Do kids really need to write poetry? To me, that is the wrong question. The more important question is how can writing poems help kids to meet their language arts goals? And the short answer to that is there are LOTS of ways poetry can help boost a kids language abilities. For instance:
- Learning to write to a specific format is a skill that carries over to many types of school and even work-related writing assignments. The ability to write within a specified format is rewarded with good grades and, later on, good results at work.
- Recognizing poetic elements helps students to get more out of their reading.
- Searching for just the right synonym or antonym, which students seem to spend a lot of time doing trying to write a poem, is a skill in its own right.
- The ability to use imagery, figurative language, and words with just the right connotation will enhance their writing in all areas. Even a simple set of how-to instructions is improved by the use of vivid nouns and verbs.
So – how to get kids into the art of poetry? Try small steps and specific, fun activities. Here are my ideas.
With it’s pictures, colors, and easy-to-digest format, a slide presentation is a good place to start. It gives kids the basics and sets them up to try each new poem without stress. After a little background information is presented, kids are given a specific assignment such as writing a rhyming couplet.
Since kids often think of poetry as rhyming lines anyway, it makes sense to start with a rhyme. Rhymes fit right in with music that kids can easily relate to and mimic in their own verses, so a rhyming couplet is an easy place to start.
Fun poems that involve more hands-on activity that just writing words with a pencil can be motivating to kids as well. A blackout poem, in which kids make their creation by blacking out all of the words on a page of printed text except the ones they want for their poem is a fun choice that gets kids engaged quickly.
Group activities work great too. A small group of of kids can work together to produce any type of poem, with everyone in the group doing some preliminary brainstorming first, followed by a whole group effort to choose the best parts and put them together into a poem. This idea of starting with lots of words and ideas and then narrowing them down will serve kids well as they do their own writing later.
Here are a few samples from my slide presentation.
Practicing the Skills
Once the kids have gotten the idea and have written a few poems in one way or another (and hopefully have seen that it’s not terribly difficult and can even be fun), maybe you’d like to have them expand on their newfound skill. This set of activity sheets includes several warm-up activities followed by activity sheets for writing many different types of student-friendly poems. Here you can see two of the warm-ups followed by a list of all of the types of poems included for kids to write.
Review to Maintain the Skills
Who doesn’t love task cards? They’re great to pull out at any time of the year when you feel that it’s time to review a certain skill or some specific content to keep it fresh in the kids minds. All of my task card sets are designed for middle school and upper elementary kids. This sets provides practice with writing poems and with poetry terms.
As English teachers we already love poetry or poetic language in other forms of writing, and seeing kids learning to recognize elements that make up well-written language, using to improve their own writing, and writing fun poems of their own is definitely a rewarding experience!
Here are the resources that I drew from for the images in this article: