Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Personify This

Dawn Capes
Bay District Schools


Can a tree's fingers really stretch towards the setting sun? They can if the author is using personification! Students study personification in published works of poetry then create their own through the use of diamante or cinquain poetry.


The student demonstrates a command of the language (including but not limited to precise word choice, appropriate figurative language).

The student uses creative writing strategies appropriate to the format (for example, using appropriate voice; using descriptive language to clarify ideas and create vivid images; using elements of style, such as appropriate tone).

The student uses figurative language techniques to create and comprehend meaning (for example, similes, metaphors, analogies, anecdotes, sensory language).

The student analyzes and describes the use of symbolism and figurative language in fiction or nonfiction.

The student knows ways effective word choice, uses of dialect and sensory or figurative language contribute to the mood or meaning of a poem.

The student understands the impact on the reader of specific word choices (for example,, multiple meanings, invented words, concrete or abstract terms, figurative language).

The student describes how line length, punctuation, and rhythm contribute to the overall effect of a poem.


-Printed copies of the poems, “Writer Waiting” by Shel Silverstein, “The Toaster” by William Jay Smith and “Sea Lullaby” by Elinor Wylie (See Teacher Prep.)
-Transparencies of the poems
-Copies of the poems for students (See Teacher Prep)
-Copies of the student handouts Personify This (two pages), Personification Practice, and Recap (See Associated File)
-Classroom Management Tool, Who’s Got the Answer (provided in Lesson Two, The Inside Story) Optional
-Handouts, I’m a poet and didn’t know it, definitions and How can I make poetry more poetic? (From Lesson one, There’s a Writer Waiting Inside Me!)
-Student poetry folders


1. The poems necessary for the unit will need to be downloaded from the Internet (See Weblinks).
2. It is permissible by copyright law to copy these poems for student use as long as poems are destroyed at unit’s end. However, these poems may be available in student literature books. Please check. If they are, then have students bring literature books to class each day of the unit.
3. Make transparencies of the poems.
4. Make copies of the student handouts Personify This (two pages), Personification Practice, and Recap (See Associated File).
5. Have on hand the definition sheet, I’m a poet and didn’t know it-definitions.
6. Have on hand the transparency of “Foul Shot.”
7. Decide if you would like to use the Classroom Management Tool for Questioning entitled Who’s Got the Answer. This can be used to ensure that more masterful students don’t dominate the question/answer periods and that all students get an opportunity to show what they know. Created in Lesson Two, The Inside Story.
8. Be prepared to pass back student work from the handout, Moment In Time and Recap, completed in Lesson Three.
9. Be prepared to assess today’s handouts and return the next day. Note: Recaps are opportunities to individually assess student understanding of the concepts. Pay close attention to these and note students who appear to be struggling. These students will need additional assistance, questioning, etc. in the following days.
10. Paper saver idea! If you will have students use their own paper instead of making copies of the handouts, simply have them include the same information as the handouts. Another paper saving device, make one class set of poems instead of individual poems. Just be aware of your needs and the needs of your students before making any copying decisions.


Day five of the unit, I’m a Poet and Didn’t Know It!

Note: There are many opportunities for questioning and answering in this lesson that can in turn be used as a formative assessment opportunity. Note those students who have grasped the concept and ask higher order questions of them. Note those students who are having a hard time with the concept and continue questioning them. Attempt to question everyone at least once during the daily discussions. You may want to use the Classroom Management tool, Who’s Got the Answer.

Note: Throughout the course of this unit, students will be asked their interpretation of various poems. Be careful in your responses to students. The answers suggested in this unit are merely the lesson developers’ explanations of the poems. Responses by students may be different, yet still correct. Be open to students’ interpretations. Exploration and student responses will not occur the teacher tells students, "No, that’s not the right answer."

As students enter the room, have them get their poetry folders.

