Animal Poetry Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

With this lesson plan, your students are going to use animals as subjects in poetry. They will explore the animal as a literal and metaphorical subject, and apply this in a number of poetic formats.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate the construction and use of metaphor in poetry
  • Demonstrate familiarity with multiple poetic formats


60-90 minutes

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.10

Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.


Use words, phrases, and clauses as well as varied syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.


Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.


  • Copies of poems that deal with similar subjects but in different ways
  • Basic printed instructions on formats of limericks, sonnets haiku, lyric and free verse poetry


  • Begin with a discussion about the different ways that poets can treat a single topic. They can be descriptive, analytical, metaphorical, etc. Ask students to think about how/why poets choose to treat their subjects in certain ways.
    • It may be very helpful for this discussion to have an example of poems that deal with a similar subject in different ways. Try to find poems that deal with animals. For example, you could compare Dickinson's poems about birds to one by Poe or Frost. You could use the Blake's, Kipling's or Swift's poems about tigers. If you can find a second poem about walruses, you could even use Carroll's Walrus and the Carpenter.
  • Ask students to select an animal of their own, or have them randomly draw an animal from a hat. For the next 15 minutes, students will reflect on their animal and brainstorm ideas about it. They may also use this time to research more about their animal if need be. Things they should focus on include:
    • What are the dominant physical and behavioral traits of this animal?
    • Where does this animal live?
    • What does this animal eat? How does it get its food?
    • How has this animal appeared in pop culture before?
    • What could this animal be used to represent in a metaphor? Try to think of many different ways you could use this animal to represent ideas, emotions, people, events, or motifs.

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