Book Chook Ways to Start Writing Poetry
by Susan Stephenson, the Book Chook
From when we are babies, we experience the world through our senses. I’m sure you’ve seen babies try to discover more about their world by shoving almost anything into their mouths! When I start teaching writing, I get back to basics – I try to provide sensual experiences that spark verbal images.
My students touch an ice cube with their tongues, they close their eyes and use their fingertips to explore peeled grapes, they lie on leaf litter and become leeches. When something dramatic happens in the classroom, we use it as fodder for our writing. My aim is to shake loose the stored language inside their heads, and have them play with it. I encourage an atmosphere that promotes the free flow of ideas.
If you’ve already shared poetry as an integral part of your regular read-aloud routine (ooh, alliteration!), kids will not be daunted by the idea of writing in poetic formats. I don’t worry too much at this stage over whether something IS or ISN’T poetry. My aim is to have children creating with words, and delighting in the joy of language.
However, some students need structure to enable them to feel comfortable about creating. So here are some poetic forms you can try with your kids.
diamante: These poems are easy enough for younger kids to understand. They are shaped like a diamond. They start and finish with one of a pair of opposites, like day/night. They go on to tell more about the chosen opposites. As the poem progresses, it slowly changes to the second one of the pair of opposites. Mrs Murphy’s Class has two examples.
limerick: Bruce Lansky explains limericks really well at Gigglepoetry. They’re not easy to write, but reading lots aloud gets the limerick rhythm into your head and studying them closely makes it easier.
cinquain: These have five lines. Line 1 is the title. Line 2 has two adjectives that describe the title. Line 3 has 3 “ing” words that relate to the title. Line 4 has a phrase of four words related to the title. Line 5 is one word, a synonym for the title. Read Write Think has a lesson on composing cinquains.
acrostic: Start with a word that becomes the title. Each line of the poem relates to the title, and starts with one of its letters. Read Write Think has a lesson on composing acrostics.
phoetry: Play with this one. It describes a combination of photography and poetry. Once you’ve chosen your pictures, use words to describe what comes to mind when you look at them. That could be about places, people, feelings, impressions or actions suggested by the photos. Teachers encourage kids to use phoetry to illustrate the meaning or symbolism of a poem.
Thanks for dropping by, Susan. All of these activities are suitable for young writers – but just as challenging for adult writers, too. You can visit Susan online at the Book Chook blog.