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Poetry Writing Lessons for Kids

Poetry Writing Lessons for Kids

There are many different ways to write poems as well as lots of techniques you can learn to help you improve your writing skill. Here are many of the poetry writing lessons for children that I have created to help you become a better poet, including how to write funny poetry, poetic rhythm, poetic forms and other styles of verse, as well as lesson plans for teachers and video lessons.

How to Write Funny Poetry

Rhythm in Poetry

  1. The Basics
  2. You Can Scan, Man
  3. I Am the Iamb
  4. Okie Dokie, Here’s the Trochee
  5. More than Two Feet

Poetic Forms

A poetic “form” is a set of rules for writing a certain type of poem. These rules can include the number of lines or syllables the poem should have, the placement of rhymes, and so on. Here are lessons for writing several common poetic forms.

Other Poetic Styles

There are many different styles of poems. These are not “poetic forms” because they don’t usually have firm rules about length, syllable counts, etc., but they are common enough that many well-known children’s poets have written poems like these.

Reciting Poetry

Other Poetry Writing Lessons

Poetry Lesson Plans for Teachers

Video Poetry Lessons

Poetry Dictionaries and Rhyming Words Lists

When reading these lessons, you may come across some unfamiliar words. If you see a poetic term and don’t know what it means, you can always look it up in the Poetic Terms Dictionary. Poetry4kids also has a rhyming dictionary and a list of rhyming words you can use to help you write poems.

Other Useful Poetry-Writing Lessons

There are loads of websites on the Internet that offer helpful lessons for children on how to write poems. Here are a few you may find useful:

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 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.

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.

How to Make a “Found Poem”

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.

How to Write a Funny List Poem

Shopping List

What is a list poem?

A “list poem” gets its name from the fact that most of the poem is made up of a long list of things.

Two famous list poems are “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” by Jack Prelutsky and “Sick” by Shel Silverstein. You will even find some of my list poems on poetry4kids.com, such as “My Lunch” and “That Explains It!

These are not the only list poems, though. Many children’s poets have written fun list poems, and you can even write your own. This lesson will show you how.

The structure of a list poem

List poems usually have a list in the middle, plus a few lines at the beginning and a few lines at the end. You can think of the beginning and end of a list poem like the top and bottom slices of bread in a sandwich. The list is like the meat or peanut butter or whatever else is between the bread. Picture it like this:

Beginning
List
List
List
List
Ending

List poems often rhyme, and they are usually funny. If you look at poems like Shel Silverstein’s “Sick” or Jack Prelutsky’s “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” you will notice that the lists also include very unusual items. Putting strange, unexpected, or exaggerated things on your list is a good way to make your poem funny.

Getting started

Here are two easy ways to start writing a list poem:

1.       Start with someone else’s beginning and end, but make your own list in the middle.

2.       Start by writing a list of your own, and then write your own beginning and end to go with the list.

You can decide for yourself whether it will be easier to write your own list poem from scratch, or to use someone else’s poem as a starting point.

Starting with someone else’s poem

It’s okay to use someone else’s list poem as the starting point for your own poem. (Just be sure to say your creation was “Based on…” the poem you used.) For example, here is my poem “That Explains It!”:

That Explains It!

I went to the doctor. He x-rayed my head.
He stared for a moment and here’s what he said.
“It looks like you’ve got a banana in there,
an apple, an orange, a peach, and a pear.
I also see something that looks like a shoe,
a plate of spaghetti, some fake doggy doo,
an airplane, an arrow, a barrel, a chair,
a salmon, a camera, some old underwear,
a penny, a pickle, a pencil, a pen,
a hairy canary, a hammer, a hen,
a whistle, a thistle, a missile, a duck,
an icicle, bicycle, tricycle, truck.
with all of the junk that you have in your head
it’s kind of amazing you got out of bed.
The good news, at least, is you shouldn’t feel pain.
From what I can see here you don’t have a brain.”

Notice that this poem begins with the four lines that set up the story, and ends with four lines that make it even funnier. You can use the same beginning and end, if you like, while putting your own list in the middle.

For example, what would the doctor find in your head? Since this list has rhymes at the end of each line, you can start with a few rhymes, like this:

house
mouse
cat
hat

Once you’ve got a few rhymes, you can add as many items as you want, like this:

“I also see something that looks like a house,
a monkey, a meerkat, a mink, and a mouse,
a laptop computer, a boat, and a cat,
an old pair of glasses, a coat, and a hat,

Of course, you don’t have to use my poem; you can use any list poem you like to create your own new list poem, or you can even create one from scratch.

Starting with your own list

If you prefer to write your own list poem from scratch, one easy way is to figure out what you’re going to make a list of. For example, you could make a grocery list, a list of things in your backpack, a list of your favorite sweets, a list of things you want for Christmas, and so on.

Let’s try it with a list of sweets. First let’s try to think of candies and sweets that rhyme.

Nestle’s Crunch
Hawaiian Punch
Dots
Zotz
Tootsie Pops
Lemon drops
Whoppers
Gobstoppers

Now that you’ve got some rhymes, put them into a list, adding a few more items to make the lines each about the same length:

A half a dozen Nestle’s Crunch.
A gallon of Hawaiian Punch.
Some Cracker Jacks. A box of Dots.
Some Pop Rocks and a jar of Zotz.
Reese’s Pieces. Tootsie Pops.
Hershey Kisses. Lemon drops.
Candy Corn, Milk Duds, and Whoppers.
Skittles, Snickers, and Gobstoppers.

