Category: Lessons

Evoking the Senses in a Poem

Evoking the Senses: How to Capture an Atmosphere in Your Poem

See Hear Speak

The best poems draw in their audience, and spark the imagination.  If you want to conjure up a complete world for the reader when writing about a particular place or time, you can call upon each of the five senses to create the correct atmosphere.

This short lesson will give you an example of how you can use this technique in your own poetry!

How to Write a “Roses are Red” Valentine’s Day Poem

Valentine’s Day is a perfect opportunity to tell the people we care about how much they mean to us. The tradition of sharing our feelings by giving cards dates back to the 15th Century in Europe, and the messages were all originally written as poems!

Happy Valentine's Day

The oldest surviving example of a Valentine’s poems is written in French, but the most famous Valentine’s poem of all is in English:

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you!

The best thing about this poem is that it is so simple to adapt by changing just a few words.

Writing Your Own “Roses are Red” Poem

Some people buy pre-printed cards, but homemade cards always mean a bit more, especially when you’ve written your own personalized poetry inside!

How to Write an Apology Poem

A poem can do a lot of things. It can tell a funny story, describe an interesting image, or present an idea. Some poems are written in the form of a “direct address”—that is, the speaker in the poem is talking directly to a specific person. An apology poem is one that uses direct address as a way to apologize for something that the speaker has done or said.

One of the most famous examples of an apology poem is by William Carlos Williams. The title of this poem is “This Is Just to Say.” As you read the poem, decide for yourself whether the speaker is actually sorry for what he has done.

Twenty Fun Writing Prompts for Children

If you’ve ever had “writer’s block,” you know how awful it feels when you just can’t seem to get started on a piece of writing. Sometimes it helps to warm up your writing muscles, similar to the way that an athlete would stretch before a game or a musician would tune an instrument. For a writer, one of the best ways to warm up is to do five minutes of freewriting. Using a writing prompt to get you started, write as quickly as you can without stopping for five minutes. You can always edit what you wrote later, but you’ll capture some great ideas when you’re writing as fast as you can.

Here are 20 ideas for fun writing prompts that you can use if you’re feeling stuck—or if you’re just looking for interesting ideas for a new story or poem. There’s no wrong way to respond to any of these prompts, and you can let your imagination go wild. You’ll know you’re getting “warm” when you’re really having fun!

How to Write a Tanka Poem

Tanka, which means “short song,” has been an important literary form in Japanese culture for nearly a thousand years. The original Japanese form of tanka had only one line of poetry containing 31 speech sounds—what we would call syllables. However, most tanka poems that are written in English today are broken into five poetic lines with a certain number of syllables in each line.

The basic structure of a tanka poem is 5 – 7 – 5 – 7 – 7. In other words, there are 5 syllables in line 1, 7 syllables in line 2, 5 syllables in line 3, and 7 syllables in lines 4 and 5. If you have ever written a haiku, you will notice that tanka is kind of like a longer version of haiku that gives you a little more room to tell a story. Here is one example of a tanka poem:

How to Write a Concrete Poem

What is a Concrete Poem?

Concrete poetry—sometimes also called ‘shape poetry’—is poetry whose visual appearance matches the topic of the poem. The words form shapes which illustrate the poem’s subject as a picture, as well as through their literal meaning.

This type of poetry has been used for thousands of years, since the ancient Greeks began to enhance the meanings of their poetry by arranging their characters in visually pleasing ways back in the 3rd and 2nd Centuries BC.

A famous example is “The Mouse’s Tale from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  The shape of the poem is a pun on the word tale/tail, as the words follow a long wiggling line getting smaller and smaller and ending in a point.

The name “Concrete Poetry,” however, is from the 1950’s, when a group of Brazilian poets called the Noigandres held an international exhibition of their work, and then developed a “manifesto” to define the style.

