Life Underground

poem by Lisa Varchol Perron , illustrated by Ana María Méndez Salgado

Learning intention:

I am learning to experiment with personification to create poetry.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify elements of personification within a poem
  • I can create human characteristics for a non-human character
  • I can write a poem using personification


After reading the poem, ask students what the poet is writing about. Students should use the illustration and end note to conclude that this poem is about an orchid. Ask if orchids can really ‘make dinner’ or ‘entertain guests’. Explain that this is called personification, where human characteristics are given to non-human characters, and that in this poem, the orchid appears to be a human living in a lair.


For a comprehensive explanation on personification, view the YouTube video Personification. For examples of personification, visit Literary Devices’s page on Personification and scroll down to the subheading Common Examples of Personification.


Now students have a better idea of personification, ask them to identify all the parts of the poem where the orchid is given human characteristics. Answers:

- a stubbornly secretive someone

- hunkering down in her lair

- make her own dinner

- steals from her neighbours

- emerges from hiding

- entertains guests

- she rests

- her life [is]... a lonely affair filled with gloom


Watch the YouTube video Envirotube Underground Orchids. Discuss the role of the dog Sally in the video (conservation detection dog). Ask students:

- What helps Sally find the underground orchids? (Her sense of smell)

- What is her reward when she finds one? (A tennis ball)


Explain that students will be writing a poem about Sally the detection dog using personification. Before beginning, have the class brainstorm ways a dog could be personified. Answers include the dog laughing, playing a game of hide and seek, working, calling for her trainer, visiting the orchid. Give students time to think and plan how they will portray the dog’s actions. They can write any type of poem they like, including free verse (no rhyming scheme), but encourage them to use the same rhyming scheme as the original poem Life Underground (ABCB). They can use a rhyming dictionary to help.


An example to get them started:


In the hustling, bustling forest,

down on the ground in the leaves,

a little one’s doing her duty,

sniffing around the big trees.


Once complete, students can share their poem with a partner for feedback.