Step by Step Techniques to Teach Poetry Writing

Poetry expresses what you think and feel using choice words to evoke emotion or create a picture. It can express a thought clearly or be deeply symbolic. When beginning poetry instruction, it’s best to become practice clear expression of thoughts until the various forms become easy to use. There are ways you can make the process less difficult, especially when teaching it to children!  Children 10 years and older should be able to follow this process. Each step should be done in order, on different days.


Day 1. Begin by listening to a sad poem, then a joyful one, then a reflective one. Ask, what kinds of words used to bring out those different feelings? What kinds of pictures do?
An example of a sad poem:
a reflective one:
and a joyful one:

Poems that resonate in your heart will show feeling through the setting,  the actions and posture of the characters in it – not merely tell how you feel.

Day 2. Listen to lyric poetry with different rhyme schemes and rhythms.  Sometimes the rhythm of a poem will also express feelings. For instance, the Limerick is made for silliness!

I once had a teacher named Snood
who acted disgustingly rude!
With his nose in the air,
he would burp, snort, then stare
as if we had the bad attitude!   –  Jane Clark  5/15/17

Do: Look up a few more limericks then try to write one of your own!

Day 3. Poetry with the same number of counts for each line will be much more serious. Variety in length in the lines will express emotion or movement.  A well-written poem will have rhythms (meters) on each line that work well together.  Read them aloud with feeling. Take note of certain words that are emphasized and syllables that are stressed.

For an exercise take this poorly metered verse and try to reword it to sound better to your ears, while maintaining the meaning. Clap out the meter while saying it.

Under circumstances
isn’t where I belong.            * Try eliminating the contraction.
I have to take some chances
that I might get it wrong.  

You don’t want to emphasize the ‘nt of a contraction when saying the poem aloud!

Day 4. Give another example of a rhyme that “doesn’t work” because of stressed syllables. See if your child can spot the problem before explaining it.

Look at yesterday’s poem with one word added to the first line.

Under the circumstances
is not where I belong.
I have to take some chances
that I might get it wrong.

Why doesn’t this flow as well?  The meter would have forced the second syllable of “under” to be stressed.

unDER the circumstances…

The normal pronunciation of that word stresses the first syllable, though. This is the kind of forced fit just won’t work.  If you create a rhyme and you have a wrongly stressed syllable, you can rearrange the words, eliminate a word, or change the word (to a synonym) to fix this problem.

Practice coming up with couplets today.
Two lines in a row that rhyme with each other. In the following piece of verse from a poem I wrote in middle school, I used two couplets followed by a rhyming line that matched the first couplet.

“Of all the teachers in school,
the nicest one is Mr. Wool!
The kids don’t know why
He wears a bow tie
but on anyone else, it wouldn’t look cool.”

Day 5.  Find a  lyrical poem that is already familiar, and change the words. Use the same rhyme scheme as that poem such as –  1st and 3rd line rhyming and 2nd and 4th rhyming – also called ABAB. Other good choices for beginners are ABCB, with only the second and fourth line rhyming.

Find your best words using a thesaurus. See if there are compatible rhymes for it by going through the alphabet and adding the first sound of each letter to the ending sound of your chosen word. If it doesn’t have good rhyming choices, pick a different word or rearrange the words in your line of verse so a good rhymable word appears at the end.  The trick is to find rhymes without making your sentence appear forced. Sometimes, to maintain your meaning, you must force a sentence, as Robert Frost does in “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
“Whose woods these are, I think I know…”
So if you must, don’t worry about it! Even famous poets have done it.

Day 6.  Create your own poem using the techniques you covered on day 5.
Is there a saying you use often? Is there a quote you really like? Is there something you really want to express? Use one of these as a launching point and try to say it several different ways. Choose one that has an ending word, easy to rhyme. If you are teaching a middle schooler how to write poetry and they are having a tough time, give them a few ideas to re-word and work from. When it comes to creative writing, it does help to “prime the pump.”  The more they do it, the easier it becomes!



Author: Jane E Clark

I am a wife, mom, grandmother, teacher, and a writer of children's stories, articles, and poetry.

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