Letter Poems Deliver: Experimenting with Line Breaks in Poetry Writing

Julie Wollman, Ph.D.

Lesson Introduction

Letter poems are a particularly apt medium for exploring a defining characteristic of poetry—line breaks. As students work to transform narrative-style letters into poetic format, they are forced to think carefully about where to end each line. Students begin by discussing letters they have written and working with an online tool as an introduction to letter poems. As a group, students look at a letter form of “This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams and add line breaks to turn it into a poem. They then compare the poem they created with the original, discussing why the poet made the line break choices he did. Next, they work in small groups to rewrite another letter as a poem and then compare the various groups’ results with the original poem. Students then use a Venn diagram to compare letters and poems. Finally, they compose their own letter poems.

Learning Objectives

In this lesson, students will have opportunities to:

  • Explore and discuss various poems to demonstrate a growing awareness of how line breaks affect rhythm, sound, meaning, impact, and appearance, and can substitute for punctuation in letter poems.
  • Demonstrate their understanding of line breaks and how format creates dramatic effect by writing their own letter poems.

Materials and Resources

To teach this lesson, you will need:

Lesson provided by ReadWriteThink.org, a website developed by the International Reading Association and the N.C.T.E.

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