This lesson plan uses descriptive examples to explain what personification means and how it is used in poetry. Students will read poem excerpts in which examples of personification are identified. Then, they will create their own poetic sentences and short poems using personification.
Personification means using human qualities or actions to describe an object or an animal. The word “personification” actually contains the word “person,” and to personify an object means to describe it as if it were a person. Instead of saying that the sun is shining, we might say that the sun is smiling down at us. Instead of describing a flag as moving in the wind, we could say that the flag is dancing.
Using a human word to describe an object can make a poetic image seem more vivid. It can also give us an idea about how the narrator (the person describing the object) is feeling toward the object. For example, “The sun was smiling down at me” seems to indicate that the narrator has positive feelings about the sunshine. On the other hand, a narrator who says “The sun was glaring down” seems to have negative feelings about it.
Here are some examples of personification in excerpts from famous poems. In these examples, the object is in italics (like this) and the human-like action or quality is underlined (like this).
The Sky is Low
by Emily Dickinson
The sky is low, the clouds are mean…
by Joyce Kilmer
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair…
April Rain Song
by Langston Hughes
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night…
First, make a list of 10 action verbs that describe things that humans do.
Now, take a look around the room and write down 10 objects that you see.
Look at your two lists and find funny or interesting ways to combine the objects with the verbs. For example, you might come up with “pencil laughing” or “sandwich whispers.” Use these word combinations to create poetic sentences about each object. For example: “My ham sandwich whispers loudly that it hates being wrapped in plastic.”
Using one of the personification sentences you wrote in Exercise 1, create an entire poem about the object. Your poem does not have to rhyme, but it should be at least 4 lines long.