Students are exposed to poetry as an art form full of aesthetic qualities, rhythmic elements and poignant themes, and consider how the genre differs from prose in structure, form, purpose, and language.

This unit has been archived. To view our updated curriculum, visit our 6th Grade English course.

Unit Summary

In this unit, students will fall in love with poetry as an art form full of aesthetic qualities, rhythmic elements, and poignant themes about the human experience. Students will examine the works of great poets such as Nikki Grimes, Gary Soto, and Maya Angelou as they think about how poetry differs from prose in structure, form, purpose, and language. In the second half of the unit, students will continue their year-long conversation about heroes as they dive into personal poems about admiration and honor. Whether the poems focus on everyday heroes, such as one’s mother, or traditional heroes from history, students explore how poets reveal deep emotions about people who were influential in their lives. 

Significantly, in this unit, students move beyond literal meanings of words to figurative ones as they review how to analyze metaphors, similes, personification, and hyperboles from previous years. Toward the middle of the unit, students are pushed even more to explain the themes of poems. Unlike in texts from the elementary years, the themes are often subtle and developed over the course of the text rather than obvious and revealed early on in the text. This unit allows for students to read three poems in one sitting and then practice identifying each poem's theme in the same lesson. This target task often requires students to apply the strategy/skill learned during the lesson to a new poem. This kind of immediate practice and application is not possible when students have to identify a theme in a novel that is read over many weeks, because the theme is often only apparent at the end. Moreover, students are challenged to analyze how imagery, figurative language, contrast, and repetition help to crystalize the deeper message of the poem. In the culminating project of the unit, students will incorporate their knowledge of literary devices in their own personal poems about heroes who have influenced their lives. 

By the end of the unit, students will have a rich tool kit of craft moves that writers use to create vivid descriptions and enhance the meaning in texts. This will be particularly advantageous as they dive into the next unit, House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, a book rich with figurative language and imagery. 

Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

See Text Selection Rationale


This assessment accompanies Unit 7 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep


  1. Read and annotate the “Why This Unit?” and “Essential Questions” portion of the unit plan. 
  2. Read and annotate the text with essential questions in mind.
  3. Make a poetry packet by combining all the poems. 
  4. Determine an approach to reading and annotating poetry that you want your students to internalize. Consult with the teachers from the previous grades if possible in an effort to be consistent. 
  5. Take unit assessment. Focus on questions 8, 16, 18 (tone); 9, 14, 15 (figurative language/metaphor); and 10, 11, 13 (theme/central idea). Write the mastery response to the short answer and essay question. Determine how you will grade each one. 
  6. Unit plan lessons that align directly with test questions: 
  1. Definitions: lessons 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  2. Tone: lessons 6, 8, 15
  3. Metaphor: lessons 3, 5
  4. Theme: lessons 9, 10, 11, 13 
  5. Free Verse: lesson 2
  6. Repetition: lesson 11
  7. Point of View: lessons 12, 13 
  8. Heroization (essay on test): lessons 5, 13, 15
  9. Essential Questions: lessons 1, 4, 5, 7, 13 
  1. Grade Target Tasks from Lessons 1, 3, 8, 10, and 13.

Essential Questions


  • What does poetry offer the reader that prose cannot?
  • Does a visual or audio presentation of a poem enhance or detract from the meaning of a poem? 
  • How do poets heroize the influential people in their lives? 

Writing Focus Areas


For all genres of writing, students will practice the habit of dissecting the prompt by breaking it into parts in order to fully grasp the question. In literary analysis writing, students will focus on organizing their writing in the outline and draft stages with a special focus on compare-and-contrast prompts. Students will continue to tackle writing clear thesis statements that thoroughly answer all parts of the prompt. They will also work on supporting their claims with direct quotations. In their culminating project, students will write personal poems about their heroes, in which they will work to maintain a point of view of their choice, incorporating figurative language and imagery. 

Narrative Writing Focus Areas

  • Maintains one narrative point of view to develop the character, setting, or plot 
  • Includes two examples of figurative language that help the reader imagine the scene
  • Uses one example of imagery that enhances the tone and meaning of the poem

Spiraling Literary Analysis Writing Focus Area

  • Creates a draft and outline that supports a compare-and-contrast prompt
  • Thoroughly addresses the prompt through a thesis that is clear, complete (answers the whole question), and compelling
  • Supports each claim with at least one direct quotation from the text 
  • Uses paragraphs to separate the different parts of the essay



Literary Terms

poetry, prose, verse, stanza, line, rhyme scheme, free verse, literal language, figurative language, metaphor, simile, personification, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, alliteration, sound device, imagery, sensory details, theme, subtle, repetition, speaker, narrative point of view, first person, second person, third person, limited, omniscient perspective, heroize, mood, repetition, contrast, rhyme scheme, compare and contrast, tone



Content Knowledge and Connections


  • Maya Angelou
  • Poetry vs. prose

Previous Fishtank ELA Connections

3rd grade: Poetry 

Future Fishtank ELA Connections

7th grade: poetry unit on The American Dream

Lesson Map


  • “Tamara's Opus”

  • “Bennett video”

  • “What Is...”

