Writing Poems

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It is often difficult to encourage children to write, but unfortunately if they are not practising writing then are unlikely to become proficient writers.  Writing poetry is a good stepping stone to help children develop many of the skills underpinning effective writing.

The advantage of poetry is that an idea is developed and expressed in just a few words.  This enables the writer to concentrate on creating a particular feeling or describing a particular moment in time.  Therefore, the focus is on quality, not quantity.  Since the idea needs to be expressed in a minimal number of words, the child needs to concentrate on choosing the ‘right’ words that will clearly express the chosen message and eliminating words that are not essential.

Five ideas

  1. Analyse poems: Looking for verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, rhyming words, metaphors, similes etc. These could be colour-coded, so that the nouns, for example, are all highlighted in blue, the verbs in green, etc.  Now help your child to rewrite the poem using the same structure and language, but on a different topic.  I suggest you start with nursery rhymes as their simple structure often makes this an easier process.
  2. Paraphrase poems: Ask your child to choose a favourite poem and then paraphrase the poem in prose. It is interesting to compare the two version to show how change the poem into prose results in the rhythm of the poem disappearing.
  3. Poems as a learning tool: Help your child to create poems or rhyming couplets to help learn particular facts. Spelling rules are often presented in this way:
    [box]‘e’ goes away
    when ‘ing’ comes to stay
    or any other suffix beginning with a vowel.[/box]
  4. Change a story into a poem: Your child is more likely to have success with this activity if the story is very familiar, such as a well-known fairy tale. It would be useful to look at other examples first.  This benefit of this strategy is that your child will already have the content and structure.
  5. Write different types of poems: Expose your child to different types of poems and then help your child write his or her own poem using a similar structure.
  • Structured poems: These poems have a very clear structure and don’t necessarily rhyme. You can begin by asking a question, for example, “What does red look like?” or “What sounds do you like?” or “What do you love?”:
    Red is blood dripping from a cut,
    Tomato sauce squirting from a bottle,
    A love heart on a Valentine’s card,
    And a rose picked fresh from the garden.[/box]       
  • Haikus: Consist of 3 lines that usually don’t rhyme. The first and last lines of have 5 syllables and the middle line has 7 syllables.
  • Acrostic: The first letter of each line spells out a word. Write a word down the left hand side of a page (e.g., your child’s name). Now think of a sentence for each letter that in which the first word starts with that letter and describes your child.[box]Ben
    Best friend you could ever have,
    Energetic and always on the go,
    Never a nuisance.[/box]
  • Shape poems: Choose a shape (heart, star, stop watch) and write the poem so that it fits within that shape.
  • Limericks: A humorous poem consisting of five lines. The first, second, and fifth lines must have seven to ten syllables and rhyme with each other and have the same rhythm. The third and fourth lines have to have five to seven syllables and have to rhyme with each other and have the same rhythm.
    [box]There was an Old Man of Peru
    Who watched his wife making a stew.
    But once, by mistake,
    In a stove she did bake
    That unfortunate Man of Peru.[/box]
  • Skipping and clapping chants: Help your child learn some traditional chants. Begin by modifying these chants before progressing on to creating original chants.  For ideas see http://www.gameskidsplay.net/jump_rope_ryhmes/ or http://www.buyjumpropes.net/resources/jump-rope-rhymes-songs-buyjumpropesnet/

Some useful websites
Instant fill in the blanks poetry is a great way to encourage reluctant writers to create poems easily: https://www.oncolink.org/coping/poetry/

Rhyme Brain helps find words that rhyme: http://rhymebrain.com/en

Poetry fun provides the structure and hints for writing different types of poems: http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/poetryfun

A list of other poetry websites that might be worth exploring: http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/sites/sites014.shtml