How to Teach—and Appreciate!—Poetry

Teaching poetry to students of any age can be a daunting task (even when you have great texts like our Essential Poets Series to work from). It may be that the poet is writing from a time and place outside of their experience, or that the style reflects past poetic trends, or even that the combination of vocabulary and rhythm has readers feeling a bit stumped. In such cases, it’s not unheard of for students to shut down or react with a muttered “I hate poetry!”

We want to try to avoid some of that troublesome apathy and/or loathing by sharing some educational tools designed to help guide students through the potential rewards of poetry appreciation. So, with the help of some of our educator friends, we’re pulling together lesson plans to make the task a little easier. Each lesson focuses on a specific PQL title, and includes learning outcomes, starting points for discussion, classroom or homework activities, and all of the necessary handouts.


Our very first guide was designed by writer/editor/artist/woman-of-many-hats Ingrid Ruthig. Unpacking Poetry gives a step-by-step guide for close reading and provides a full lesson plan for teaching The Essential Anne Wilkinson. Check out the full resource here.

We’re working on a few other poetry guides, but in the mean time, we should also mention a fascinating and very helpful guide on teaching wordless novels. The Wordless Novel in the Classroom was designed by Steven McCabe, a visual artist and educator who specializes in advising instructors on the fruitful study of the intersection of text and language in the classroom. Included in the guide are two full lesson plans for teaching Never More Together and The Mysterious Death of Tom Thomson.


Not a teacher? Not a problem.

We realize that not everyone is a teacher, and while we think that the questions in our lesson plans are fun to answer anyway, maybe you have a different idea of fun. (OK, yeah, you probably do.)

So to keep things interesting, we’re also offering a free download of a beautiful keepsake!


Click here to download »

This free, high-resolution printable broadside was designed by the Porcupine’s Quill’s publisher and printer Tim Inkster. ‘Theme and Variation’ first appeared in Counterpoint to Sleep (1951) and then later in The Essential Anne Wilkinson (2014). This presentation is typeset in Junius, a letterform developed at the University of Virginia for use, primarily, by mediaevalists. It is ‘printed’ on a digitized version of Neenah Classic Laid, camel hair. The ornaments are courtesy of the graphic resource collection of The Devil’s Artisan.


NOTE: Since this is a high-resolution file, it may take several minutes to download.
Be patient—it’s worth the wait!



And there you have it. We hope you enjoy browsing through our brand new resources, and that perhaps they help you to design or augment your classroom discussions.

If you have any suggestions—new lesson plans, edits to existing plans or ideas for future directions—get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

All the best,


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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.