Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan: So This is the Plains

Mary Birky Collier

Target Audience:  Junior High, High School, Adult


  • Utilizing a variety of poems from the plains (see Recommended Poetry), students should read and annotate poems, noting features they find thought-provoking, in addition to tones/moods and universal themes.
  • Students should also think about the representation of the plains in these poems.  How does it compare to their own plains experience?  Similarities?  Differences?  Comparisons to stereotypical “plains experience”?
  • In small groups, students should use their annotations to discuss what they think of the poems they’ve annotated.
  • Then as a whole class, go through three – four poems that students most want to discuss, asking students to share from their annotations, and wrapping up each poem with the tones/emotions/moods they sense emerging from each poem.


Place-Conscious Free-Writing Questions

Directions for Students:  Please think about the questions below and respond in at least a good-sized word-processed paragraph for each set of questions below.  Blanks should be filled in with the name of the your “place” (i.e. town, city, region, etc.).

  1. What do you like about living in ________________?  Dislike?
  2. What do you see as some issues, challenges, conflicts, struggles, tensions, and/or concerns of ________________residents?
  3. Compare ________________to other places you know—places you’ve lived, family/friends live, other places you know. How is it different?  How is it the same?
  4. Think about what defines a place.  What about ________________defines it?
  5. How do you think living in ________________shapes us?  Shapes those around us?

Free-Write:  “So This is __________________”

This free-write is s based on Ted Kooser’s “So This is Nebraska”.  After reading, annotating, and discussing this poem, students should think of some place that has really affected them—whether their current state, city/town, or some other place they’ve lived, and spend approximately five minutes writing about how they’d fill in that blank (in the title).  If they’re in a poetry mood, they are welcome to free-write in poetry format.  


Directions for students:  Thinking about what you like about where we live, don’t like, how it’s different from other places you’ve lived/know, how where we live is defined, how we’re shaped by where we live, develop some poetry portraying some aspect of where we live.  You might consider looking at your responses to the Place Conscious Free-Writing Questions, your Free-Write entitled “So This is __________________”, etc.  Consider pulling some of your phrases that include the most vivid imagery, strongest emotions, and/or clearest tones, and arranging them poetically.

Other Directions:

Include at least two literary devices (examples:  alliteration, assonance, simile, metaphor, symbol, parallel structure).  Avoid rhyme. 100 words minimum.  Attach an Author’s Note (50 words minimum) explaining your writing/thinking processes in writing your poetry and identifying your literary devices.



So This is Nebraska (Ted Kooser)

Scars (Twyla Hansen)

At Milking Time (William Kloefkorn)

Nebraska (Kelly Madigan Erlandson)

September 21: Poem For Omaha (Matt Mason)

How to Get to Plattsmouth (Barbara Schmitz)



Morning Hunt (Matt Miller)

Growing City (Tyler Plugge)

Papillion (Trevor Webb)

Whose Midwest (Alfred Bracciano)

Untitled (Cecilia Flott)

Nebraska is Where I Stay (Mackenzie Jung)