Why Use This Tip
Children recognize the power of poetry—its ability to inspire emotions and the special pleasure you can get from memorizing a favorite poem or reading it again and again. But children may not know where to start in writing their own poems. And they may not realize that poems come in a wide variety of flavors—from succinct haikus, to ones that follow conventions of word choice and line length, to the-sky-is-the-limit free verse.
Help a child recognize the elements of a poem and explore different ways of writing one, and you’ll also enable the child to become more familiar with the meaning of words and sentences, sentence structure, rhymes, and vocabulary. Plus, in writing poetry, a child will discover a new, limitless world of expression that’s just as fun to share with others as it is to create.
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What To Do
1. Choose some books of poetry (see Additional Poetry Resources for some suggestions). Read some poems aloud with the child. Talk about where each line of the poem ends and how it creates rhythm, affects the meaning of the poem, and might even make the poem look a particular way.
2. Sing a favorite song together and write down the lyrics. Then ask the child to write a poem that he or she could sing to the melody of the song. Use the structure of the original lyrics as a guide.
3. Go on a neighborhood poetry walk. Stop at various points—the park, the street corner, the newsstand—and ask the child to write a sentence or two that describes what he or she sees. Back at home, the child can revise and shorten those sentences and turn them into a poem.
4. Show the child how to write an acrostic poem, in which the first letter of each line spells out his or her name, when read top to bottom. Once the child writes a poem based on his or her own name, the child can write about family members, friends, or pets.
5. Make a slideshow poem. Have the child photograph a series of five to ten pictures (based on a common theme or during a trip). Import the photos into a multimedia software program such as PowerPoint, iPhoto, or Photo Story and ask the child to write a poem by posting a word or two with each image. Add special effects, transitions, or music to enhance the slideshow.
6. Show an older child how to write a “found” poem, using the Found Poem Instructions. Found poems take existing text (e.g., from a passage in a book, a magazine article, a sign, a letter) and condense and reorder the words to form a new poem. Help the child select a paragraph or two from a favorite book and turn it into a found poem.
7. Introduce the rhyming dictionary at Poetry4Kids.com and a thesaurus as helpful tools for writing poetry.
8. Explore different types and even shapes of poems. For younger children, the three-line haiku (five words/seven words/five words) is a fun way to start. Older children may want to experiment with formats like the diamante, a seven-line poem that is shaped like a diamond (see Related Resources for an online Diamante Poems tool).
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