Teaching Children to Write Poetry

Easy Beginnings for How to Write Poems

Teaching children to write poetry is a natural tool for writing across the curriculum. I found it an easy way to introduce my students to a love of words through the next topic in the textbook!

More often than not, teachers today who want to introduce poetry to their classes are bound by the constraints of a tight curriculum. Teachers need poetry activities that fit seamlessly into any required curriculum, poetry lessons that expand and reinforce specific themes and content. Although poetry is a thoughtful vehicle for exploring everyday life and emotions, it doesn't stop there. Poems are a versatile tool for introducing and understanding a world of unit studies: plant life cycles, animal habitats, current events in social studies, biographies of influential persons, and the like. The list is endless.

Using poetry as a teaching companion is a delightful means to a solid educational end. As you use creative poetry activities across the curriculum, you'll also be differentiating instruction according to the ways each of your students learns best. Not only will you encourage a love of words and writing, your classes will naturally link creative writing to each topic they examine. A truly seamless integration! Before we look at a wonderful exercise for teaching children to write poetry, let's see how the process fits into a multiple intelligence approach. Where appropriate, I've added links to other articles that might stimulate your own creative poetry planning.

Teaching Children to Write Poetry: Multiple Intelligence Connections

As evidenced above, poems and poetic activities enrich all aspects of the curriculum. Through teaching children to write poetry in any academic context, you are encouraging them to make meaningful connections to the material. Now let's examine a highly effective exercise that incorporates poetry across any content area!

Teaching Children to Write Poetry through Metaphor and Simile

The building blocks of poetry are metaphors and similes. By working with these concepts, children develop skills in crafting imagery and careful word choice. This versatile activity is called the Like What? list and offers an understanding of simile and metaphor. Try this exercise within any topic of study. Here's the format:
  • color like-
  • hot like-
  • cold like-
  • sounds like-
  • tastes like-
  • smells like-
  • looks like-
  • feels like-
  • makes me feel-
For example's sake, let's apply the Like What? form to a science unit on insects, specifically the bumblebee. Each of the lines below spin from each of the senses above.
  • Black-and-gold robe
  • Hot morning sun
  • Cold evening breeze
  • Humming throughout the day
  • Sweet honeysuckle
  • Wild rose's perfume
  • A tangled fairy forest
  • Boundless energy and life
  • Oh, to have the bee's happiness!
See how easily this simple activity brings poetry into any subject! Let's try another one! Suppose we're beginning a botany unit. Using the Like What? list above, we create this about an oak tree:
  • Royal green
  • In summer heat,
  • Through cold stinging rain,
  • Silently growing.
  • Taste of earth and bark
  • Scent of ageless wood
  • A sentinel searching the skies
  • A calm guardian of the fields.
  • Give me your strength and wisdom
When writing poetry within content areas, here's a basic procedure that fits into any lesson plan:
  • Select the unit topic
  • Brainstorm ideas, words, and images that spin from the Like What? format
  • Share models of poems you've written
  • Share your students' subsequent poems
Teaching children to write poetry across the curriculum unearths new information, breaking down and exploring subject areas. Whether it's a study of fantasy fiction or fairy tales, an art demonstration of color mixing, a social studies unit on cultural celebrations around the world, or a science chapter about the constellations, poetry enriches any curriculum.

Have fun using simile and metaphor to explore the world, as you experience teaching children to write poetry!

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