These five famous poems from CommonLit dive into the complexities of friendship.
As educators – and former teenagers – you understand the complexities of relationships and friendships during our students' teenage years. Poetry can be pivotal for students. Due to its deeply personal nature and tendency to challenge social norms, poetry allows students to engage with a larger, more accepting, community. In the classroom, poems can prompt a broader definition of self and friendship.
The CommonLit library has over 300 unique poetry lessons for secondary students, which can be filtered by theme. Educators can use these poems to engage students in discussions about friendship, all the while teaching important literary analysis skills and reading comprehension.
“We Have Been Friends Together” by Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton (6th Grade)
In this short friendship poem, the speaker details a conflict with a friend. Each stanza demonstrates the complex relationship between the speaker and her friend, highlighting an overall theme that true friendship can withstand anything.
This poem would make an excellent addition to a thematic unit about friendship and forming unique relationships. The CommonLit Guided Reading Mode, which asks students comprehension questions as they read, can reinforce this theme.
“Momentum” by Catherine Doty (7th Grade)
In this suspenseful poem about friendship, a boy reflects on his choices after doing something dangerous to gain the approval of his friends. This poem enables students to reflect on the importance of making good decisions and is a terrific addition to any unit on following your own path.
In the Related Media tab you will find a video of author Catherine Doty reading the poem. Listen to the poem as a class, then, ask your students about the experience of listening to Doty read, did the tone or theme of the poem shift when it was read by the author? Where in the poem can your students identify themes of coming of age, following the crowd, and being yourself?
“Love and Friendship” by Elizabeth Brontë (8th Grade)
In this vivid poem, the speaker compares plants to emphasize the positives and negatives of love. The images of plants in bloom and their ability to survive in winter helps demonstrate the lasting nature of a friendship as opposed to a fleeting seasonal love.
After reading this poem about friendship and love, teachers can assign “Answer to a Child’s Question” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge from the Paired Text tab. Ask your students how these poems connect to one another. You can highlight how Coleridge and Brontë both connect emotion to nature through literary devices that express the truth about love and friendships.
“Holly Trees” by Emma Bartley (8th Grade)
In this poem about friendship, the speaker describes playing under a holly tree with her friend. Their play is disturbed only by the appearance of two hairy legs, presumably belonging to a grown up. This poem encapsulates the wonderment of childhood in the face of adulthood and the importance of friendships sustained through shared imagination.
This poem presents an opportunity for teaching how word choice can support a text's theme. Students can use the annotation tool to analyze the words that describe the girls' actions. Then, students can use their notes to discuss the value of shared imagination.
“A Poison Tree” by William Blake (10th Grade)
In this poem about friendship, the speaker reveals what happens when they don't voice their anger to an enemy, and compares that feeling to the experience of telling a friend when they are upset. The stark comparisons in this poem provide an excellent opportunity for examining how word choice impacts the tone and mood of the text.
Teachers can assign the first discussion prompt: “Why do you think the speaker tells their friend that they are angry with them but does not tell their enemy? Have you ever been in a similar situation?” These questions can shape a class conversation. Ask students to cite evidence from the text and their own life to support their answers, allowing students to connect to the text on a deeper level.
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