Find what you need fast!  Type in your keyword and search.

Imagery in Poetry

Context for this Lesson

Teaching Strategies: 

Topic: Imagery in Poetry

Purpose: To identify how poets use language to evoke imagery and bring imagery to life using our bodies.

Prior Knowledge: Review the vocabulary of imagery and sensory language


"On Stage" poem from Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Poem written on butcher paper or projected for students to see


Define Imagery

Does anyone know what the word imagery means? Have you heard that word before? Try to define as a group, then offer this definition: imagery means using sensory words and phrases to paint pictures in a reader’s mind so s/he can vividly imagine what is written. Part of that definition relies on the importance of sensory words. What are sensory words? Define five senses.
"I am going to share a poem with you. I would like you to close your eyes as I read and listen for imagery that creates pictures in your mind."
Read “On Stage” from Out of Dust by Karen Hesse.
On Stage
When I point my fingers at the keys,
                    the music
springs straight out of me.
                    right hand
playing notes sharp as
telling stories while the
buttery rhythms back me up
                    on the left.
Folks sway in the
                    palace aisles
grinning and stomping and
                    out of breath,
and the rest, eyes shining,
                    fingers snapping,
feet tapping. It’s the best
                    I’ve ever felt,
playing hot piano,
                     sizzling with
Mad Dog,
                    swinging with the Black Mesa Boys,
or on my own,
pestering the keys.
                    That is
                    How supremely
                    playing piano
can be.
Describe: What words stuck out to you? What sensory language did you hear? What images stuck with you from the poem? 
Analyze: Based on the language used, how do you think our main character feel about playing the piano? How do you know? What other emotions does this poem make you feel? Why? (List emotions for image work)
Relate: Now, I want you to think of the imagery that you heard from the poem. If we were creating a photo album of this moment, what photographs come to mind from the poet’s use of imagery?
Draw a photo album page on the board with blank “photographs" (squares), in each blank photograph, write the title of the image.
What words did the poet use to create those images in our heads? Were there any important images that we missed from the text (sensory words)? Is there any imagery that came to your head that the poet didn’t write, but that we could infer, or guess from the text? Why did you guess that image would have been important?
Transition: "Now, we are going to explore how to bring these photographs to life by creating images using our bodies."



Cover the Space

"Walk around the space at your own pace. In a few seconds I am going to ask you to freeze in an individual image of the main character of our poem. We decided that this character feels (list emotion from earlier brainstorming). Think for a moment about what this emotion means to you.  Please freeze in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1."
While frozen split group in half, ask one half to relax. Ask observing group: "What do you see? How are they showing this emotion in their bodies?" Continue to cover the space and freeze in another emotion. Split group in half and repeat the process.
Two Person Image
"As you are walking think about the image of (an image that we listed earlier)? What does it mean to you? What does it look like? In just a moment I am going to have you find a partner who is close to you and work together to create a two person image or tableau of what this image might look like. You will only have to the count of five to create this image.  Please freeze in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1."
While frozen, split group in half, ask one half to relax. Ask observing group: "What do you see? How does it relate to the image we remembered from the poem?"
Switch and invite the other group to make observations on the frozen images.
Transition: "I would like to invite everyone to sit back down. Now, we’re going to bring the photos from our photo album to life with our whole group."
Group Image
"I want to invite you to think about this poem and its imagery. Take a moment to think back to the ‘photo album’ we created as a class."
Encourage students to think about what else, or who else might be in this picture, both people and objects in the environment. "What could be happening backstage? What could be happening in the audience?" The goal at this point is to expand the photos from our album and create the full moment in a frozen picture. They can infer from the text other events or people who might be just outside the frame of our photograph. Take one of the photos and build the image one person at a time with up to 5 people.
While the image remains frozen, the facilitator puts a hand over one character’s head and introduces the idea of a thought bubble and asks the students in the audience: "What might this character be thinking? If they were going to put those thoughts into a line of dialogue, what might that line be?"

Describe: What did we do today?

Analyze: How did the poet’s writing inform the physical images we created? How does the use of imagery strengthen a poem?

Relate: How can the idea of imagining mental pictures help us when we read poetry?