KIDS WRITING POETRY
I have thought long and hard about children writing poetry and have explored this topic for many years in loads of creative arts and writing classes and workshops around the USA with both teachers and kids. Here is what I think is a simple and fun way to get started.
LESSON PLAN 1 FOR KIDS WRITING POETRY
|IDEA BANK 1
OBJECT: VISUAL FLUENCY
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 and wonderful poetry anthologies for young readers out there as well as books for teaching kids to write poetry, and also a few fantastic poetry websites. If you want any recommendations, just email me.
I have created a few beginning exercises which build a structure so that kids 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.
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.
NEXT have each student find a hole in space to say a word out loud and individually. 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.
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.
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 dog is orange, quiet, and hopping
The velvet purple jumping plate
Eat a wiggly pink breakfast
NOW FOR THE FINALE
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 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.