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Writing Poems. Teaching your students about poetry by having them write poems. Why have students write poems?. it’s fun for the students it develops their understanding of the ways in which poems work it develops their skills in using language,

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writing poems

Writing Poems

Teaching your students about poetry by having them write poems

why have students write poems
Why have students write poems?
  • it’s fun for the students
  • it develops their understanding of the ways in which poems work
  • it develops their skills in
    • using language,
    • observing closely and describing precisely, and
    • using such poetic elements as rhyme, rhythm, and imagery
things to do before they begin writing
Things to do before they begin writing
  • lay out the rules for that sort of poem (including rhyme, rhythm, line length, total number of lines [if fixed], and anything about subject matter)
  • make sure they know what is really important in the process
things to do before they begin writing1
Things to do before they begin writing
  • provide one or more models for students to study; these should be available to students as they write
  • talk about the models at some length
things to do before they begin writing2
Things to do before they begin writing
  • give them time to brainstorm
  • give them clear directions about what they should include as they do so
    • (e.g.: be sure to use all five senses in brainstorming for a Dream Poem)
things to do before they begin writing3
Things to do before they begin writing
  • remind them that they can revise--they can wander far away from those things they came up with in brainstorming
where did this stuff come from
Where did this stuff come from?

The information that follows comes from Giggle Poetry at http://gigglepoetry.com/poetryclass.cfm

And the main writer here is the children’s poet Bruce Lansky.

roses are red poems
“Roses are red” poems

The form of these poems is very familiar and therefore easy to imitate.

Tulips are red,

Hyacinths, pink;

I dropped the radio

Into the sink.

roses are red poems1
“Roses are red” poems

Gerbils are brown,

Parrots are green.

The surgeons by accident

Took out your spleen.

roses are red poems how to
“Roses are red” poems—how to?

You can start off the students with some very simple exercises:

Violets are blue. Roses are green; When we were downtown, __________.

roses are red poems how to1
“Roses are red” poems—how to?

Purpose: give students

practice with rhyme and

rhythm—and with humor

in a poem


Roses are red. Violets are blue; My cousin Margie ____________.

roses are red poems how to2
“Roses are red” poems—how to?

Then put the students to work.

Begin by making a list on the board of color words that are just one syllable long. These will fit the meter when substituted for “blue.”

Let’s make a list now.

roses are red poems how to3
“Roses are red” poems—how to?

Remind the students of the rhythm and the form: write the poem on the board.

Then let them loose. Let their imaginations run wild!

So now go ahead and write.

and don t forget
And don’t forget:

Always give your students a chance to read what they’ve written.

Always find things to praise in what they’ve done.

Try to find positive suggestions about improvements they might make—but state these in a cheerful, supportive way.


Named for Edmund Clerihew Bentley:

Sir James Jeans

Always says what he means:

He is really perfectly serious

About the Universe being Mysterious

English physicist and astronomer

clerihews the rules
Clerihews—the rules
  • They are four lines long.
  • The first and second lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other.
  • The first line names a person, and the second line ends with something that rhymes with the name of the person.
  • A clerihew should be funny.
sample clerihews
Sample Clerihews

Our art teacher, Mr. Shaw, Really knows how to draw. But his awful paintings Have caused many faintings.

sample clerihews1
Sample Clerihews

The President, George W. Bush,

Gave the Taliban a vigorous push.

But he couldn’t make Osama

Cry for his mama.

now it s your turn
Now it’s your turn
  • Choose someone whose last name
    • you can rhyme with
    • you know something about
  • Think about something funny you can say about that person
  • Keep in mind the rhyme scheme: AABB
  • Try it out

Purpose: give students experience with rhymes and form in the context of a specific person

yankee doodle poems
Yankee Doodle Poems
  • Like the “Roses are red” poems, these make use of an entirely familiar form, where rhythm, rhyme scheme, line length, and general situation are all determined in advance
yankee doodle poems1
Yankee Doodle Poems

Yankee Doodle went to town

riding on a monkey. He had to take a shower quick, because he smelled so funky.

yankee doodle poems2
Yankee Doodle Poems

Yankee Doodle went to town riding on a rabbit. He rode around in circles 'cause it got to be a habit.

yankee doodle poems3
Yankee Doodle Poems
  • Y.D. doesn’t have to be riding on something:

Yankee Doodle went to town

Eating tea and crumpets

Spilled the tea all down his shirt

When someone blew a trumpet.

