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Writing Poems

Teaching your students about

poetry by having them write

Why have students write


its fun for the students

it develops their understanding of
the ways in which poems work
it develops their skills in

using language,
observing closely and describing
precisely, and
using such poetic elements as rhyme,
rhythm, and imagery

Things to do before they

begin writing

lay out the rules for that sort of

poem (including rhyme, rhythm,
line length, total number of lines [if
fixed], and anything about subject
make sure they know what is really
important in the process

Things to do before they

begin writing

provide one or more models for

students to study; these should be
available to students as they write
talk about the models at some

Things to do before they

begin writing

give them time to brainstorm

give them clear directions about
what they should include as they
do so

(e.g.: be sure to use all five senses in

brainstorming for a Dream Poem)

Things to do before they

begin writing

remind them that they can revise-they can wander far away from
those things they came up with in

Where did this stuff come

The information that follows comes
from Giggle Poetry at
And the main writer here is the
childrens poet Bruce Lansky.

Roses are red poems

The form of these poems is very
familiar and therefore easy to
Tulips are red,
Hyacinths, pink;
I dropped the radio
Into the sink.

Roses are red poems

Gerbils are brown,
Parrots are green.
The surgeons by accident
Took out your spleen.

Roses are red poems

GERbils are BROWN,
PARrots are GREEN.
The SURgeons by ACcident
TOOK out your SPLEEN.

Roses are red poems

how to?
You can start off the students with
some very simple exercises:
Violets are blue.
Roses are green;
When we were downtown,

Roses are red poems

how to?

Purpose: give
practice with rhyme
Roses are red. rhythmand with
Violets are blue;
in a poem

My cousin Margie

Roses are red poems

how to?
Then put the students to work.
Begin by making a list on the
board of color words that are just
one syllable long. These will fit the
meter when substituted for blue.
Lets make a list now.

Roses are red poems

how to?
Remind the students of the rhythm
and the form: write the poem on
the board.
Then let them loose. Let their
imaginations run wild!
So now go ahead and write.

And dont forget:

Always give your students a chance to
read what theyve written.
Always find things to praise in what
theyve done.
Try to find positive suggestions about
improvements they might makebut
state these in a cheerful, supportive

Named for Edmund Clerihew Bentley:
English physicist and astronomer

Sir James Jeans

Always says what he means:

He is really perfectly serious
About the Universe being

Clerihewsthe rules
1. They are four lines long.
2. The first and second lines rhyme with each
other, and the third and fourth lines rhyme
with each other.
3. The first line names a person, and the
second line ends with something that
rhymes with the name of the person.
4. A clerihew should be funny.

Sample Clerihews
Our art teacher, Mr. Shaw,
Really knows how to draw.
But his awful paintings
Have caused many faintings.

Sample Clerihews
The President, George W. Bush,
Gave the Taliban a vigorous push.
But he couldnt make Osama
Cry for his mama.

Now its your turn

Choose someone whose last name

you can rhyme with

you know something about

Think about something funny you

can say about that person
Keep in mind the rhyme scheme:
Purpose: give students
experience with rhymes and
Try it out
form in the context of a
specific person

Yankee Doodle Poems

Like the Roses are red poems,

these make use of an entirely
familiar form, where rhythm,
rhyme scheme, line length, and
general situation are all
determined in advance

Yankee Doodle Poems

Yankee Doodle went to town
riding on a monkey.
He had to take a shower quick,
because he smelled so funky.

Yankee Doodle Poems

Yankee Doodle went to town
riding on a rabbit.
He rode around in circles
'cause it got to be a habit.

Yankee Doodle Poems

Y.D. doesnt have to be riding on
Yankee Doodle went to town
Eating tea and crumpets
Spilled the tea all down his shirt
When someone blew a trumpet.

Purpose: rhyme, rhythm, form

Yankee Doodle Poems

Have the students begin by

choosing an animal.

