Display the poem 'Haiku' by John Cooper Clarke. What is this poem doing? Tell students that they will be looking at another poem that comments on the act of writing poetry, this time a sonnet.
Pool existing knowledge about sonnets - they will need to know a little about the tradition of sonnet-writing, plus definitions of the following terms:
Metre (they need to be able to recognise iambic pentameter)
Play the Poetry Archive recording of Billy Collins reading 'Sonnet' at least twice. The text of the poem should be projected so that students can read it while they are listening. After their second listening, students should list the conventions of the sonnet form that Collins refers to in the poem.
Students, in groups, to be given a sonnet from the list in the 'Resources' section. They should explore the ways in which the poet uses or subverts the conventions of the sonnet form and comment on how this helps to shape the meaning of the poem.
Depending on how much time you have available, you might want to get students to think about how they could present their findings to the rest of the class. They could devise a mini-lesson or seminar presentation, or produce an annotated version of their sonnet, with editor's notes, for inclusion in a class anthology.
Ask one student from each group to bring a copy of their sonnet to the front. Get them to line up in order of how conventional they think their sonnet is, with the most conventional at one end and the most experimental at the other. They have to justify their choice of where to stand. The rest of the group has the chance to comment on their choices and make changes to the order, but they have to explain their actions.