OER Administrator
English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Poetry
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Analyzing Poem Themes

    Analyzing Poem Themes


    In this lesson, students will read two fairly short poems with very similar themes. While the message of the poems is of primary importance to the writers and to their intended audience, students will also read to see who is more clever, sincere, and effective.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Plan how you will pair students for partner work.
    • You might want to practice reading each poem aloud.

    Love Letter

    • Give the class 3–5 minutes for writing responses to the Quick Write prompt.
    • Ask students to imagine that they were to receive a love letter from someone special. What would they want the contents to include?


    Complete a Quick Write.

    • What would you want written in a love letter sent to you?

    Open Notebook

    O Mistress Mine

    • Read “O Mistress Mine” aloud to the class, asking students to read along silently.
      • ELL: If possible, make sure that ELLs have access to a bilingual dictionary as well as monolingual dictionaries in English and their primary language. Using good dictionaries is very important in building their knowledge of the language and in building their vocabulary.
    • Call on two or three students to read the poem aloud so the class experiences what happens when the poem is read by different voices.
    • Let students know that they should mark up the poem first by identifying words and phrases that they don’t know.
    • An annotated version of “O Mistress Mine” is available.
      • SWD: Monitor students with disabilities’ comfort level with reading Shakespeare, emphasizing strategies for understanding Shakespeare’s language. This may be a good opportunity to preview the difficult vocabulary and wordplay with students with disabilities before they read the next poem.
    • Take the time to go over the vocabulary students need. Some words have changed meanings. For example, mistress today means a woman being kept by a man. In Shakespeare’s day, a mistress was a young, unmarried maiden.
    • Other possible words to go over are trip, sweeting, and hereafter.
    • Give students time to work together to explicate the poem by paraphrasing sentence by sentence.

    Work Time

    William Shakespeare’s “O Mistress Mine,” though often published separately, is actually from his play Twelfth Night . Listen and read along silently as your teacher reads it aloud.

    Your teacher will call on two or three students to read the poem again to hear the words from different voices. Be prepared to read.

    • As you listen and read silently, mark any words or phrases that you don’t understand. When the oral reading is completed, share the words you don’t know.
    • Then, work with a partner to annotate the poem. First read for sentence sense; that is, read to the end of each sentence (look for a period, a question mark, or a semicolon), and before you go on, tell each other what the sentence is saying.

    What You Liked Best

    • Give students a short amount of time to write.
    • Allow students a brief time to share their responses to the prompt.
    • Open up the conversation to the whole class by inviting students to share what they liked best and why.
      • ELL: Encourage all ELLs to participate as actively as their native English language-speaking counterparts, even if the pace of some might be slower, or if others are more reluctant to volunteer due to their weaker command of the language.
    • See if there are differences in the attitudes of girls and boys in response to the poem. For example, ask how many of the girls think it is a good love poem or whether they would like to receive it. Ask the boys whether it is a poem they would send.
    • Ask students to identify the line or lines in the poem they like and then tell why they liked those lines.

    Work Time

    Complete a Quick Write.

    • What do you like best in this poem and why?

    Open Notebook

    Share your response with your partner, and be prepared to share your response with the whole class.

    To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

    • Let students try reading Herrick’s poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” independently. If you discover some students need more support, you could allow them to work with partners.
    • Explain that in Herrick’s day, a virgin referred to any young, unmarried woman—a maiden.
    • Give students enough time to read and take notes.

    Work Time

    Robert Herrick was a 17th-century English poet.

    • Read and annotate Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.”
    • Think about what makes this poem similar to Shakespeare’s “O Mistress Mine.”

    The Most Important Word

    • Give students 3–5 minutes to write their responses to the Quick Write prompt.
    • Facilitate a brief discussion about what is important in Herrick’s poem.
    • List the words that students think are the most important.
    • Save some time to get started on the homework assignment.
    • An annotated version of “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” is available.


    Complete a Quick Write.

    • What is the most important word in Herrick’s poem? Explain why.

    Open Notebook

    If called on during the Whole Group Discussion, share your response to the Quick Write question.

    Make a list of some of the words you and your classmates think are important.

    Carpe Diem

    • The essay makes reference to some of the poems in this unit, so you may find it helpful to look now for any reference to “O Mistress Mine” and “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.”
    • Make sure students know to mark any words they don’t know.
    • Also make sure students can summarize each paragraph. You may ask them to send their summaries to you as a formative assessment.


    Read and annotate the essay “Carpe Diem.”

    • Write a brief summary of each paragraph and submit it to your teacher.

    Open Notebook