Students are exposed to poetry as an art form full of aesthetic qualities, rhythmic elements and poignant themes, and consider how the genre differs from prose in structure, form, purpose, and language.



Unit 11

6th Grade

This unit has been archived. To view our updated curriculum, visit our 6th Grade English course.

Unit Summary

In this unit, students will fall in love with poetry as an art form full of aesthetic qualities, rhythmic elements, and poignant themes about the human experience. Students will examine the works of great poets such as Nikki Grimes, Gary Soto, and Maya Angelou as they think about how poetry differs from prose in structure, form, purpose, and language. In the second half of the unit, students will continue their year-long conversation about heroes as they dive into personal poems about admiration and honor. Whether the poems focus on everyday heroes, such as one’s mother, or traditional heroes from history, students explore how poets reveal deep emotions about people who were influential in their lives. 

Significantly, in this unit, students move beyond literal meanings of words to figurative ones as they review how to analyze metaphors, similes, personification, and hyperboles from previous years. Toward the middle of the unit, students are pushed even more to explain the themes of poems. Unlike in texts from the elementary years, the themes are often subtle and developed over the course of the text rather than obvious and revealed early on in the text. This unit allows for students to read three poems in one sitting and then practice identifying each poem's theme in the same lesson. This target task often requires students to apply the strategy/skill learned during the lesson to a new poem. This kind of immediate practice and application is not possible when students have to identify a theme in a novel that is read over many weeks, because the theme is often only apparent at the end. Moreover, students are challenged to analyze how imagery, figurative language, contrast, and repetition help to crystalize the deeper message of the poem. In the culminating project of the unit, students will incorporate their knowledge of literary devices in their own personal poems about heroes who have influenced their lives. 

By the end of the unit, students will have a rich tool kit of craft moves that writers use to create vivid descriptions and enhance the meaning in texts. This will be particularly advantageous as they dive into the next unit, House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, a book rich with figurative language and imagery. 

Texts and Materials

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Core Materials


This assessment accompanies Unit 11 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

  1. Read and annotate the “Why This Unit?” and “Essential Questions” portion of the unit plan. 
  2. Read and annotate the text with essential questions in mind.
  3. Make a poetry packet by combining all the poems. 
  4. Determine an approach to reading and annotating poetry that you want your students to internalize. Consult with the teachers from the previous grades if possible in an effort to be consistent. 
  5. Take unit assessment. Focus on questions 8, 16, 18 (tone); 9, 14, 15 (figurative language/metaphor); and 10, 11, 13 (theme/central idea). Write the mastery response to the short answer and essay question. Determine how you will grade each one. 
  6. Unit plan lessons that align directly with test questions: 
  1. Definitions: lessons 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  2. Tone: lessons 6, 8, 15
  3. Metaphor: lessons 3, 5
  4. Theme: lessons 9, 10, 11, 13 
  5. Free Verse: lesson 2
  6. Repetition: lesson 11
  7. Point of View: lessons 12, 13 
  8. Heroization (essay on test): lessons 5, 13, 15
  9. Essential Questions: lessons 1, 4, 5, 7, 13 
  1. Grade Target Tasks from Lessons 1, 3, 8, 10, and 13.

Essential Questions

  • What does poetry offer the reader that prose cannot?
  • Does a visual or audio presentation of a poem enhance or detract from the meaning of a poem? 
  • How do poets heroize the influential people in their lives? 

Writing Focus Areas

For all genres of writing, students will practice the habit of dissecting the prompt by breaking it into parts in order to fully grasp the question. In literary analysis writing, students will focus on organizing their writing in the outline and draft stages with a special focus on compare-and-contrast prompts. Students will continue to tackle writing clear thesis statements that thoroughly answer all parts of the prompt. They will also work on supporting their claims with direct quotations. In their culminating project, students will write personal poems about their heroes, in which they will work to maintain a point of view of their choice, incorporating figurative language and imagery. 

Narrative Writing Focus Areas

  • Maintains one narrative point of view to develop the character, setting, or plot 
  • Includes two examples of figurative language that help the reader imagine the scene
  • Uses one example of imagery that enhances the tone and meaning of the poem

Spiraling Literary Analysis Writing Focus Area

  • Creates a draft and outline that supports a compare-and-contrast prompt
  • Thoroughly addresses the prompt through a thesis that is clear, complete (answers the whole question), and compelling
  • Supports each claim with at least one direct quotation from the text 
  • Uses paragraphs to separate the different parts of the essay


Literary Terms

poetry, prose, verse, stanza, line, rhyme scheme, free verse, literal language, figurative language, metaphor, simile, personification, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, alliteration, sound device, imagery, sensory details, theme, subtle, repetition, speaker, narrative point of view, first person, second person, third person, limited, omniscient perspective, heroize, mood, repetition, contrast, rhyme scheme, compare and contrast, tone



Supporting All Students

In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.

Content Knowledge and Connections

  • Maya Angelou
  • Poetry vs. prose

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards

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Unit 5

Fleeing Conflict: Refugee & The Unwanted