Teaching Persona Poetry

Teaching Persona Poetry in the Secondary ELA Classroom
A great way to introduce writing and reading poetry to your students is through teaching a persona poetry unit. Persona poetry is when a poet makes the speaker of the poem someone other than the self. Popular persona poems often involve characters from popular culture, mythology, or history. Students tend to engage more in persona poetry because they recognize the characters and are excited to see them represented in a new format.
Teaching Persona Poetry in the Secondary ELA Classroom
It is smart for teachers to assign a persona poem as the first poetry assignment because it is usually easier for students to step into another person’s shoes than expressing their own personal experiences. Listed below are a few examples of persona poems and prompts students can work on relating to them:

“Hulk Smash!” by Greg Santos - This is a humorous take on Hulk fraternizing in everyday life. You can have students analyze the use of syntax to convey Hulk’s personality. Students can write their own take on a superhero interacting in the human world in the context of a poem.

Pinnochio’s Elegy for the Unreal” by Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis - This poem takes a dark look at humanity through the eyes of a recently turned human Pinnochio. Students can analyze the use of imagery to convey the struggles of being human. As a prompt, they can write about a toy they played with as a child coming to life and the feelings that would breed for it.

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“Siren Song” by Margaret Atwood - This poem is told through the perspective of one of the sirens from Greek mythology. Students can analyze the difference between the tone and mood in the piece. They can then write their own poem centering on a character from Greek mythology.

“The Vessel of Death” by Jonathan C. Mentzer - This poem is written by a 14-year-old Scholastic Art and Writing Award winner. It focuses on the darkness a slave had to endure. Students can read it and then write their own poem about a person from history.

Resources for teaching poetry:

Teaching Persona Poetry in the Secondary ELA ClassroomTeaching Persona Poetry in the Secondary ELA Classroom