Dancing Minds and Shouting Smiles: Teaching Personification Through Poetry

This lesson focuses on personfication  in poetry. It uses works by Emily Dickinson, William Blake, and Langston Hughes. A graphic organizer is employed. The lesson culminates with students writing their own poems using personification. Experiencing the language of great poets provides a rich learning context for students, giving them access to the best examples of how words can be arranged in unique ways. By studying the works of renowned poets across cultures and histories, students extract knowledge about figurative language and poetic devices from masters of the craft. In this lesson, students learn about personification by reading and discussing poems by Emily Dickinson, William Blake, and Langston Hughes. Then they use the poems as a guide to brainstorm lists of nouns and verbs that they randomly arrange to create personification in their own poems.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
GLE 0401.5.1
Continue to develop logic skills to facilitate learning and to enhance thoughtful reasoning.
GLE 0501.3.2
Write in various modes and genres, including narration, literary response, personal expression, description, and imaginative.
GLE 0501.8.2
Experience various literary genres, including fiction and nonfiction, poetry, drama, chapter books, biography/autobiography, short stories, folk tales, myths,...
GLE 0501.8.3
Understand the basic characteristics of the genres (e.g., narratives, prose, poetry, drama) studied.
GLE 0501.8.4
Recognize and understand basic literary terms (e.g., simile, metaphor, setting, point of view, alliteration, onomatopoeia).
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 

Student Objectives:

Students will

  • Define personification and learn how it is applied by reading and responding to classic poetry
  • Demonstrate comprehension and practice analysis by discussing personification and how it affects the mood of specific poems
  • Practice working collaboratively to develop word lists and write a poem together
  • Apply their knowledge of figurative language by using a graphic organizer to create personification using random phrases and by writing original poems

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 


  • Allow students to share their poems in a poetry reading. You might also have students illustrate their poems for a class literary magazine.
  • Have students use the Acrostic Poems or Diamante Poems online tools to write poems in these forms that use personification.
  • Provide access to the Personification Practice website where students can practice identifying examples of personification.
  • Direct students to create their own lists of 10 nouns and 10 verbs to be used in a second poetry writing exercise focused on personification. Have students put the words they chose in envelopes to trade with a friend. Discuss how the second exercise turned out differently than the first because of the wider selection of words. 

Helpful Hints

Materials and Technology:

  • A plain envelope for each student
  • Lined paper and pencils
  • Paper in two different colors
  • Scissors