Purpose: rhyme, rhythm, form

yankee doodle poems4
Yankee Doodle Poems
  • Have the students begin by choosing an animal.
    • They should make sure that it’s something they can think of a rhyme for
    • They should be sure that it will fit in with the rhythm (not “Yankee Doodle went to town / A riding on a Thompson’s gazelle”)
yankee doodle poems5
Yankee Doodle Poems
  • Make sure that they keep the rhythm in mind as they work:

DUM da DUM da DUM da da,DUM da DUM da DUM da.DUM da DUM da DUM da da,da DUM da DUM da DUM da.

yankee doodle poems6
Yankee Doodle Poems
  • And give them sufficient time to brainstorm and to write.
  • Now it’s your turn.
write a dream poem
Write a Dream Poem

Here's a poem that's fairly easy to write because it's simply a collection of dreamy images woven together. All you have to do is imagine some dreamy place and write down what you'd expect to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel there. This poem is in free verse, so you don't need to worry about rhyme or rhythm.

Purpose: give students practice with imagery

and paying attention to all five senses; some

attention to a poem’s unity

write a dream poem1
Write a Dream Poem

After tossing and turning for what must have been an hour or so,I find myself lying on a tropical beach, the waves gently licking the sand.I gaze up at the sky and notice some pelicans soaring and swooping, looking for lunch.There's a catamaran sailing offshore, swept by the wind that is cooling my brow. etc.

time to write your own dream poem
Time to write your own dream poem!
  • Brainstorm first!
  • Choose a location or situation to dream of.
  • Write down the sights, sounds, smells, feelings, and tastes you associate with that setting.
lunch for your teacher
“Lunch for your teacher”
  • This kind of poem can be lots of fun for the students to write
  • It gives them a little more liberty than, say, a “Roses Are Red” poem . . .
  • . . . and that means they have more responsibility, so this one is a bit harder
lunch for your teacher1
“Lunch for your teacher”
  • The idea is to create a yucky, disgusting, and thoroughly laughable lunch for a teacher (or anyone else, for that matter).
  • It would, of course, be possible to create a really nice lunch for teacher: “angel pudding with sunlight cream, / a bowl of smiles and two dollops of dream”
  • But yucky is probably better
lunch for your teacher2
“Lunch for your teacher”
  • Begin by listing the nasty ingredients:
      • Rattlesnake stew
      • centipede salad
      • seaweed and jellyfish sandwich
      • milk mixed with glue
      • poohberry pie
  • If your students are having trouble with rhyming, it can be enough just to have them make up an imaginative list—poems don’t have to rhyme.

It may help to have the class make a list of foods that one might eat at lunch:

salads, soups, main dishes, vegetables, desserts, drinks

lunch for your teacher model
“Lunch for your teacher”--model
  • What I’d Serve My Teacher for Lunch (rhyming poem)
    • If I served hot lunch to my teacher, I’d start off with rattlesnake stew.
    • Then I’d serve her a centipede salad
    • And a tall glass of milk mixed with glue.
    • Next, a seaweed and jellyfish sandwichand a large slice of poohberry pie.
    • When my teacher finds out what she’s eaten, I hope the old bat doesn’t die.

Notice the rhyme: XAXA XBXB

Notice the rhythm: da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM

lunch for your teacher3
“Lunch for your teacher”
  • Once they’ve looked at the model, give them some time to think about some sort of funny comment they might use to finish off the poem
    • But nothing too mean!
  • Now it’s your turn to try writing one. Begin with listing yucky foods.
backwards poems
Backwards Poems
  • give students a chance to have fun by turning things on their heads.
  • familiar things, situations, and/or actions that are changed to be ridiculous and funny:
      • putting up the umbrella when the sun shines and going swimming in the rain
      • eating breakfast before waking up
      • calling the dog to get her to run away
      • using a paintbrush to eat soup and a spoon to paint the walls
backwards poems1
Backwards Poems
  • I'm going to give you the first and last couplets of a poem by Doug Florian that's published in Miles of Smiles. It's called, sensibly enough, "Mr. Backward."
      • Mr. Backward lives in town.He never wakes up, he always wakes down.(Insert your couplets here.)He goes to sleep beneath his bedWhile wearing slippers on his head.
backwards poems2
Backwards Poems
  • This assignment really allows students to use their imagination while thinking about the ways things actually are. They aren’t just making things up at random, they way they might in other poems where silliness is central.
backwards poems3
Backwards Poems
  • Be sure to give them guidance and provide models.
  • Provide a rhythm:
      • da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM
  • And tell them if you expect rhyming (probably a good idea here, unless you know the class has lots of trouble with rhyme).
  • Give them plenty of time to brainstorm.