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!
Getting young children excited about poetry is as simple as emptying your recycling bin! Here’s a creative craft idea inspired by the poem “My Robot’s Misbehaving” that will capture the attention of boys and girls alike.
First, read the poem aloud to the kids. You could also hand out a copy of the poem for them to read silently.
My Robot’s Misbehaving
My robot’s misbehaving.
It won’t do as I say.
It will not dust the furniture
or put my toys away.
My robot never helps me
with homework or my chores.
It doesn’t do my laundry
and neglects to clean my floors.
It claims it can’t cook dinner.
It never makes my bed.
No matter what I ask of it,
it simply shakes its head.
My robot must be broken.
I’ll need to get another.
Until that day, I have to say,
I’m glad I have my mother.
Then, ask them if they’d like to build their very own robot with interchangeable magnetic parts, kind of a like a Mr. Robot Head! When they’re done squealing with excitement, take them to the table where you have all the supplies ready.
January 25th is a day of celebration in Scotland. That’s because it’s Robbie Burns Day, the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns. In fact, this holiday is celebrated in many different places in the world—even in Vancouver, Canada!
In some places, Robbie Burns Day is known as Burns Night. This day is celebrated in many ways, ranging from bagpipe music to recitals of Burns’ poetry. In Scotland, this event is often represented by a formal party called a “Burns Supper,” which features the reading of a Burns poem called “Address to a Haggis.” Haggis is a Scottish meal that is made from a special recipe using the internal organs of sheep along with oatmeal, onions, and spices.
Robert Burns lived in the 18th century in Ayrshire, a rural area in Scotland. Burns is sometimes called the “ploughman poet” because he spent much of his life as a farmer. However, he was well educated, having studied Latin and French as well as the works of many important writers, such as William Shakespeare. He was introduced to many Scottish legends and folk songs by his mother.
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:
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’
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an incredible orator, harnessing the power of words rather than weapons as he lead this country on its road to civil liberty. In fact, many of his speeches have the power of poetry, using some of the same conventions writers use when composing poems: alliteration, personification, simile, repetition, metaphor, and even rhyme. So, what better way to celebrate Martin Luther King Day than with words?
Here are some examples of poetry based activities you can do to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. on the third Monday of each January… or any time you feel so inspired!
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.
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.
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.
Visual artists sometimes talk about using “found objects” in their artwork. In other words, they collect interesting things during the course of a normal day (such as bus tickets, objects from nature, or a toy found on the street) and then find a way to incorporate those objects into their artwork.
Did you know that you can do the same thing with language? A “found poem” is created by collecting interesting text from the world around us and then using those words to make a poem. When you create poetry this way, you are acting like a documentary filmmaker—using scenes from real life to tell an interesting story.
Here are three simple and fun ways to create “found poetry” from the language that is all around you.