Writers often say that your brain is a bit like a muscle—the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. It’s good to give yourself some regular mental exercises to help build your creativity over time, so your poetry will keep developing and improving. (The good news is that brain exercises don’t make you ache as much as push-ups!)
A great exercise that doesn’t need any special equipment—and that you can do anywhere at any time—is to describe the color of the sky.
Sounds really simple, right?!
Well, it can be simple to begin with, but the reason this exercise works so well is because your descriptions can become more and more elaborate as your creative muscles get stronger. The idea is to make sure every description is different!
Have you heard of “book spine poetry?” It’s a kind of poetry that you don’t really write from scratch – instead, you “find” it by arranging book titles to make a poem. This type of poem can be serious or funny, just like in regular poetry.
Here’s the basic idea. Imagine that you’re sitting at a table with all of these books in front of you:
Green Eggs and Ham
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
Oh, The Places You’ll Go
Where the Wild Things Are
Good Night, Gorilla
To make a book spine poem, you would start by moving these books around into stacks with the spines together so that the titles are like the lines of a poem. You would keep moving the book titles around into different stacks until you find the “lines” that go best together to make a poem. For example, one set of titles might describe a story:
Your world is shaped by the information you take in through your senses. You know which ice cream you like best because of your taste buds. You know that you shouldn’t touch the stove top because of your sense of touch. The sirens warn you to get out of the way! And most importantly, your sense of smell keeps you away from the toxic stench emanating from the facilities after your brother spends an hour “resting!”
But what if you couldn’t trust those senses anymore? That’s exactly what happens in the following poem, where the character’s senses turn up all backward. Imagine describing the spray of a skunk as delightful, and the smell of a rose as hideous. People would think you were crazy! Do you think this poem is a bit crazy?
This lesson plan uses descriptive examples to explain what personification means and how it is used in poetry. Students will read poem excerpts in which examples of personification are identified. Then, they will create their own poetic sentences and short poems using personification.
Personification means using human qualities or actions to describe an object or an animal. The word “personification” actually contains the word “person,” and to personify an object means to describe it as if it were a person. Instead of saying that the sun is shining, we might say that the sun is smiling down at us. Instead of describing a flag as moving in the wind, we could say that the flag is dancing.
Using a human word to describe an object can make a poetic image seem more vivid. It can also give us an idea about how the narrator (the person describing the object) is feeling toward the object. For example, “The sun was smiling down at me” seems to indicate that the narrator has positive feelings about the sunshine. On the other hand, a narrator who says “The sun was glaring down” seems to have negative feelings about it.
Have you ever been raising your hand so long that it starts to tingle, go numb, and you swear it’s going to fall off any second… but the teacher just doesn’t call your name? In this poem, the kid in the very back of the class is going through just that.
Personification is one tool that writers use to bring their words to life. You can imagine a “sleeping meadow,” or darkness that crept in on the moon’s billowing cape. But personification doesn’t just have to be beautiful or haunting… it can also be really funny!
In the following poem, it is the personification of what the banana is unable to do that makes the experience hilarious. When you read the poem out loud, imagine the banana actually doing these things! Now, imagine your disappointment if you actually thought a banana could fetch and run and bow.
Get Jumping! Making Playground Poetry Using Jump-Rope Rhymes
Did you know that kids have been skipping rope—or playing some type of very similar game—for hundreds of years? In the United States, skipping rope was a common way for city kids to play in the streets together from the early 1900s through the 1940s. A special version of jumping rope, called Double Dutch because it uses two jump ropes at the same time, was introduced to the children of New York City by Dutch families who had immigrated to America. Double Dutch later became a competitive sport worldwide.
Kids today still enjoy chanting or singing rhyming poems while they skip rope. Jump-rope rhymes allow you to combine the fun of poetry with the physical activity of skipping rope—a great way to stay physically fit while entertaining your brain!
Some of the jump-rope rhymes that you’ve heard on the playground or at the park are probably the same ones that your parents or grandparents used to recite when they were kids. Maybe you know this one:
When it comes to poetry recitals, it’s not unusual to feel a bit nervous; why not lighten the mood by turning the event into a game?
Whether your group are studying a particular poem, poet or topic – or whether you’ve been writing your own poems – you can bring some excitement to the event by creating a ‘lucky-dip’. A ‘lucky-dip’ is a British game, where small prizes are concealed inside a large container, and players have to reach inside and grab one without being able to see what it is. In this recital game, the prizes are the poetry!
First, decide what you will be reciting. The text will need to be printed onto slips of paper. If you have been looking at one particular poem, each slip could have one line or phrase; if you have been studying a poet, or a theme, the slips could have short extracts of relevant poems; if your group have written their own poems, each one could be printed on an individual slip… Make sure you have enough printed slips for everybody in the group to receive one!
Beginning in 1996, April has been declared National Poetry Month in the US. This tradition was started by the Academy of American Poets to celebrate poets and the wonderful things that poetry can bring to our lives.
There are plenty of ways for kids to celebrate National Poetry Month. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Congratulations to the winners of the 2013 TIME for Kids Poetry Contest! I had so much fun reading all the entries and selecting the winners, plus a few “honorable mentions.”
The grand-prize winning poem this year was by 9-year-old Shannon Lipp. Her poem “Cleaning My Room” was so much fun to read that I just had to select it as the best submission of the contest.
In addition to Shannon’s wonderful poem, the runner-up winners were “Devilish Angel” by 10-year-old Austin Valencia, “What Happened at the Zoo” by 10-year-old Emily Klag, and “Eating” by 12-year-old Christy Koh.
A big congratulations to all of the winners and honorable mentions, and to all of the kids who took the time to write a poem and submit it. If I could have, I would have picked a hundred winners. There were at least that many poems that were true winners in my eyes.