The manifesto states that concrete poetry ‘communicates its own structure: structure = content

There are 2 main ways that this can be achieved…

How to Write a Free Verse Poem

Free verse is one of the simplest, and yet most difficult, type of poetry to write. While it doesn’t constrict the poet with rules about form, it requires him or her to work hard at creating a piece that is beautiful and meaningful without any specific guidelines about rhyme and meter. If you’d like to try your hand at free verse, there are a few tips (not rules) that will help as you develop your own style.

Choosing Words Carefully

Carefully chosen words can help you create a poem that sounds like the situation, emotion, or object you are trying to portray. For instance, short words with sharp consonants cause the reader to stop-and- go in a choppy cadence: Cut, bash, stop, kick, lick, bite, punch, jump, stick, kiss. They almost sound like what they mean. Use these types of short words when you want to show excitement, fear, anger, new love, or anything that might make your heart beat quickly. Longer words with soft sounds cause the reader to slow down. Use them when you want to show pause, tension, laziness, rest.

Forced Rhymes and How to Avoid Them

What is a “Forced Rhyme?”

Have you ever written a poem, only to be told that the rhymes sound “forced,” but didn’t know exactly what that meant? It can be confusing, because a “forced rhyme” may be any one of a number of different things. All of them, however, can make a poem less enjoyable to read. So, to improve your poetry as much as possible, you’ll want to learn how to avoid each of the various types of forced rhymes.

Rearranging a phrase to put the rhyme at the end of the line

Probably the most common type of forced rhyme is where the poet says something in an unnatural way in order to make the line rhyme. For example, take a look at this couplet:

Whenever we go out and walk,
with you I like to talk.

Now, in normal, everyday English, you would never say “with you I like to talk.” Instead, you would say “I like to talk with you.” And yet, some poets will write this unnatural way in order to force the lines to rhyme with one another; hence the term “forced” rhyme.

Poetry Dictionary for Kids

A Glossary of Poetic Vocabulary Terms for Children

A B C D E F H I L M N O P Q R S T V W

Poetry has a lot of terms with special meanings. This poetry dictionary for kids lists the most common poetic terms that kids might encounter, along with their definitions. If you need a more extensive poetry dictionary, I recommend the Poetry Foundation’s Glossary of Poetic Terms.

A

Accent
The emphasis placed on some syllables in words more than others. For example, the word “apple” has two syllables, and the accent is on the first syllable, so it is pronounced “AP-pull.” “Banana,” on the other hand, has three syllables, with the accent on the second syllable, so it is pronounced “buh-NA-nuh.”

Acrostic
A form of poem in which the first syllables of each line spell out a word, name, or phrase. See How to Write an Acrostic Poem.

Alliteration
Repeating the consonant sounds at the beginnings of nearby words, such as the “p” sound in the words “My puppy makes pizza” in the poem My Puppy Makes Pizza. See Alliteration and Assonance Lesson Plan.

Anagram
A word or phrase created by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase. For example, “notes” is an anagram of “stone.” See the poem Anna Graham for many more examples of anagrams.

Antonym
A word that has the opposite meaning of another word. For example, “dark” is an antonym of “light.” See also Synonym.

Assonance
Repeating the vowel sounds in the stressed, or accented, syllables in nearby words. For example, in the phrase “flying kites” the repeated long “i” sound are assonant. See Alliteration and Assonance Lesson Plan.

B

Ballad
A form of poetry, usually suitable for singing, that tells a story in stanzas of two or four lines, and often has a refrain.

C

Cinquain
A five-line poetic form in which the lines have 2, 4, 6, 8, and 2 syllables, in that order. See How to Write a Cinquain Poem.

Clerihew
A four-line humorous poetic form comprised of two rhymed couplets, with the first line usually being the someone’s name. See How to Write a Clerihew.

Close Rhyme
A rhyme of two words that are next to one another or close to one another, such as “Humpty Dumpty,” tighty-whitey,” “fat cat,” or “fair and square.” Not to be confused with Near Rhyme. See List of Words and Phrases that Rhyme with Themselves.

Concrete Poem
A poem in which the meaning is conveyed by the placement and design of the words on the page instead of, or in addition to, the usual arrangement of words. Also sometimes called a “shape poem” or “visual poem.” See How to Write a Concrete or “Shape” Poem.

Consonance
The repetition of consonant sounds within nearby words, especially the consonant sounds at the ends of words, as in “a stroke of luck” or “a bite to eat.”

Couplet
Two lines of poetry, one after the other, that rhyme and are of the same length and rhythm. For example, “I do not like green eggs and ham. / I do not like them Sam I Am.”

D

Double Rhyme
A rhyme where the stress is on the second-to-last syllable of the words, and the end sounds are the same, starting with the vowel of the stressed syllables. Some examples are batter / fatter, ocean / lotion, and camping / stamping. Double rhymes and triple rhymes are also called “feminine rhymes.” See How to Rhyme.

E

End Rhyme
Rhyming words at the ends of the lines of a poem. See also internal rhyme.

Epitaph
A short poem written about someone who has died, often inscribed on the headstone of their grave. Epitaphs usually praise the person, and are sometimes humorous.

Exaggeration
To overstate something; to claim that it is bigger, better, faster, smellier, etc. than is actually true. When Larry Made Lasagna is an example of a exaggeration poem. See How to Write an Exaggeration Poem. See also Hyperbole.

F

Feminine Rhyme
A double rhyme or triple rhyme. See also Masculine Rhyme.

Foot
In poetry, a group of two or more syllables, one of which is stressed. Metrical poems are often written in feet with the same number of syllables with the stress in the same place in each foot. For example, the line “My puppy punched me in the eye” is made up of four feet, each with the stress on the second syllable, as in “my PUP | py PUNCHED | me IN | the EYE.” The most common poetic feet are two or three syllables long. See the poem My Puppy Punched Me in the Eye.

Forced Rhyme
Most commonly, an end rhyme where the lines are written in an unnatural manner in order to “force” the words to rhyme. A forced rhyme may also be a near rhyme, wrenched rhyme, or a  line where irrelevant or unnecessary information is added to the poem for the sake of making lines rhyme. See Forced Rhymes and How to Avoid Them.

Form
A “type” of poem, written by following a set of rules such as the number of lines or syllables, the placement of rhymes, etc.. Common poetic forms include acrostic, cinquain, free verse, haiku, etc. See Poetry Lessons for Kids to learn how to write many different poetic forms.

Free Verse
A poetic form that avoids using fixed patterns of meter. Free verse often also avoids rhymes, but still may make use of other poetic techniques such as imagery and metaphor, as well as sound devices such as assonance and alliteration.

H

Haiku
A short, unrhymed Japanese poetic form with three lines of five syllables, seven syllables, and five syllables. See How to Write a Haiku.

Homonym
A word that has the same spelling and sound as another word, but a different meaning. For example “fine” (an adjective meaning nice) and “fine” (a noun meaning money you have to pay as a punishment) are homonyms.

Homophone
A word that has the same sound as another word, but a different spelling and meaning. For example, “there,” “their,” and “they’re” are homphones.

Hyperbole
Pronounced “hi-PER-buh-lee.” A extreme and obvious exaggeration, not meant to be believed or taken literally.  For example, “he has million-dollar hair” or “this test is taking forever.” See How to Write an Exaggeration Poem.

I

Imagery
Language and poetic techniques used to appeal to the reader’s senses (sight, sound, smell, etc.) to create mental pictures and cause emotions in the reader. See also Onomatopoeia.

Internal Rhyme
Rhymes within a line of poetry. For example, the poem My Pet Germs contains an internal rhyme on the third line of each stanza.

