Ur a Poet & U Didn't Know It

2. Homing In On Poetic Structure

Suggested Learning Intentions

  • To build poetic metalanguage
  • To understand the way in way in which poetic structure shapes meaning

Sample Success Criteria

  • I can use the correct terminology to identify some of the structural elements of a poem
  • I can explain how the structure of a poem affects its meaning
  • Selection of poetry (suggestions in ‘Get started’)
  • Poem and prose transcript of poem with structure removed (teacher to pre-prepare based on poem selected for use)
  • My Australia partial annotation example: docx PDF
  • Prose to Poetry sample: docx PDF
  • Prose to Poetry graphic organiser: docx PDF
  • Prose to Poetry scaffold: docx PDF
  • Vocabulary list: docx PDF

    This stage focuses explicitly on poetic structure. The stage explores modelling or deconstructing texts to focus explicitly on their structures, to examine how language choices shape meaning, and to build metalanguage.

    It is strongly recommended that teachers review all suggested stimulus texts prior to their use to ensure their appropriateness and to enable rich, respectful discussion. For guidance on text selection refer to the Teaching and Learning Resources — Selecting Appropriate Materials policy.

    1. Exploring and discussing

    Introduce a selection of contemporary poetry videos or recordings to your class, ensuring that a transcript of one of the poems is also available. For example, 'My Australia' by Sara Mansour, 'Hate for Sale' by Neil Gaiman, 'Freight and Flight' by Judith Bishop, or a 2013 Brave New Voices slam poem. A partially annotated version of Sara Mansour's 'My Australia' is available in the 'Materials and texts' section.

    Provide students with a transcript of one of the poems you have used and draw attention to its structural elements. Guide students in a discussion about the poem, assessing prior knowledge of structural features like stanzas, line breaks, rhyme and repetition. Clarify terms on the board or add them to an anchor chart. While reading the poem, introduce metalanguage related to lineation such as enjambment and end-stops. An example of a vocabulary list and an annotated poem can be found in the 'Materials and texts' section above. 

    Expand on the possibilities created by enjambment, which may be used to emphasise a word or idea, to quicken the rhythm of a poem or to create shock or anticipation. Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Learning about the Indians’ provides a rich example of how words and phrases can be enjambed to great effect. Consider the use and placement of the words ‘built’ and ‘graves’ and unpack what is not said or is ‘unsayable’ in the phrase ‘he called it Nothing at all’.

    Next, invite students to consider a prose transcript of the poem, where all stanzas, line breaks, capitals and punctuation have been removed. Invite students to experiment with the poem’s structure, sharing their variations with the class to demonstrate how altering a line break, inserting a space or changing the grouping of a stanza may affect the meaning of the poem.

    2. Think, pair, share

    Students undertake a think, pair, share focussing on how decisions about structure could enhance the clarity of a poem. For example, what might be the effect of:

    • Using stanzas to group ideas together
    • Using varied lineation (end stops/enjambment)
    • Using an identifiable structure or pattern
    • Varying the length of lines
    • Using rhyme or repetition (recurring lines or sounds)

    Discuss the thoughts arising from each think, pair, share activity, comparing examples of structure from the original text with students’ variations of the poem. Focus on continuing to build an explicit understanding of how the structure of a poem may shape its meaning. Record on an anchor chart.

    Deepen students’ understanding of structural features by creating an interactive multiple-choice quiz using a digital platform. Invite small groups of students to collaborate to create questions for their peers. For example:

    Enjambment makes the reader of a poem:

    A) Feel like eating jam

    B) Read on to the next line of the poem without stopping

    C) Stop at the end of a line

    D) Think about the way a poem rhymes

    Students could consider including questions about stanzas, line breaks, rhyme, repetition or end-stops.

    Offer students further writing samples which illustrate the diversity of poetic structure, for example E.E. Cummings 'Diminutive', Benjamin Laird’s 'Psychometric Research', Courtney Sina Meredith’s 'Rosary', 'Time on Hold' by Hani Abdile, 'Talaria' by Scott-Patrick Mitchell  or '21' by Patrick Roche (the latter contains some challenging themes). Whilst screening or reading the poems together, prompt students to use the correct metalanguage to describe structural features. Check student understanding and add further information to an anchor chart if you are using one.

