Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Superb Sonnets

Carla Lovett


As an introduction to sonnets, students practice identifying the elements of both Petrarchan (Italian) and Shakespearean (English) sonnets and try their hand at writing their own original sonnets in one of these styles.


The student identifies the characteristics that distinguish literary forms.


-“Superb Sonnet” handout (See Associated File)
-“Sonnet Search” worksheet (See Associated File)
-“Sonnet Search” answer key (See Associated File)
-Pen or pencil


1. Download the Superb Sonnets handout and the Sonnet Search worksheet from the Associated File. Because of copyright laws, the actual texts of the sonnets are not included. You can find the sonnets listed, along with many others, at Sonnet Central ( This website is repeated at the end of each sonnet on the handout and worksheet and also in the Web links section of this lesson. After you have inserted the sonnets into the handout and worksheet, make one copy of each for each student.
2. Review the material on the Superb Sonnets handout, and identify the rhyme schemes and other sonnet criteria in the sample sonnets on the handout.
3. Download the Sonnet Search answer key from the Associated File and make one teacher copy.


Note: Before beginning this lesson, students should have a working knowledge of poetic terms, such as stanza, rhyme scheme, and iambic pentameter.

1. Tell the students that today they will write a Superb Sonnet. Explain to students that by the end of the lesson, they will be able to identify the characteristics of the two forms of sonnets and will have an opportunity to try writing their own sonnets. Explain to students that this lesson builds upon what they have already learned about poetry in general. Tell them that in order to understand sonnets, they will have to remember some of the poetry terms they have already learned. (10 minutes)

2. Distribute the “Superb Sonnets” handout to students. Be sure to discuss the variations in rhyme scheme and stanza formations. Discuss the information on sonnets with the students. Review the sample sonnets as a class to allow students to practice. Have students identify the rhyme schemes, stanzas, etc., of the sample sonnets. Provide opportunities for as many students as possible to respond aloud to questions regarding these sample sonnets. (30 minutes)

3. Distribute the “Sonnet Search” worksheet. Go over the directions for Parts I and II with the students. For Part I, remind students that the rhyme schemes for sonnets do not always follow the exact rhyme scheme presented in their notes, but that if the rhyme scheme varies, it will be similar to the rhyme scheme presented and all the other criteria for a sonnet will be met. For Part II, encourage students to use the traditional rhyme schemes for their first attempts at writing a sonnet. Remind students that they should refer to their notes on sonnets to help them complete the worksheet. Allow students time to complete the worksheet. (30 minutes)

4. Collect the “Sonnet Search” worksheet. (See Assessment.)

5. At the beginning of the next class period, return the “Sonnet Search” worksheets that you have assessed. Review the worksheet with the class as a means of providing additional feedback. Reinforce the concept of acceptable variations on the traditional rhyme schemes for sonnets. (20 minutes)


Use the Sonnet Search worksheet to formatively assess the students’ ability to:
-identify the characteristics of both Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnets
-identify non-examples of sonnets
-write their own sonnet in one of the two styles, using all required elements for that style.

For detailed answers, see the Sonnet Search answer key in the Associated File.


1. You may want to provide students with additional sonnets as examples or for additional practice, particularly sonnets written by Shakespeare, as this lesson does not include any of Shakespeare’s actual sonnets, only those written in the Shakespearean style.
2. You may wish to extend the lesson by taking time to discuss the meanings of the sonnets provided or to have students find examples of other poetic devices in the sonnets.

Web Links

Web supplement for Superb Sonnets
Sonnet Central

This is the site for the text of "Richard Cory"
Edgar Arlington Robinson

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