The Poetry of Power

Language Arts Activity

Students use a thesaurus to develop a vocabulary that they can use in poems describing developments in their state.



  1. Find, or have students find, examples of poems that use powerful and expressive language to describe everyday events. Have students listen as you read the poems aloud. Help them identify the words that give the verses their excitement and strength.

  2. Tell students that they are each going to write a poem about an important event in their state's history, using the most expressive language they can think of. With student input, develop a list of such events (for example, a battle, the founding of a major city, getting electric power from a hydroelectric dam).

  3. Model the method by which students can find effective synonyms for their poems. Read the description of an event from a reference source. Ask students to identify the words, if any, that best dramatize the event. Then refer to the thesaurus for more powerful synonyms. For example, the entry might describe water running over a dam. Read aloud synonyms for "running," such as "gushing," "jetting," "shooting," and "roaring." Ask students to judge which words are strongest.

  4. Create a wall of synonyms using butcher or other paper. As students research each event, have them write key words on the wall and below them list their more expressive synonyms.

  5. Have students work independently to write their poems, referring to the words on the wall.

  6. After students have completed a rough draft, have them exchange papers with a partner for a supportive critique, edit their work, and make a final copy.


Students might try to write concrete poetry. That is, if they are writing about an oil well, they have the words form the shape of a derrick.

Use the wall of synonyms as a background for the final copies of the poems. Have students frame each poem with construction paper.

Have students organize the poems in chronological order, then link them with a narrative. Students can make an audio tape of the piece, with each poet reading his or her own verses.

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