         What is the poem talking about?

·         Are there any examples of simile/metaphor/onomatopoeia/etc?

o   Model answering these questions for the class.


Free Verse by Robert Graves

I now delight 
In spite 
Of the might 
And the right 
Of classic tradition, 
In writing 
And reciting 
Straight ahead, 
Without let or omission, 
Just any little rhyme
In any little time 
That runs in my head; 
Because, I’ve said, 
My rhymes no longer shall stand arrayed
Like Prussian soldiers on parade
That march, 
Stiff as starch, 
Foot to foot, 
Boot to boot, 
Blade to blade,
Button to button, 
Cheeks and chops and chins like mutton.
No! No! 
My rhymes must go 
Turn ’ee, twist ’ee,
Twinkling, frosty, 
Will-o’-the-wisp-like, misty

·         What do you notice in this poem?

·         What is the poem talking about?

·         Are there any examples of simile/metaphor/onomatopoeia/etc?


Heroes Are
courageous collaborators,
originators of opportunities,
champions of coincidence or circumstance.
heroes act through intelligence
and at other times
through ignorance.

A Hero Could Be
a main character in some work of literature,
simply a person,
or perhaps a mythological being of great courage and strength,
someone with a cause,
perhaps even a sandwich. . .
a hero could be you!

Heroes May Be
Boisterous, bold, brash, and loud – Yee Haw!
Or swift, silent, and sly – Woosh,
Or even filled with woes – Boo hoo.
They may crave attention – Ta da!
Or they may ask for no one to mention – Shhhh. . .
Just how they made a difference.


  • Ask students to point out similarities among the poems.

  • Discuss how the lines in the poems break differently.

  • Model reading the poems aloud.

    • Point out how the line breaks affect the reading of the poem.

  • Tell students that the poet often breaks the lines to make a point.

  • Write a version of one of the poems on the board and have them read it aloud.

  • Then rewrite the poem changing the line breaks and the punctuation and read it aloud again.

  • Ask students to think again about how the punctuation and line breaks affect how the poem is read.

    • Remind them to pay attention to line breaks when they write their own free verse poem.


Explain that free verse poetry can be a lot of fun to write, and pretty simple.

The following steps will help you to write your free verse:

  • Choose a topic.

  • Use the topic as a title.

  • Brain Dump – unload connections, experiences with/about, describe the topic, lines with figurative language, details, facts, etc.

    • Put all these things on a piece of paper.

  • Organize the list so that it conveys meaning.

  • Read through and make sure it flows the way you want it to (paying attention to line breaks, punctuations, etc

  • Final Copy.

Guided Practice (WE DO):

To be done BEFORE writing activity - **How is this poem different and /or the same to the other poem I just read?**

Have students discuss this with a think-pair-share.

Make a list of characteristics of free verse poetry on chart paper.

Write a free verse poem with the class:

  • Choose a topic.

    • Explain that free verse, like other forms of poetry, can make a seemingly common or ordinary person, place, thing, or experience into something special or extraordinary.

  • Model for students how to use their experiences and feelings to brainstorm free verse topics.

  •  List experiences or topics on the board.

  • Choose one of the suggested topics to write a class free verse poem.

  • Write the topic on the board as a title.

  • Remind students that free verse is a controlled list of colorful, thought provoking words about a topic.

    • Encourage students to volunteer words, phrases, or sentences about the topic. Write their responses below the topic.

  • After recording student responses, ask them to suggest ways to organize the list so that it conveys meaning in a better way.

  • Remind students that all good writers revise their work until they feel that the words say what they want them to say in the best way.

  • Revise the free verse poem several times to model the revision process.

  • Model breaking lines at different points to show how the reading can change.

Allow time for students to write their own free verse using a different topic.

  • Encourage them to use their own words and phrases as well as those suggested by the class.

Independent Practice (YOU DO)/Assessment:

Read the following poem and tell me why this is a free verse poem.  (see attached file).

I Dream'd in a Dream
by Walt Whitman

  I DREAM'D in a dream I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the
    whole of the rest of the earth,
  I dream'd that was the new city of Friends,
  Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love, it led
    the rest,
  It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of that city,
  And in all their looks and words.

Closing:  If we take a look at “Love That Dog”, one can see that it is a collection of free verse poem responses from Jack to his teacher about his writing.  When writing a free verse, you Jack as a model.  He doesn’t have a set structure, but the lines are broken to convey his message.

For struggling students:  Create a free verse poem using the Five-Line Structure:


1.       looks like

2.       sounds like

3.       feels like

4.       smells like

5.       tastes like

Extention:  Making Free Verse better:

  • Revisit the descriptive words on the board. Encourage students to find synonyms that might be more interesting and concise (noisy: boisterous, screaming, whining; quiet: calm, serene, silent, still).

    • Encourage students to use additional resources, such as a dictionary, thesaurus, or the Internet to help them develop a personal list of words.

  • Have students create a free verse poem on their own topic.

    • Encourage them to think carefully about where they choose to break their lines.

  • Explain that conventional punctuation and capitalization rules don't always apply in free verse poetry. Discuss which conventions might vary and which might not. (For example, proper names should still begin with capital letters; writers should be consistent in their use of words and phrases; writers should also be consistent in their use of writing patterns.) The key issue is comprehension; the poet should use punctuation to convey meaning in order to help the reader understand the poem.

  • Encourage students to include alliteration and other poetic devices, such as onomatopoeia, internal rhyme, or assonance in their poetry writing.

  • Encourage students to revise their work in order to improve understanding and flow by adding, deleting, consolidating, and rearranging text as necessary.

Lesson Resources

Lesson 72 Free Verse Poetry Practice   Classwork
Lesson 72   Lesson Plan
Lesson 72 Poetry Terms Free Verse   Notes
Lesson 72 Writing Free Verse Poetry   Combination


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