Once your rhyming list is done, give it a beginning, an end, and a title and you’re all done.

My Shopping List

My mother said, “Go buy some bread,”
but this is what I got instead.

A half a dozen Nestle’s Crunch.
A gallon of Hawaiian Punch.
Some Cracker Jacks. A box of Dots.
Some Pop Rocks and a jar of Zotz.
Reese’s Pieces. Tootsie Pops.
Hershey Kisses. Lemon drops.
Candy Corn, Milk Duds, and Whoppers.
Skittles, Snickers, and Gobstoppers.
When mother needs things from the store
She never sends me anymore.

And that’s all there is to it. Now it’s your turn. Make a list of animals, friends, monsters, games, foods, places you’d like to go on vacation, or anything else you like, and see if you can turn it into a funny list poem of your own!

How to Write a Silly Song Parody

One of the easiest ways to write a funny poem of your own is to take any song you know – preferably a song that other people know too – and change the words to make your song. When you do this it’s called a “parody” or a “song parody” because it is a humorous imitation of the original song.

The first thing you will need to do to create your own parody is to pick a song. I recommend you choose a well-known children’s song such as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” or “I’m a Little Teapot,” or a famous holiday song like “Jingle Bells,” rather than, say, a modern pop song. The reason is that more people will know the original tune, especially adults who may not be familiar with the latest songs on the radio.

Here is a list of songs to choose from (though there are many more than just these that will work well):

  • Oh My Darling, Clementine
  • The Itsy-Bitsy Spider
  • On Top of Old Smokey
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
  • Miss Susie
  • My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
  • Yankee Doodle

Rewriting My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean

Once you’ve picked a song, you’ll want to take a look at the original lyrics. For example, let’s look at the song “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” The original goes like this:

My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean

My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
My Bonnie lies over the sea.
My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
Please bring back my Bonnie to me.

Bring back, bring back,
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me, to me.
Bring back, bring back,
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me.

To change this into a new song, we will want to keep the same rhythm and the same rhyme pattern.  That is, we’ll want to have the second line rhyme with the fourth line, just as in the original. We’ll probably also want to have something or someone lying on top of something or someone else. Let’s just change “Bonnie” and the thing that “Bonnie” is on.

For example, let’s say instead of “My Bonnie” I decide to have “My bunny” lie on top of something. What might that be? Perhaps, my bunny could lie on top of one of my other pets, like this:

My bunny lies over doggy.

Next, I could have my bunny lie on top of something else. Or maybe I could have the dog lie on top of something else, and make a stack of animals, like this:

My bunny lies over my doggy.
My doggie lies over my cat.
My cat is on top of my froggy,
and that’s why my froggy is flat.

Okay, I think that’s pretty funny so I’ll keep it. But now I need to write a chorus to replace “Bring back, bring back.” I’m thinking about how my froggy just got squished by my other pets, and that sounds like a “green splat” to me, so here’s the chorus:

Green splat, green splat,
oh, that’s why my froggy is flat, like that.
Green splat, green splat,
oh, that’s why my froggy is flat.

And, just like that, we’ve got a brand new song parody.

Rewriting Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Let’s try another example. The song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is well known, and was even parodied by Alan Katz in his books Take Me Out of the Bathtub and I’m Still Here in the Bathtub. Let’s see if we can’t make our own version.

First, let’s look at the lyrics to the original song:

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Take me out to the ball game
Take me out to the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack
I don’t care if I ever get back,
‘Cause it’s root, root, root for the home team.
If they don’t win it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out
At the old ball game.

To make a parody of this, let’s start by changing the “ball game” to something else. Can you think of some place you’d rather go than to a ball game? In order to keep the original rhythm, it will need to be some place that is still two syllables. What if we went to the movies instead? Then our first two lines might go like this:

Take me out to the movies.
Take me out to a show.

Now I need to say something, maybe about what kind of movies I like. Also, notice that “Cracker Jack” rhymes with “back,” so my next two lines need to rhyme as well.

I like explosions in every scene,
robots and aliens up on the screen.

Hey, I’m liking the way this is sounding… But to finish it off and make it funny, I want to say something about what kind of movies I don’t like. I don’t want to see any mushy love stories, so I’m going to end my song like this:

I like ninjas, pirates, and cowboys,
and giant man-eating plants
There’s just one thing I will not see;
I want no romance!

Notice that I rhymed the words “plants” and “romance” in the same spots where the original song had the words “shame” and “game.” This is because I want to keep the rhyme scheme the same as in the original song.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn to make up your own silly song parody. Here’s all you have to do:

  1. Pick a song
  2. Change the first line just enough to make it different but still recognizable
  3. Keep the original rhythm and the original rhyme scheme
  4. Keep on writing and see where it leads you

Want to Read More?

If you would like to read some silly song parodies, there are many kids’ books full of them. Perhaps the most well-known is Alan Katz’ book Take Me Out of the Bathtub: A Silly-Dilly Songbook. Others include Bruce Lansky’s books I’ve Been Burping in the Classroom and Oh My Darling, Porcupine. My books The Tighty-Whitey Spider and Revenge of the Lunch Ladies also include a number of song parodies. Be sure to check a few of these books out of your library and get ready to have lots of fun.