Sonnet Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Use this lesson to teach your students the characteristics of a sonnet and examine the history. Provide students with a few samples, and allow them to take a stab at writing some of their own.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe characteristics of sonnets
  • analyze the structure of sonnets
  • explain the historical background of sonnets
  • compare and contrast sonnet types
  • write a sonnet


1 hour


  • copies of Shakespearean (English) sonnets
  • copies of Petrarchan (Italian) sonnets
  • highlighters

Key Vocabulary

  • sonnet
  • Petrarchan sonnet
  • Shakespearean sonnet
  • stanza
  • octave
  • sestet
  • volta
  • William Shakespeare
  • quatrains
  • couplet

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.5

Analyze how a drama's or poem's form or structure (e.g., soliloquy, sonnet) contributes to its meaning

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds (e.g., alliteration) on a specific verse or stanza of a poem or section of a story or drama.


  • Before the learning session, take a popular song students will be familiar with and rewrite it as a sonnet. A simple search will also produce many examples. Write the lyrics on the board or poster paper.
  • Engage students and connect to learning by displaying the sonnet and reading the words dramatically. Ask students to identify and discuss how it is different than the original.
  • Tell students this is an example of a poem type called a sonnet. Explain the characteristics of a sonnet and illustrate them in the poem you wrote.
  • Preview or pre-teach other key vocabulary.
  • Show our video lesson Sonnets: Definition & Examples.
  • Pause the video at 39 seconds and review terms. Check for understanding. Ask:
    • What are the characteristics of a sonnet?
    • What theme is explored most in sonnets? Why might that be?
  • Have students create a 2-column chart labeled Petrarchan and Shakespearean. Instruct them to take notes as the next sections of the lesson play.
  • Resume the video.
  • Pause at 2:40. Display the sonnet used in the lesson, Soleasi Nel Mio Cor, and give copies to students. With students, identify the octave, sestet, and rhyme scheme. Highlight and notate subject and resolution.
  • Restart the lesson. Pause at 4:39 and repeat the exercise from above using the poem Sonnet 18.
  • Give students a few minutes to examine the two poems, then ask:
    • How are these two poem types the same? How are they different?
  • Take some time to compare and contrast, then play the lesson summary.
  • Ensure all students have necessary notes and definitions.

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