Teaching Children to Write Poetry Is a Natural Process

Teaching children to write poetry is a natural process since rhythm and rhyme come naturally to most children. Teaching poetry is a great way to help them express their feelings as well. This is very therapeutic, and children seem to enjoy writing when the facilitator or teacher removes obstacles such as rigid requirements and preconceived notions about what poetry is – and isn’t.

Activities for Teaching Poetry

Reading nursery rhymes together - An important precursor to teaching children to write poetry is reading nursery rhymes together - not because they are necessarily the best examples of poetry but because they are filled with rhythm and rhyme.

Rhyming games - Though poems don’t have to rhyme – and this should be emphasized when teaching children how to write poetry – many of them do contain rhyming words. So rhyming games are good preparation, and kids really enjoy them. Another advantage is that often rhymes establish rhythm, and a steady beat supports memory and learning.

Listening to music and exploring lyrics - Song lyrics are poems which have been set to music so children already know a good deal about poetry, maybe without realizing that they do. There are many popular songs of all genres which may be used to introduce and practice identifying figures of speech such as simile, metaphor, and alliteration. This activity has provided some of the most enjoyable moments in my classroom for both me and my students.

Learning words - Once again, it’s all about the words – choosing them carefully and placing them in such a way that it evokes emotion in the reader – so helping children develop a rich vocabulary through the use of word walls and sight word games is important. Just as the artist uses colors to express his feelings, so does the poet use words. If we are teaching poetry, then, we must provide students with the raw materials they need for the craft – a variety of words.

Creating a special word wall for descriptive words is a really good idea. Children love to contribute words to the wall as they find them in songs and poems.

Reading poetry aloud to children - Everybody has their favorites, don’t they? Who doesn’t love Shel Silverstein? Be sure to read a wide range of poems so that students don’t get the idea that all of them must sound the same. This is a great activity to use as a “filler” for in-between times.

Choral reading - This is the perfect activity to give children lots of experience with poetry. It is also a wonderful activity for developing reading fluency and helping children read more smoothly so it is truly a win-win!

Writing group poems - It has been my experience that once children get started writing poems, they can’t get enough of it, particularly if they are encouraged to illustrate them. Group poems are a good way to help them begin.

In this exercise, done in small groups, students begin by writing a line of poetry on a piece of paper. At a signal given by the teacher, they pass their papers to the right and write the second line of poetry on the paper they receive, then continue passing papers and writing lines of poetry until they receive their original, now a completed poem.

Word wall poems - Have students choose five words from the word wall to use in a poem.

Go to Word Walls from Teaching Children to Write Poetry
Go to Children Writing Stories from Teaching Children to Write Poetry

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More Activities

Writing and illustrating poems

After writing poems in groups, children are generally eager to write their own, but they may have difficulty at first, especially if they must choose a topic themselves. Here are some activities which may help.

Give students a simple topic such as asking them to write a poem about:

•An animal

•Their families

•A pet

•The current season

As students advance and mature, you may help them focus on their feelings by asking them to write a poem about a specific feeling

•When I am sad


•If I feel lonely

Encouraging students to share what makes them feel a certain way is important, but even more important is helping them focus on what they can do at these times – find a friend, talk to an adult, hug a pet, sing a song – and for the next set of poems, you might even suggest those as titles.

Helping children get in touch with their feelings and learning ways to deal with them is important in helping them deal with stress Encouraging students to illustrate their poems is a good way to incorporate art into your instruction and engages the right brains of the learners, of particular importance to those students whose right brains are dominant.