L

Light Verse
Poetry that is intended to be humorous, amusing, or entertaining. While there is some light verse written in free verse, most light verse is written in rhyme and meter. There are also many light-verse poetic forms, such as limericks, clerihews, double-dactyls, etc.

Limerick
A humorous 5-line poetic form with an AABBA rhyme scheme. See How to Write a Limerick.

Line
A single row of words in a poem. For example, a limerick has five lines, while a haiku has three lines. Lines are one of the main things that distinguish poetry from prose.

List Poem
A poem that contains a list of things, people, places, etc. See How to Write a Funny List Poem.

M

Masculine Rhyme
A single rhyme.

Metaphor
A figure of speech, where a thing is described as being something else in order to suggest a similarity between the two. For example, “The cat was a rag doll in my arms” or “Nature wore its winter robe.”

Meter
Rhythmical patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables in poetry. See also Rhythm.

N

Narrative Poem
A poem that tells a story. Narrative poems usually have a plot and one or more characters.

Near Rhyme
Also called a “slant rhyme” or a “half rhyme,” “near rhyme” is a general term describing words that sound similar, but aren’t a perfect rhyme. Assonanceconsonance and sight rhymes are common types of near rhymes. See also Assonance and Alliteration Lesson Plan.

Nonsense Poem
A form of light verse, usually rhymed and metrical, often with strange characters, fantastic or impossible situations, and made-up words. Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky and Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat are famous examples of nonsense poetry.

Nursery Rhyme
A short, rhyming poem for young children, often telling a short story or describing an interesting character. The most well-known nursery rhymes in the English language are those attributed to Mother Goose. See How to Write a Traditional Nursery Rhyme and How to Write a Fractured Nursery Rhyme.

O

Occasional Poem
A poem written to commemorate a specific occasion or event, such as a birthday, wedding, funeral, anniversary, graduation, military victory, etc.

Onomatopoeia
A word whose sound is similar to the thing or action it refers to, such as “buzz” or “hiss.” See How to Write an Onomatopoeia Poem, List of Rhyming Onomatopoetic Words and Onomatopoeia Poetry Lesson Plan.

P

Palindrome
A word or phrase that is spelled the same backward as it is forward, ignoring spaces, capitalization, and punctuation, such as “Bob,” “mom,” “radar,” “race car,” “madam, I’m Adam,” etc.

Parody
A poem written in the style of another poem, usually humorous. Parodies usually assume the reader is familiar with the original work. For example, the poem “Let Me Out of the Classroom” by Kenn Nesbitt is a parody of the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

Perfect Rhyme
Two words that have exactly the same vowel and consonant sounds at the ends, starting with the first vowel of the last stressed syllable. For example, green/bean, dummy/tummy, and cavity/gravity are all perfect rhymes. Note that the first consonant sound of the last stressed syllable must be different. For example leaf/belief is not a perfect rhyme because the final stressed syllable of each word begins with the same consonant “l” sound. See also: Near Rhyme, Assonance, and Consonance.

Personification
Giving human characteristics to non-human things, such as animals, inanimate objects, or ideas. For example, “The sun smiled down on the beach” or, “The trees waved at the birds flying by.”

Poem
A written composition, often using rhythm, rhyme, metaphor, and other such artistic techniques to express an idea, feelings, or a story.

Poet
A person who writes poems.

Poetry
Literature written in verse, as opposed to prose, often written in metrical lines.

Prose
Ordinary writing or spoken language, usually written in sentences and paragraphs, as opposed to rhythmical lines.

Pun
A “play on words,” usually using homophones or homonyms, where a word or phrase has multiple meanings. For example, “Six was afraid of Seven because Seven ate Nine.” This is a pun because the word “ate” sounds like “eight.”

Q

Quatrain
A four-line poem or stanza.

R

Refrain
A phrase, line, or stanza that is repeated throughout a poem, often after each stanza.

Repetition
Using the same word, phrase, line, or stanza two or more times in a poem. See How to Write a Repetition Poem to learn how to use repetition in your own poetry.