  • “A Poem is...”

  • “Invitation”

  • “A Poem is...”

  • “I, Too”




Differentiate between prose and verse. 

Explain the purpose of verse form according to the article.

Explain how the visual and aural depiction of the poem enhances or detracts from the meaning.


  • “Invitation”

  • “A Poem is...”

  • “At the Library”

  • “I, Too”



Differentiate between verse and free verse. 

Explain the purpose of rhyme scheme in a poem.


  • “A Simile...”

  • “What is the Sun?”

  • “Love That...”

  • “When Great...”


Explain the difference between metaphor and simile. 

Explain the literal meanings of similes and metaphors.


  • “The Walrus...”

  • “Walrus video”

  • “Rocking”

  • “The Drought”



Identify and interpret the literal meaning of personification in a poem.

Explain how personification affects the mood in a poem. 

Explain how the visual and aural depiction of the poem enchances or detracts from the meaning.


  • “The Dawn's Awake!”

  • “Waiting”

  • “Song To Woody”

  • “Song to Woody”



Identify and analyze the metaphors, similes, and personification in a poem. 

Interpret the poem "The Dawn's Awake" beyond its literal meaning in the context of the Harlem Renaissance.

Explain how the visual and aural depiction of the poem enhances or detracts from the meaning.


  • “I Ate a Spicy Pepper”

  • “Sick”


Identify and explain the purpose of hyperbole in a poem. 

Explain how hyperbole affects the tone of a poem. 


  • Comic 3

  • Comic 2

  • Comic 1

  • “Waiting”

  • “Cynthia in...”

  • “Lyrics 1”

  • “Cat's In...”

  • “Lyrics 2”

  • “Circle Game”


Identify and explain the purpose of sound devices (onomatopoeia and alliteration) in poetry. 

Explain how the aural depiction of the poem enhances or detracts from the mood.


  • “A Red Palm”

  • “Oranges”

  • “Wild Geese”


Identify and explain the purpose of imagery in a poem. 

Explain how imagery affects the tone of a poem. 


  • ““Hope” is the thing with feathers”

  • “Caged Bird”


Identify and explain the theme in the poem. 


  • “You Learn”

  • “Jorge Luis Borges”

  • “Instants”

  • “Moments”


Identify and explain how the poet develops the theme.


  • “Phenomenal Woman”

  • “Alone”

  • “Do not go...”


Explain how the poet uses repetition to convey the theme.

Explain how repetition enhances the speaker’s tone in the poem. 


  • “Invitation”

  • “Oranges”

  • “The Walrus...”

  • “The Bean...”

  • “Mother...”

  • “We Real Cool”

  • “The Life of Lincoln West”

Identify the narrative point of view of the poem.


  • “Paul Revere’s Ride”

  • “Harriet Tubman”

  • “Frederick Douglass”

  • “O Captain! My Captain!”



Explain how the narrative point of view affects the theme of heroization in the poem. 


  • “I Sing the Battle”

  • “Let America...”


Analyze the effect of contrast in a poem.

Explain how Kemp and Hughes develop themes in their poems.


  • “When Ure Hero Falls”

  • “Rock Me to Sleep”


Compare and contrast how poets develop tone in poetry.






Write a poem about a hero that uses a specific point of view, figurative language, and imagery to convey a clear tone and theme.



Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.6.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 6 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

  • L.6.4.a — Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word's position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

  • L.6.4.b — Use common, grade-appropriate Greek or Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., audience, auditory, audible).

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.6.1 — Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RI.6.2 — Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

  • RI.6.6 — Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.6.1 — Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RL.6.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.

  • RL.6.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

  • RL.6.5 — Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

  • RL.6.6 — Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.

  • RL.6.7 — Compare and contrast the experience of reading a story, drama, or poem to listening to or viewing an audio, video, or live version of the text, including contrasting what they "see" and "hear" when reading the text to what they perceive when they listen or watch.

  • RL.6.9 — Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres (e.g., stories and poems; historical novels and fantasy stories) in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.6.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • SL.6.4 — Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

  • SL.6.6 — Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Writing Standards
  • W.6.1 — Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

  • W.6.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

  • W.6.3.a — Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

  • W.6.3.d — Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to convey experiences and events.