poetry teaching idea: “Routines” by Tom Wayman

For the start of our poetry unit today, I tried out a new poetry lesson–the poem was “Routines” by Tom Wayman (found here).

LESSON: “Routines” by Tom Wayman
PURPOSE: to introduce students to poetry; to model a way of thinking about analyzing literature and providing support for that analysis
MATERIALS: copy of the poem for each student; handout (optional)
PREP TIME: very low


Here’s what I did:

  1. put the word “routines” on the board and asked students to make a mind map or list of 5 words or phrases that came to mind when they thought about the word (you can use the handout linked above)
  2. asked for a volunteer to read the poem out loud (the student who read it did a great job!)–if no one had volunteered I would have read it myself
  3. asked the students to do five minutes of freewriting on the following prompt, which I put on the board: “Now that we’ve read the poem, what did you think of it? How did it make you feel? Could you relate to it?” (students can write on handout)
  4. collected the writing and asked students to share any thoughts they had about it–when they were quiet I started them off by asking, “Did you like the poem?” which several of them responded to (they did like it and found they could relate to it)
  5. started a new mind map on the board, this time with the poem’s title and author in the middle circle
  6. elicited three words/phrases from three different students related to the poem–my students came up with “same old same old,” “relatable” and “like a machine”–and put them on the mind map
  7. I asked each student in turn to explain why they’d chosen these words/phrases, and to tell us the lines in the poem that had made them think of these words. I wrote the quoted lines (or part of them) on the board and drew connecting lines to the word/phrase that was inspired by each quote.

We had a good discussion. For follow-up, the students will write a reader response journal entry on the poem.

In case anyone is interested, Tom Wayman also wrote the poem “Did I Miss Anything?”

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