They should make sure that its

something they can think of a rhyme
They should be sure that it will fit in
with the rhythm (not Yankee Doodle
went to town / A riding on a
Thompsons gazelle)

Yankee Doodle Poems

Make sure that they keep the

rhythm in mind as they work:
DUM da DUM da DUM da da,
DUM da DUM da DUM da.
DUM da DUM da DUM da da,
da DUM da DUM da DUM da.

Yankee Doodle Poems

And give them sufficient time to

brainstorm and to write.
Now its your turn.

Write a Dream Poem

Here's a poem that's fairly easy to write
because it's simply a collection of
dreamy images woven together. All you
have to do is imagine some dreamy
place and write down what you'd expect
to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel
there. This poem is in free verse, so you
with imagery
need togive
and paying attention to all five senses; some
attention to a poems unity

Write a Dream Poem

After tossing and turning for what must
been an hour or so,
I find myself lying on a tropical beach,
the waves gently licking the sand.
I gaze up at the sky and notice some
soaring and swooping, looking for lunch.
There's a catamaran sailing offshore,
swept by the wind that is cooling my

Time to write your own

dream poem!
Brainstorm first!
Choose a location or situation
to dream of.
Write down the sights, sounds,
smells, feelings, and tastes you
associate with that setting.

Lunch for your teacher

This kind of poem can be lots of fun

for the students to write
It gives them a little more liberty
than, say, a Roses Are Red poem .
. . . and that means they have more
responsibility, so this one is a bit

Lunch for your teacher

The idea is to create a yucky,

disgusting, and thoroughly
laughable lunch for a teacher (or
anyone else, for that matter).
It would, of course, be possible to
create a really nice lunch for
teacher: angel pudding with
sunlight cream, / a bowl of smiles
and two dollops of dream
But yucky is probably better

Lunch for your teacher

Begin by listing the nasty ingredients:

Rattlesnake stew
centipede salad
It may help
to have
class sandwich
make a list of foods
that one might
eat at
milk mixed
poohberry pie
salads, soups, main dishes, vegetables, desserts,


your students are having trouble

with rhyming, it can be enough just to
have them make up an imaginative
listpoems dont have to rhyme.

Lunch for your teacher-model

What Id Serve My Teacher for Lunch (rhyming
Notice the
rhyme: XAXA
If I served hot lunch to my teacher,
Id start off with rattlesnake stew.
Notice the
Then Id serve her a centipede salad
And a tall glass of milk mixed withrhythm:
glue. da da
DUM da da DUM
da da DUM
Next, a seaweed and jellyfish sandwich
and a large slice of poohberry pie.
When my teacher finds out what shes eaten,
I hope the old bat doesnt die.

Lunch for your teacher

Once theyve looked at the model,

give them some time to think about
some sort of funny comment they
might use to finish off the poem

But nothing too mean!

Now its your turn to try writing one.

Begin with listing yucky foods.

Backwards Poems

give students a chance to have fun by

turning things on their heads.
familiar things, situations, and/or actions
that are changed to be ridiculous and

putting up the umbrella when the sun shines

and going swimming in the rain
eating breakfast before waking up
calling the dog to get her to run away
using a paintbrush to eat soup and a spoon to
paint the walls

Backwards Poems

I'm going to give you the first and last

couplets of a poem by Doug Florian
that's published in Miles of Smiles. It's
called, sensibly enough, "Mr. Backward."

Mr. Backward lives in town.

He never wakes up, he always wakes
(Insert your couplets here.)
He goes to sleep beneath his bed
While wearing slippers on his head.

Backwards Poems

This assignment really allows students

to use their imagination while thinking
about the ways things actually are.
They arent just making things up at
random, they way they might in other
poems where silliness is central.

Backwards Poems

Be sure to give them guidance and provide

Provide a rhythm:

da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM

da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM

And tell them if you expect rhyming

(probably a good idea here, unless you
know the class has lots of trouble with
Give them plenty of time to brainstorm.