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Lesson Plan: Kids Writing Poetry
Journey Back to the Great Before

Journey Back to the Great Before

Kids Writing Poetry




It seems tough at first - writing a poem - and getting started is the tricky part. A good idea is to create a poetry culture in your class/school. Read poems together. Put some on walls. Make music and drawings with some. Make a poetry tree. Hang up favorites. These activities create a natural transition towards getting kids of all ages writing their own.

There are a number of interesting poetry anthologies for young readers out there, books for teaching kids to write poetry, and also a few wonderful poetry websites. If you want any recommendations, just email me.

Following are some good beginning exercises which build a structure so that they can start creating their own mental pictures and begin finding their own voices. This is important. We are aiming always for concrete visions. I remember my poetry teacher at Washington University, Donald Finkle, saying over and over: “make it concrete … make it specific ... cut out the fluff words.”

Special Note: make a keep off sign for a selection of lazy words that don’t contribute much to describing things - words like beautiful, nice, cute, awesome, cool, bad, wow, etc. Later we can find ways to use them, too.

PROMPT 1: Each student makes a list of all the things s/he can remember from her/his home. This can take 5 minutes, with the class writing without stopping. I use this technique a lot to encourage writing fluency. I learned it from Julia Cameron’s various writing books.

NEXT have each student find a hole in space to say a word out loud. At first this may be chaotic, but classes quickly get there and exercises like this encourage both a secure sense of self and a collegiate atmosphere. Depending on age, these things can then be written down on the board or on paper.

Special note: this exercise can be done with all kinds of other environments, depending on age. For instance, in the garden, in the woods, outdoors at night, on the beach, under the ocean, up in space, in another time.

PROMPT 2: Together with the class, make a long list of descriptive words, including:

SIZE WORDS: e.g. big, small, tiny, thin, enormous, long, short.

COLOR WORDS: e.g. red, blue, orange, yellow. Later you can have a day of fun with lists of great words for colors like azure, marine blue, sea green, poppy red….

SPACIAL WORDS: e.g. high, low, fat, skinny, crooked, straight, curvy.

TEXTURAL WORDS: e.g. soft, hard, scratchy, velvety, sharp, smooth, gentle, sticky.

MOVING WORDS: e.g. wiggly, slow, fast, whizzing, whirring, running, hopping, jumping, strolling.

SOUND WORDS: e.g. loud, noisy, banging, quiet, whizzing, ringing, tapping. This is a good moment to introduce alliterative sound words that sound like what they really are … buzzing, whirring, whooshing.

SMELL WORDS: e.g. sweet, sour, disgusting, moldy, perfumed.

APPEARANCE WORDS: e.g. shiny, dirty, grungy, smudgy, clean, neat.

This can be an ongoing class list that can be added to every day as new descriptive words are found - a good way to spin your poetry thread through other curriculum areas.

PROMPT 3: Ask the class to write 3 descriptive things about each object with a color always included. This is a good moment for students to start their own favorite word notebooks, which can lead to favorite phrase notebooks, etc. Now use three of those words in a phrase to describe something in your home.

The bed is blue, big, bouncy


The bouncy, big, blue, bed


The bed

Choose the same objects and make the descriptions the OPPOSITE of what the object is really like:

The dog is orange, quiet, and hopping


The velvet purple jumping plate


The table

Have the class write out a group long list of house things with crazy descriptions in 7 minutes. Then you can play the ‘hole in space’ game and they can call out things from their lists. Much fun.

Make up a list of verb or doing phrases about things the kids do everyday in their homes. This can be either written or oral - or even done as a charade.

Eat breakfast
Read a book
Laugh with my sister
Listen to a story

Insert any 2 crazy descriptive words from your list in the phrase. This is best done individually on paper.

Eat a wiggly pink breakfast
Read a huge curly book
Laugh a scratchy laugh

Make up a zany way of putting all the words together in 3 lines. You might at this stage want to do a few group examples before heading the class off to work on their own. They can start with one which they recite to each other. Then they can go on do create more of their own.

Line 1 Descriptive:

My wiggly soft yellow shoe

Line 2 Action:

Ate a huge shiny breakfast

Line 3 Action using the prompt ‘and then’:

And then
Listened to a whirring fat story

And there you have it. Not really a poem as such. But totally fun for kids. They are now on a great course for developing a fluid stream of mental imagery, appreciating language, and developing simple word patterns. Of course, there are a million and one variations to this theme which you can play with, based on the age range of the class, their particular interests and your own predilections. So remember, have fun and follow the path less taken.

Stay tuned if you like this. Idea Bank 2 will deal with strengthening the imagination!

Bye for now,


Please contact me if you have any questions at zazaweil@gmail.com


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Journey Back to the Great Before