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Jim Norris and wife, homesteaders, Pie Town, New Mexico

[Detail] Jim Norris and wife, homesteaders, Pie Town, New Mexico

Lesson Overview

Students explore poetry using American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 collection of American Memory, which covers personal stories collected by the Works Progress Administration. In particular, students write "found poetry" based on the stories found in this collection.

This unit is best undertaken after students have studied a good amount of published poetry and are familiar with at least several different elements common to most verse. These can be found in any grade-level student text or teacher manual, from junior high on up. Briefly, elements to look for include the following: alliteration, repetition, sensory language, metaphor and simile, imagery, rhythm, stanzas, and line breaks.


After completing this lesson, students will be able to:


Time Required

  • Two to five weeks

Recommended Grade Level

  • 6-8
  • 9-12


  • Poetry and Literature


  • Great Depression and WWII, 1929-1945
  • Progressive Era to New Era, 1900-1929


Alison Westfall and Laura Mitchell