The New Colossus


Students will define unfamiliar words, identify the components of a sonnet, and interpret the meaning of The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus.


  • Copy of The New Colossus* (1 per group) *Download below
  • Copies of 2-3 various poems for children including a sonnet
  • Highlighters
  • Dictionaries or access to online dictionary resources


Read aloud a few examples of children’s poetry.

What makes a piece of writing a poem?

Explain that poems are not required to rhyme and can be different lengths. 

Poems must have a rhythmic pattern to be considered a poem. Different types of poetry have different lengths, rhythms, and patterns.

Explain that you are going to read a famous sonnet. A sonnet is a type of poem that is made up of 14 lines with 10 syllables in each line. It follows a rhythmic pattern called iambic pentameter. This rhythm alternates stressed and unstressed syllables five times. 

Now read aloud The New Colossus to the students. Ask if anyone has ever heard that poem before. Where have you heard that poem? Does anyone know what that poem means? 

Explain that the title of the poem is The New Colossus written by Emma Lazarus in 1883.  A copy of that poem is written on a bronze tablet inside the Statue of Liberty.

Divide students into groups. Assign each group 2 lines of the poem. Have students highlight any unfamiliar words and use a dictionary or online resource to define the unfamiliar words or phrases. Have students write a synonym above each unfamiliar word. After all unfamiliar words have been identified and defined, have students explain the main idea of the two lines that have been assigned to the group in their own words. Students will rewrite that portion of the poem in their own words.

After all groups have interpreted and rewritten their portion, have groups explain to the class what they think it means. Post their interpretations on a bulletin board in the correct order and read aloud the class interpretation of The New Colossus.


Teacher may use a checklist or rubric to determine if students provide an accurate interpretation of the poem.


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