Rhyme
Having the same sound at the end of two or more words such as pine / fine, nickel / pickle, and ability / fragility. See also Perfect Rhyme, Near Rhyme, Wrenched Rhyme, and How to Rhyme Video Lesson Plan.

Rhyme Scheme
The pattern of end rhymes in a poem, written out as letters, such as AABB or ABAB. See Rhyme Schemes Lesson Plan to learn how to write the rhyme scheme of a poem.

Rhythm
The sound and feel created by the pattern of accented and unaccented syllables, usually repeated, in a poem. See also Meter.

S

Sight Rhyme
Words that end with the same letters, but not the same sound, such as rough / cough / plough or prove / lovegrove.

Simile
A comparison between to unlike things, usually using “like,” “as,” or “than.” For example, “his imagination was like a bird in flight.”

Single Rhyme
A rhyme in which the stress is on the final syllable of the words, such as cathat, and playaway. Also called a “masculine rhyme.” See How to Rhyme.

Stanza
A group of lines in a poem, separated by space from other stanzas, much like a paragraph in prose.

Stress
Same as accent.

Subject
The main idea of a poem, or what the poem is about. For example, Basketball Is Lots of Fun is a poem about basketball, so basketball is the subject.

Syllable
A part of a word, usually a vowel and it’s surrounding consonants, that makes a single sound when spoken. All words have at least one syllable. For example, catI, and would are all one syllable long because they are spoken with a single movement of the mouth. Cattleeyeball, and wouldn’t are all two syllables because they require two separate sounds to be spoken.

Synonym
A word that has the same, or nearly the same, meaning as another word. See also Antonym.

T

Tanka
A 5-line, 31-syllable unrhymed traditional Japanese poetic form, with five syllables on the first and third lines, and seven syllables on the second, fourth, and fifth lines. See also How to Write a Tanka Poem.

Tercet
A group of three lines that rhyme with one another, or are connected to another tercet by their rhyme scheme.

Theme
The main idea or point of a poem. The theme is different than the subject or topic of the poem. The subject is what the poem is about, while the theme is what the poem means. For example, in the poem “We Ate all the Cheetos,” the subject of the poem is eating tasty foods, but the theme of the poem is that it can be hard to eat healthy foods.

Topic
Same a subject.

Triple Rhyme
A rhyme in which the third-to-last syllable in the words final stressed syllable. For example, cavitygravityhammeringstammering, and nobilityagility are all triple rhymes. Double rhymes and triple rhymes are also called “feminine rhymes.” See How to Rhyme.

V

Verse
Verse has several meanings, including:

W

Wrenched Rhyme
Rhyming the final syllables of two words, where one is stressed and the other is not. For example the words “sing” and “morning” are a wrenched rhyme because “sing” is stressed on the final (and only) syllable, but “morning” is stressed on the second-to-last syllable. Other examples include tin/imaginefrog/catalog, etc. See also Perfect Rhyme.

How to Host an Open Mic Poetry Party

Having an open mic poetry party is a great way for kids to showcase their talent while encouraging them to keep writing.  Whether the children are budding poets, stand-up comedians, or just need some practice with public speaking, in a few simple steps you can provide everyone with a fun way to enjoy live poetry!

Step One: Decide on a Venue

Think about the type of party you’d like to host.  Will it be a small gathering of friends, perhaps for a birthday or special occasion?  Is it for your class, scout troop, or youth group?  The size of the group, as well as the purpose of the party, will help you determine your venue.

There are many different places that would be great for an open mic night/party.  Libraries have meeting rooms or sometimes stages that can be reserved for free or very low cost.  Book stores and coffee shops often host open mic nights and poetry readings.  Rooms in schools and churches can also provide a nice space.  Even just your own living room can work well for small groups.

Once you decide on a space, you’ll have to call ahead and book it, as sometimes locations require reservations weeks or even months in advance.