Lesson: Narrative Poetry - Main Idea

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Lesson Objective

Students will be able to identify a narrative poem and synthesize the main idea and provide evidence of the main idea.

Lesson Plan

Objective: Students will be able to identify a narrative poem and synthesize the main idea and provide evidence of the main idea.

Lesson Plan

Standard/Code/Name: Main Idea

Do Now (5-7 minutes): Jack wants to cut the final four lines of his poem from January 24th. Why? Do you think the poem is stronger with the final lines or without? Explain.


Opening:  In every text that we read, teachers are always concerned with the main idea.  Why do you think that is?  (Provide students with think-pair-share time and have students provide their answers).  You are absolutely right; to make sure that you “get it” and understand what is being communicated in the writing.  Just like we do this in stories and informational text, we need to find out if you get the messages communicated in poetry.  

Direct Instruction (I DO):

A great way to come to the main idea in poetry and any other text is to start by summarizing.  In order to do this we need to summarize the different sections in our poems/text.  In poetry, these sections are call STANZAS.

Here is the first stanza of a poem by A.A. Milne called “Beetle”:


I found a little beetle, so that beetle was his name,

And I called him Alexander and he answered just the same.

I put him in a matchbox, and I kept him all the day

And Nanny let my beetle out

Yes, Nanny let my beetle out

She went and let my beetle out -

And beetle ran away.


What is the poem about? What is the most important thing it is telling us?


Model thinking aloud to answer these questions for the class, this is how you want them to think about the poems they are reading.


ANSWER:  That the poet’s beetle ran away!


If you wanted to tell the story to someone, you could say something like: “I had a beetle, which I kept in a matchbox, and then Nanny let him out and he ran away.”


This is called summarizing, or making a summary.


Summarizing means finding the most important ideas and leaving out the details, like the beetle’s name; that it answered to Alexander and that the poet had kept it all day.

Guided Practice (WE DO):

Read the following poem with the class:

“The Knight Whose Armour Didn't Squeak”
by A. A. Milne

Of all the Knights in Appledore
The wisest was Sir Thomas Tom.
He multiplied as far as four,
And knew what nine was taken from
To make eleven. He could write
A letter to another Knight.

No other Knight in all the land
Could do the things which he could do.
Not only did he understand
The way to polish swords, but knew
What remedy a Knight should seek
Whose armour had begun to squeak.

And, if he didn't fight too much,
It wasn't that he didn't care
For blips and buffetings and such,
But felt that it was hardly fair
To risk, by frequent injuries,
A brain as delicate as his.

His castle (Castle Tom) was set
Conveniently on a hill;
And daily, when it wasn't wet,
He paced the battlements until
Some smaller Knight who couldn't swim
Should reach the moat and challenge him.

Or sometimes, feeling full of fight,
He hurried out to scour the plain,
And, seeing some approaching Knight,
He either hurried home again,
Or hid; and, when the foe was past,
Blew a triumphant trumpet-blast.

One day when good Sir Thomas Tom
Was resting in a handy ditch,
The noises he was hiding from,
Though very much the noises which
He'd always hidden from before,
Seemed somehow less....Or was it more?

The trotting horse, the trumpet's blast,
The whistling sword, the armour's squeak,
These, and especially the last,
Had clattered by him all the week.
Was this the same, or was it not?
Something was different. But what?

Sir Thomas raised a cautious ear
And listened as Sir Hugh went by,
And suddenly he seemed to hear
(Or not to hear) the reason why
This stranger made a nicer sound
Than other Knights who lived around.

Sir Thomas watched the way he went -
His rage was such he couldn't speak,
For years they'd called him down in Kent
The Knight Whose Armour Didn't Squeak!
Yet here and now he looked upon
Another Knight whose squeak had gone.

He rushed to where his horse was tied;
He spurred it to a rapid trot.
The only fear he felt inside
About his enemy was not
"How sharp his sword?" "How stout his heart?"
But "Has he got too long a start?"

Sir Hugh was singing, hand on hip,
When something sudden came along,
And caught him a terrific blip
Right in the middle of his song.
"A thunderstorm!" he thought. "Of course!"
And toppled gently off his horse.

Then said the good Sir Thomas Tom,
Dismounting with a friendly air,
"Allow me to extract you from
The heavy armour that you wear.
At times like these the bravest Knight
May find his armour much too tight."

A hundred yards or so beyond
The scene of brave Sir Hugh's defeat
Sir Thomas found a useful pond,
And, careful not to wet his feet,
He brought the armour to the brink,
And flung it in...and watched it sink.

So ever after, more and more,
The men of Kent would proudly speak
Of Thomas Tom of Appledore,
"The Knight Whose Armour Didn't Squeak."
Whilst Hugh, the Knight who gave him best,
Squeaks just as badly as the rest.

Read the poem again and have students stop at each stanza and summarize.

Have students come up with the main idea together after reading through a third time.

Now it’s your turn to tell a story. Tell your friend something that happened to you and let him give your story a title. Then listen to his story and do the same. This is a good trick for working out the main idea because the title has to be short and has to tell you what the story is about!

Get together with a partner and read a narrative poem they have written.  See if you can summarize and synthesize a main idea for the poem.

Was your main idea on point with your partner’s vision?
Would you choose a different title?

Independent Practice (YOU DO):

Read April 26th-May 14th

Using the poem from May 14th  and have students come up with summaries for the stanzas and then a main idea of the poem.

What did Jack want to communicate in this poem about Sky?
How did you feel about the poem he wrote about his dog, Sky?

Exit Ticket: How does summarizing help you come up with the main idea in a poem?


Which of Jack’s poems is your favorite? How does it make you feel?  Describe Jack’s writing style and compare it with your own.
Are you at all similar to Jack? Discuss Jack’s growth as a reader and as a writer using quotes from the book. Which one of his statements about poetry most echoes your own feelings?

Lesson Resources

Lesson 71   Lesson Plan


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