Looking back, I was a reluctant poetry writer as a student. You see, if it didn’t rhyme – I checked out. It was a challenge for me to get past my childhood views when I was a teacher. If you show any hesitation with children in your classroom, they see right through you. I could tell them it was not my favorite, but had to show them I could get past it and have some creative fun.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. My second grader was being challenged to write poetry in school. The student teacher noted to me that NHL was refusing to write. WHAT?! Seriously, I was quite confused. You see, just days before this he had helped me to write a poem for The Disney Driven Life. Not only did he write the Dumbo cinquain poem, but he kept creating more after I was done with the post.
How was it possible that my son refused to write a poem? Then, I thought back to my childhood. I remember the horror when we were told it was time to do the yearly poetry unit. As I mentioned before, I would gladly write rhyming poems, but free verse really gave me writer’s block. Even haiku were not something that would make me thrilled to pick up my pencil. Why? It’s hard to get back into my mind set from that time. I think a lot of it had to do with the way poetry used to be taught. Back then there was no real teaching strategy for poetry. They would read some Shel Silverstein poems along with others, set us with a topic, and say go.
That does NOT work! Kids need to learn by modeling. They need to see teacher-created poems and work together on the board to write a class example. Brainstorming, collaborative examples, and making it fun get the juices flowing. Perhaps a teacher wants students to write on a certain topic. Before getting that specific, let students try a poem on a subject they pick. If you take away the fear of writing, they will do the first one proving they can do it. This boost in self confidence will help them to do the one on the topic given to the entire class. I believe my son had been told to write about something specific in school. At home, he came up with Dumbo and given my cinquain format quickly wrote a poem that he was proud of.
When I was teaching poetry lessons, I would start with a variety of styles for my students to get familiar with. We would do poems together on a variety of fun topics. No doubt the Eeyore on my desk was inspiration more than once. Another nice and easy poetry starter to get kids ready for free verse is called a 5W poem. Never heard of this? These are the rules:
- Line 1 – Who or what is the poem about?
- Line 2 – What action is happening?
- Line 3 – When does this action take place?
- Line 4 – Where does this action happen?
- Line 5 – Why does this action happen
Here is my example:
The smiling children
Wait on the curb
On a hot spring day
Along Main Street USA
Trying to catch a glimpse of Mickey Mouse in the parade
In addition to the acrostic, cinquain, haiku, and 5W’s poems that I have previously mentioned, here are some others to test out with Disney as inspiration:
- Couplet – Simple, two line poem that rhymes. Most are funny, but do not have to be.
- Triplet – Poem with three lines. Most often, all three lines are rhymed. Some only have two lines that rhyme with different patterns.
- Quatrains – Any poem with four lines that rhymes. They may have different rhyme schemes.
- Clerihew – Four-line poem that tells something about a person in a humorous way. The person’s name must be the last word in the first line. Rhyme scheme is aabb.
- Diamonte – Seven line poem. Similar to cinquain, but set up to appear like a diamond shape. It starts with one topic and ends with a word that mean the opposite on line 7.
This is not a complete list, rather some additional ideas to end National Poetry Month. Happy writing and please share your creations below, or let us know where we can read them.