Teaching poetry writing can feel like a daunting task. You either love it or dread it. But let me tell you a secret: Struggling writers often enjoy writing poetry.
Now, hear me out.
- Poems can be two short sentences (couplets)
- Poems don’t have to follow “the rules”
- Poems don’t have to rhyme
- Poems can be about anything
What Are the Benefits of Teaching Poetry?
Reason #1: Poems can help us see life in new ways. The unique use of words stimulates the use of our imagination.
Reason #2: Poems with rhythm and rhyme appeal to kinesthetic learners. Boys love to tap to the rhythm. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a great poem to choral read and tap the rhythms. Also, connections can be made to song lyrics or raps.
Reason #3: Poetry writing can put our feelings into words that are too hard to speak. The writer is free to express themselves without the constraints of typical writing assignments.
Tips For Starting Poetry Lessons for Kids
Whether you are celebrating National Poetry Month or doing a poetry unit, you want to hook your students with poems that they can relate to.
- Start by reading poems aloud each day.
- Display a poem in your Morning Message.
- Set up a poetry corner with books from the library.
- Type up poems and display them in the room.
- Create lists of rhyming words
Some of my favorite authors are Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, and Bill Martin, Jr.
Sing Songs That Rhyme
Nowadays, children come to school not understanding what rhyming words are. So it is important to lay the groundwork for that before ever attempting to identify rhyming words in a poem.
One of my favorite songs for this is Down By the Bay.
Down by the bay
Where the watermelons grow,
Back to my home
I dare not go.
For if I do
My mother will say:
“Did you ever see a ______________
Down by the bay.
You and your class can sing along with the video and then come up with your own ending lyrics!
Poetry Writing Win #1 –
Create a class book based upon the song Down By the Bay.
Type up the beginning lyrics of the song. Then provide the sentence stem for each student to complete.
Play Rhyming Games
Need a quick activity to fill five minutes? Want a creative way to line your class up? Try playing a rhyming game. Simply ask, “Who has a word that rhymes with ______?” Encourage them to say your word and their word so they hear the rhymes. Ask for other words. How many can you find?
Poetry Writing Win #2
Instead of asking them to create a rhyming poem, begin with couplets. Explain that a couplet is made up of two lines. The words at the end of each line must rhyme.
My cat has a dish
That’s shaped like a fish.
Depending upon the child’s age and interest, more than one couplet about the same topic can be put together for a longer poem.
My cat has a dish
That’s shaped like a fish.
She has soft black fur
And she loves to purr.
Experiment with Color Poems
To make writing easier, have the students make lists of objects that are a particular color. Each page of a notebook could be dedicated to a color. Explain that writers often get ideas throughout the day. They can use their notebooks to add to their list after your mini-lesson. Perhaps they can add images too.
Poetry Writing Win #3
Use the lists to help you write a color poem. It would be wonderful for you to model this first. After a few lines, ask the class to help you add more examples.
Red is the color of my mother’s curly hair.
Red is a rose in my grandma’s garden.
Red is my face when I’m embarrassed.
And red is the ketchup stain on my shirt.
Color poems don’t have to rhyme. In fact, writing poems that rhyme is extremely difficult for young writers.
Amusing Poems with Alliteration
One of my favorite applications of alliteration went with a jumping rope chant. As we jumped we had to complete this little poem:
A my name is Alison
And my friend’s name is Alex
And we come from Alabama
Where we sell apples.
If we didn’t trip on the rope, we continued through the alphabet.
If you aren’t into jump roping, you can do it while dribbling a ball. Whenever you say a word that begins with the special letter, you have to rotate your leg over the ball.
Not into that either, then how about a book? A My Name is Alice by Jane E. Bayer.
Poetry Writing Win #4
Have your students complete these sentence stems using alliteration:
_____ my name is _____________
And my friend’s name is ______________________
We come from __________________________
And we sell ____________________________
I have found that students enjoy this. However, they don’t have the writing stamina to do the entire alphabet themselves. Typically 3-4 alliteration poems are the right amount.
Use the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model
Writing poems can be challenging for even adults. The best way to avoid, “I don’t know what to write about!” is to start writing together.
Begin by having the class watch you write. Tell them what you are thinking. Share when you decide to change your ideas.
Next, write a few lines together. Have the students copy your model as you form it together. Brainstorm ideas as a class.
Eventually, you might want to have students work in pairs before having them work on their own.
Remember to offer opportunities to share their poems aloud without criticism. Children are less intimidated about sharing if they aren’t critiqued in front of their peers. “Thank you for sharing! Would anyone else like to share?”
Poetry Writing Win #5
No topic is easier to write about than yourself! Bio poems make this easy. Writers simply complete the sentences. Bio poems are great at the start of the year to get to know each other. They are also wonderful for Open House.