Lesson Plans

Illustrating Poetry: An Imagery Exercise

Grade Level

7 – 12


This listening, drawing, and writing exercise will awaken student’s senses with the rich imagery of poetry. By hearing poems read out loud and imagining the setting, characters, and situations for themselves, students will not only gain exposure to poetic language, they will become co-creators in the artistry of plains life.


In this unit students will:

  • read and hear poetry read out loud
  • identify instances of imagery in poetry
  • compare and contrast poems by different authors that share similar images and/or themes
  • illustrate literary themes and images presented in poetry
  • create visual and/or digital compositions inspired by plains poetry
Required Materials

For Supplemental Digital Composition activity: computers with movie making software, like iMovie

Step-By-Step Procedures

(This activity could take one class period, or several class periods, depending on teacher objectives for the unit.)

  1. Group the students into pairs and assign each pair two of the poems listed above.
  2. Students should sit back to back, facing away from each other.
  3. Student A should read his or her assigned poem out loud while Student B listens with eyes closed.
  4. Student A will read the poem aloud a second time. This time, Student B should create spontaneous drawings that illustrate the images invoked by the poem. This doesn’t need to be a literal representation, or include every image in the piece, but should be a visual scene that indicates how the listener pictures the situation of the poem in his or her own mind. There may be specific images in the piece that lend themselves to illustrating, like the word “tornado” for instance, while other drawings might be more indicative of a feeling or idea generated from the poem.
  5. Student A and B will reverse roles and complete the activity again with the second poem.
    When each student has completed his or her illustration, the class should reconvene as a large group.
  6. Students should not reveal the poem that inspired their drawings – yet! There are two fun and engaging activities that could be conducted at this point.
Activity A:
    • Each of the assigned poems should be read out loud to the entire class, either by the teacher or volunteer student readers.
    • Have students provide a quick summary of each piece.
    • List the titles and summaries of each poem somewhere in the room where they can be seen by all.
      Have each student show his or her illustration to the class.
    • Classmates should study each drawing and attempt to match it to the poem they believe inspired it.
Activity B:
    • Students should pair up again, this time with a new peer, and the newly formed pairs should swap poems.
    • Students should study their new partner’s illustration, looking for themes and ideas presented there.
    • Based on his or her interpretation of their partner’s illustration, students should compose a poem to accompany it. The new Student A will write a poem inspired by Student B’s drawing, and the new Student B will write a poem inspired by Student A’s drawing. (This activity could take several minutes or several class periods, depending on the teacher’s objectives for the project.)
    • The class should reconvene as a large group. Each student should read the poem he or she wrote and share the illustration that inspired it. The creator of the original illustration should then reveal the plains poem from which the illustration was generated. The plains poems and the student poems can be examined, looking for similarities and differences in theme, tone, and imagery.
A Digital Composition Extension Activity
  • Students could create digital poetry movies that showcase their illustrations with accompanying vocal tracks featuring readings of the plains poems and/or student poems. Other images for the movie could also include photographs of the poetic images and pictures of the plains and student poets.
This lesson meets the following Nebraska State Standards:
  • LA 10.1 Reading: Students will learn and apply reading skills and strategies to comprehend text.
  • LA 10.2 Writing: Students will learn and apply writing skills and strategies to communicate.
  • LA 10.3 Speaking and Listening: Students will develop and apply speaking and listening skills and strategies to communicate for a variety of purposes.
  • LA 10.4 Multiple Literacies: Students will apply information fluency and practice digital citizenship.