1. First ask who brought in poems to share. Share one. Then, reflect on the key question by asking, “Is this good poetry?” After students have had an opportunity to quickly discuss, place poetry example on the bulletin board.
2. Remind them that “good” poetry is subjective. What is good poetry to one person may not be good poetry to another; however, there are some aspects on which most people agree. Go over the aspects covered thus far.
3. Pass back student work from the handout, Moment In Time and the Recap. Ask if anyone would like to share his or her moment in time. Take no more than 5 minutes for this share time.
4. Review: Display the transparency of “The Base Stealer” by Robert Frances.
a. Ask students to find one example of simile in the poem. (Taut like a tightrope walker, bouncing tiptoe like a dropped ball or a kid skipping rope, hovers like an ecstatic bird.)
b. What do Robert Francis’ words do for the reader here? (Make the reader “see” the tautness, tightness, explosiveness that the base stealer has.)
c. What about sensory language? Can we see, hear, taste, touch or feel anything the base stealer is doing? (Yes, we can really get an image (seeing) for what the base stealer is doing based on the writer’s use of simile, descriptive language, and repetition.)
5. Display the transparency of “The Toaster” and pass out student copies. Ask one student to read the poem aloud. Ask:
a. Does anyone notice anything about the toaster? (It’s been given living qualities.)
b. Anyone know what this is called? (Personification)
c. Can you find examples where the writer has given the toaster living qualities? (Compares to dragon, jaws-flaming red, sits at my elbow, hands them back)
d. Personification is a type of figurative language. (Use the handout I’m a Poet and didn’t know it – Definitions to go over the definition.)
e. Does anyone notice the sensory language in this poem? What can we see, taste, touch, etc. (Jaws flaming red, fat slices, silver scaled dragon.)
f. How does the rhythm contribute to this poem? (We have a rhyme scheme and rhythm scheme that makes the poem snappy and fun.)
g. Do these words impact you in a way different than other poems? Explain. (Student answers will vary.)
6. Display the transparency of “Foul Shot” by Cory Bogner. Students may want to take out their copies.
a. Remind students that we used this poem to study line length, word choice, and sensory language the day before.
b. Remind them that we also have examples of personification in here. Ask students to identify the two places where we have personification. (Line 11 and line 25)
c. Explain to students that poetry doesn’t just limit itself to one type of poetic device per poem. Poets use a variety of poetic devices to make a poem more powerful and meaningful.
d. Using the handout How can I make poetry more poetic?, ask if the author has used any of these qualities. (Line length, arrangement of words, etc.)
7. Display transparency of “Sea Lullaby” by Elinor Wylie.
a. Read the poem yourself to the students. Emphasize and be dramatic. This is a dramatic poem!
b. Then, ask students, “What is this poem about?” (The sea is a living creature that has drowned a little boy.)
c. Continue asking students:
d. What kind of images do they get about the sea? (Answers will vary.)
e. Where are there examples of personification? (Throughout the poem there are examples of personification: a treacherous smiler, a savage beguiler, she choked him and beat him, her bright locks, she shouted for joy, one had she strangled, she lingers, long fingers)
f. How does the use of personification create a mood in the poem? (Answers will vary, but students should suggest that the mood is very dramatic and slightly savage.) What words did the author use to suggest the mood?
g. How does the personification impact the reader? (By using personification, the writer makes the reader see and hear the sea. With the type of words the writer used, the sea seems savage and bloodthirsty and the opposite of the calm, cool ocean we may have seen before.)
h. Where are there examples of simile? (Dead leaves are varnished with colour like blood, with teeth white as milk, smooth golden cloak.) Point out that not only did the author use simile, but she also created powerful images through the descriptive words.
8. Have students partner up or assign them partners. Explain that students will have 10 minutes to complete this activity. Completed work will be posted on the poetry bulletin board, so a final copy should be written neatly. Pass out the handout (both pages), Personify This! Go over the directions and ensure student understanding.
9. As students are working, walk around the room formatively assessing which groups or students seem to be struggling with their concept and give assistance as needed.
10. Once students have had about 10 minutes to work, have students share their work and have others guess what they are talking about. Post group work on bulletin board.
11. Ask if the poems today were examples of good poetry (Published poetry- not student authored.) Ask students to explain which ones were and why. Is there anything we need to add to What Makes Good Poetry?
12. Finally, give students copies of the handout Personification Practice and the Recap.
13. Have students turn in work (Personification Practice and Recap) and formatively assess. See Assessment section.
14. Return all of today’s handouts to student poetry folders and place folders in secure place.


Personify This:
Students should be able to demonstrate that they can take an inanimate object and make it seem alive through specific word choice and creative writing strategies. As students work on their group assignments and as they read aloud their poems, check to ensure they have adequately done this.

Personification Practice.
Students should be able to demonstrate that they can take an inanimate object and make it seem alive through specific word choice and creative writing strategies. When students turn in the handout, check to ensure they have adequately done this.

Students should be able to demonstrate that they can adequately answer the questions. (See key). If students appear to be struggling, more time may need to be spent on personification.


1. For additional personification study, Sylvia Plath has two excellent poems entitled, “Mushrooms” and “Mirror.”

2. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, Associated Files. This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

3. Instead of whole group discussions, you may wish to use discussion strategies like Think-Pair-Share with your students. Using a variety of discussion models will help involve students on different levels. Use the Weblink section to guide you to the appropriate site.

4. Using a Word Wall may help students remember some of the complex vocabulary used within the unit. Simply use a blank section of the wall to post vocabulary words or other troublesome words written on construction paper. Remove words prior to the summative assessment.

Web Links

Web supplement for Personify This
The Toaster by William Jay Smith

Web supplement for Personify This
Sea Lullaby by Elinor Wylie

Use this link to obtain the Classroom Management Tool, Who's Got The Answer.
Lesson Two, The Inside Story

Use this link to obtain the handouts, I'm a poet and didn't know it, definitions and How can I make poetry more poetic?
There's a Writer Waiting

Use this link if you would like to add another poem that uses personification.
Sylvia Plath's Mushrooms

Use this link if you would like to have another poem that uses personification.
Mirror by Sylvia Plath

Attached Files

Handouts for Personify This     File Extension: pdf

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