    1. Transforming prose into poetry

    Support students to select a prose extract to be transformed into a poem. Invite students to select a piece of writing on a topic of personal interest, or provide a variety of examples such as:

    • a transcript of a speech
    • an historical account
    • an excerpt from a science text
    • an excerpt from a text that has been studied by the class
    • a selection of fiction and non-fiction books
    • a newspaper article

    Guide students to create a checklist of structural features that could be considered when transforming prose into poetry. For example, stanzas, lineation (enjambment, end-stop), line length, rhythm, repetition and rhyme. Refer to the Vocabulary list in the Materials and texts section above for definitions of these terms. 

    Clarify that there are also prose poems, which use the techniques of poetry, but not the form.

    Provide a graphic organiser to students to plan how to transform their selected prose into a poem by altering its structure. A graphic organiser template, scaffold and sample poem are available in the Materials and texts section above. 

    Enable students to engage with the prose-to-poetry task by providing a scaffold to support their work. An example of prose reimagined as poetry can also be found in the materials and texts section.

    Extend students who would like to explore poetic structure further by inviting them to adapt their prose to a specific poetic form like a sonnet or a pantoum, reflecting on how the rules of the chosen form might enhance the impact of the poem.

    Invite students to reflect on how the choices they make about structure help to create meaning.  Collect student work and provide written or verbal feedback.

    Encourage students to share their prose-to-poetry task and to reflect on the decisions they have made, giving evidence from their own work to illustrate effect.

    Using either enjambment or end-stop, invite students to write 1-2 lines reflecting on what they have learned about poetic structure.

    For example:



    Poetry can simply stop

    at the end of a line.

    A sudden

    cessation of sound.

    Poetry can simply stop.

    A sudden cessation of sound:

    the end of a line.


    Enable students who need support to reflect on their learning by offering sentence starters to support thinking. For example, ‘an end-stop is when…’ or ‘an end stop is when a line of poetry stops at the end of a phrase instead of going on to the next line. This could make the reader…’

    Extend students by asking them to incorporate both enjambment and an end-stop in their reflection, providing a short explanation about why each technique was used.

    Abdile, H., n.d. Time on Hold. [Online]
    Available at: www.redroompoetry.org/poets/hani-abdile/time-on-hold/
    [Accessed 27 June 2022].

    BankstownPoetrySlam, 2018. My Australia – Sara Mansour, Spoken word poetry, Bankstown Poetry Slam. [Online]
    Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q77yakmwgM8
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    Bishop, J., n.d. Red Room Poetry, Freight and flight. [Online]
    Available at: www.redroomcompany.org/poem/judith-bishop/freight-and-flight/
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    Cummings, E., 1950. Poetry Foundation: Poetry for July 1950. [Online]
    Available at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=25510
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    Eijsbouts, A., 2017. Hate for Sale. [Online]
    Available at: www.vimeo.com/215445656
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    Kahoot, 2013. Kahoot. [Online]
    Available at: www.kahoot.com/
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    Laird, B., n.d. Red Room Poetry, Psychometric Researches. [Online]
    Available at: www.redroomcompany.org/poem/benjamin-laird/psychometric-researches/
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    Lazyrichkid, n.d. Wattpad, Slam Poetry Transcripts. [Online]
    Available at: www.wattpad.com/93049232-slam-poetry-transcripts-21
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    Literary Devices, n.d. Line Break. [Online]
    Available at: www.literarydevices.com/line-break/
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    Lowell, A., 2002. Poetry Foundation, Bath. [Online]
    Available at: www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42993/bath-56d221a8c0d0c
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    Meredith, C., n.d. Red Room Poetry, Rosary. [Online]
    Available at: www.redroomcompany.org/poem/courtney-sina-meredith/rosary/
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    Mulvahill, E., 2019. Anchor charts 101: Why and how to use them. [Online]
    Available at: https://www.weareteachers.com/anchor-charts-101/
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    Oliver, M., 2010. Learning About Indians, read by Susannah Wood on Voetica.com. [Online]
    Available at: www.voetica.com/voetica.php?collection=1&poet=27&poem=1640
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    State Government of Victoria, (Department of Education and Training), 2018. Doughnut Sharing, Literacy Teaching Toolkit. [Online]
    Available at: www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/teachingresources/discipline/english/literacy/speakinglistening/Pages/exampleclasstalk.aspx
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    TedEd, n.d. The Pleasure of Poetic Pattern. [Online]
    Available at: https://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-pleasure-of-poetic-pattern-david-silverstein#watch
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    Youth Speaks, 2013. 2013 - Brave New Voices (quarter finals) – Washington DC Team. [Online]
    Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv00xjClbx0&feature=emb_logo
    [Accessed 15 March 2022].

    Back to Stages