Classical Poetry Teacher Guide


(5 minutes)

Q: What do you think about when you think of poetry? What is a poem?

A: Answers will vary. Allow students time to share.


Many people think that poems have to rhyme— but this is not so! Many English and Latin poems do not rhyme. Instead, these poems deploy a rhythm that repeats itself each line or sometimes each stanza. This repeated rhythm in a piece of poetry is called its meter.

(5 minutes)

Materials: Poetry Cards, Poetry Scavenger sheets, envelopes, cups, or other container for cards

Instructions: Cut out the cards with different examples of poetry and place them at different stations around the room – keep examples of the same type together. You can keep them organized and mark stations by placing them in a manila envelope, cup, basket, or other container. Divide students into groups of 2-4 and give each group a Scavenger Worksheet. They should visit the stations around the room and try to figure out which definition applies to the cards at each station. They should have one of each at the end, and may need to revisit a station if they change their minds and think a better definition applies to the examples.

TIP: Instead of the card summaries for epics, if you have a copy of The Odyssey, The Iliad, or The Aeneid – Use the actual books in this station.

VARIATION: To make it a little easier and provide hints, label each cup or envelope with a letter of the alphabet instead of its number – when they match the letter to the definition on their scavenger sheet, they can spell a Latin word or the name of a poet or mythology character, e.g. Homer, Ceres, Venus, salve, panem, lupus, etc.


Station #1 = Stanza
#2 = Epic
#3 = Syllable
# 4 = Rhyme
#5 = Lyric

(10 minutes)

Review the following content on syllables and accentuation with students.

To understand how a line of English poetry may be written with meter or rhythm, you should first understand what a syllable is. A syllable is a basic unit of pronunciation containing one vowel sound. Words may contain one or more syllables. To figure out how many syllables are in a word, you must pronounce the word out loud or in your head, not simply look at the number of letters the word contains. For example, the English word “salve” (meaning an ointment) is pronounced with one syllable because the “e” is silent, but the Latin word salve is pronounced with two syllables.

For a few more examples—these words all have one syllable: a, dog, cake, oat, thought. These words have two syllables: ago, apple, mother.

Words may be pronounced with one syllable emphasized over the others. A syllable that is emphasized is said to be ‘accented’ whereas a syllable that is not emphasized is said to be ‘unaccented’. Can you figure out which syllables are accented in the following words? Mother, apple, forgot, together, emphasize.

In English, the number of syllables per line combined with the rhythmic pattern of accented and unaccented syllables within each line gives us the meter of a poem. Looking back at the examples from Shakespeare’s and Robert Frost’s poetry above, what metrical patterns do you notice?


(15 minutes)

Materials: paper, magazines (optional)

Instructions: Review the definition of Haikus and share examples with students: A Haiku is a Japanese style of poetry that consists of 3 lines – the first line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7 syllables, and the final line has 5 syllables. These poems do not rhyme, but leave the reader with a strong impression, by looking deeper and appreciating the beauty of something simple or something perhaps taken for granted.

Direct students to write their own Haiku and practice counting syllables.

VARIATION: Allow students to illustrate their haiku, or let them pick a photo from a magazine and use it as inspiration for writing a haiku.

Classical Poetry

(15 minutes)

Instructions: Direct students to explore the Latin poetry in the EL1 Lesson. They can practice reading in small groups and try to get a sense of the poem’s rhythm. You may be able to find audio of these poems being read online. Once students have had a chance to explore on their own, allow them to listen to others reading these poems.


(5 minutes)

Q: How many syllables are in the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?

A: 14