Overview: Free puns and figure of speech lesson plan for junior high and high school. Students define, identify, and interpret how puns are used in poetry with a rewriting activity and an opportunity to create their own clever puns.
Subject: English Language Arts: Language
Grades: 7th, 8th, 9th
Duration: 1 hour
Related Concepts: Reading Literature, Homophones, Figurative Language, Shakespeare, Poetry, Compare and Contrast
Students will be able to:
- Define and identify puns.
- Use compare and contrast skills to understand the author's choice in using puns to express an idea.
Essential Questions: How do puns help to establish a humorous tone in poetry?
Vocabulary: pun, figurative language, literal language
Common Core Standards Addressed:
- ELA: Language:
- L.8.5, 8.5a
- ELA: Reading Literature
- Internet access
- Projection system
- Audio equipment
Have students watch the Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo video to introduce the idea of words that sound the same but have different meanings. Have students brainstorm other common homophones they know. (If students don't come up with them on their own, prompt them with some that will come up in the poem later like homophones - bee/be, horse/hoarse, barium/bury them, pie/pi, weak/week, etc.)
Present the first six slides of the Ambiguity and Puns presentation. Explain that puns are a type of joke that relies on the audience understanding homophones. Ask the class if they are familiar with the type of joke referred to as "dad jokes," and what response the jokes usually get.
Project or pass out copies of Jim Yerman's "The Misunderstood Pun" or another pun-filled poem of your choice (such as a selection from Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic). Read the poem aloud or ask for a volunteer to read. Have students underline or note the puns they heard. Read it one more time and see if learners come up with all of the puns listed. Ask them to choose their favorite puns and explain why they helped to make the poem funny.
As a class, rewrite one of the stanzas without puns. Is it funny anymore? Why would a poet include puns in their work?
Prompt individuals, partners, or groups to work together and create a short poem with at least one pun in it. They can use the listed homophones from the introduction, a pun from the sample poem, or something else they think of. Have volunteers share their poems.
If class members need more time on their poems, they can work on them for homework. Otherwise they can turn them in.
- Informally assess understanding during the class discussion and group writing activity.
- Formally assess understanding and writing skills with the written pun poem.
- Consider adding visuals that are a literal representations of the puns along with a visual representation of what is meant.
- Students could come up with puns using words from their native language if different from English.
- Allow advanced learners to come up with their own puns and to write longer poems.
- Use an individual lesson to continue a unit on humorous poetry writing and figurative language.
Challenge learners to come up with their best puns (or research the best puns) at home and present them in class; award a prize or extra credit for the funniest pun.
Additional materials to guide your teaching: