Writing poetry may seem like an odd place to start when encouraging a young writer, but some students will find it an easier task than many other forms of writing. There are several benefits to learning to write poetry:

  • Poetry has the ability to help students see underlying structures and to develop their own organizational systems.
  • Poetry forces an economy of words. It is necessary to find the one best word that will fit.
  • Poetry has rhythm and is closely related to song. In fact, poems have often been put to music; like the “The Star-spangled Banner.”
  • Poetry takes a different skill. We read poetry much differently than we read other literature.

Learning Poetry Terms

Before getting started, it is important to understand the vocabulary of poems. Much of this will not make sense to your student if he has not been accustomed to reading poetry. The easiest way to teach the language of poetry is to point it out casually, referring to the stanza, or line, or couplet as you go.

Then, with that foundation laid, you can include poetry terms in your poetry notebook with examples. Terms you will want to cover include:

  • Line.
  • Stanza.
  • Verse.
  • Couplet.
  • Meter.
  • Rhythm.
  • Rhyme.

It is easy to become far too technical with this subject than will ever suit your student. This Poetry Dictionary for Kids keeps it pretty simple.

Where to Begin When Writing Poetry

Read Poetry Aloud

We worked through several poetry anthologies, sometimes focusing on a particular poet for a period of time, and other times working through the poems chronologically. When we first started, it was with a book of theme-based poems particularly suited to children. You’ll find more of our favorites in the resources below.

It is so much easier to have an output when you already have had the input. By reading poems early to your children, including a poem a day from your favorite anthology, you are building their habit of listening to poetry, becoming accustomed to the rhythms and the language. Your students will find it much easier when it comes time for them to attempt to write poetry themselves.


If your child has been accustomed to copying poetry since the time he could write, writing poetry will seem like no big deal. In fact, the best way to become a great writer of any form is to copy that form.

There are many poems that can be copied, but typically it is best to let students copy something that appeals to them — with guidance, of course.

Write Poetry as Prose and Vice Versa

Ruth Beechick was very good at encouraging us to switch forms. After all, if you can summarize something you read and write it in a different form, you definitely understand it.

After reading a good poem, rewrite the message in prose. You can leave it that way, or a few days later you can look at your prose and see if you can turn it back into a poem.

Ruth Beechick, You Can Teach Your Child Successfully

This exercise also has the advantage of practicing those forms you use. For poetry, first have your students pick a poem that they enjoy (and understand). Then ask them to write a paragraph that says the same thing — a simple prose piece.

For more difficulty, find a simple prose passage and ask your student to rewrite the passage as poetry. It is easiest to let the poem take any form.

Write in Like Form

Most of us prefer to have something modeled for us. Another way to ease your child into poetry is to have him write a poem in the same form as one written by another. For example, he can use “Miss Muffett”:

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating of curds and whey;
There came a big spider,
And sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

What if you change the main character to a young man, say Master Perfect? Then what might he do? Instead of sitting on something he could toss something: a ringlet.

Our revised version might go:

Master Perfect
Tossed a ringlet,
Only desiring to play;
Up brewed a shower,
Drenching his bower,
And Master Perfect called it a day.

Forms of Poetry

Obviously, poetry can take many forms. We’ll focus on a few:


Sometimes the easiest place to start. The student is required to write only three lines so it is less daunting. Haiku takes the following form:

  • Five syllables.
  • Seven syllables.
  • Five syllables

That’s it!

This haiku poem interactive at ReadWriteThink.org will walk you through the process:


Another fun and undaunting type of poetry to approach is the limerick. The limerick also takes on a definite structure.

Since we have covered this form before we’ll refer you to our limerick tips and resources: 14 Forms of Writing for the Older Student: Limericks.


Cinquain is five lines of poetry that stick to a theme, but typically that do not rhyme. It can describe an object or a person. It does take a specific form:

  • First line: One word that names the theme or object of the poem.
  • Second line: Two words that describe the object. These are usually adjectives — the more vivid the better.
  • Third line: Three action words that end in -ing that tell what the object does.
  • Fourth line: A line that provides additional information or emotion surrounding the object. This is usually four words.
  • Fifth line: Specific word that renames the first line (a synonym).

Easy cinquains can be written about the weather, the seasons, or a toy or other favorite object.

ReadWriteThink.org provides an example with an apple: Cinquain Graphic Organizer.


Where each line of the poem begins with a letter such that when read down the page spells a word or phrase. A favorite example of this is the poem “Double Acrostic” by Lewis Carroll.

Have your student use this poem as a model for creating one spelling his own name.

Shape Poems

Shape poems are another easy and fun way to get into poetry. An easy example of a shape poem is the diamond poem or diamante poem. The diamond poem takes the following form:

  1. Noun.
  2. Two adjectives.
  3. Three verbs that end in -ing.
  4. Four nouns.
  5. Three verbs that end in -ing, but different from line 3.
  6. Two adjectives.
  7. Noun (usually different than the noun in line 1 but meaning the same thing).

Here is our example:

Large, brown
Drooling, licking, bounding
Food, people, cold, refuge
Running, finding, saving
Happy, affectionate
St. Bernard

You can read more about diamond poems in our Activity: Diamond Poem {Parts of Speech Practice}.

A shape poem can take any shape, but preferably the shape of the thing it describes. You’ll find resources below to help.

Free Verse

Exactly what it implies — write what you want how you want. There are no rules for structure or form. The verse can take on any form you like. An example would be “Fog” by Carl Sandburg:


THE fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Keep a Notebook

We are big on notebooks — after all, we are teaching our children to be creators rather than consumers. A poetry notebook can contain all of the copied and original poems the student collects. It can be decorated to become a beautiful keepsake.

Our family still enjoys looking back at those poetry notebooks!

Now that you have focused on poetry, try to make it part of your students’ daily life. Poetry works best when it is incorporated into the whole of your learning experience! (Below you will find several examples of how we used poetry to learn literary devices or the parts of speech.)

Additional Resources

4 Ways to Incorporate Poetry
Books that take you from the beginning.

Poetry Writing with Jack Prelutsky
Interactive step-by-step guide by former Children’s Poet Laureate at Scholastic.


Free Rhyming Tool
When you are stuck trying to find the right word.

Theme Poems
Interactive from ReadWriteThink.org that will guide a student through creating a poem about a subject and in some cases output the poem in a related shape.

Acrostic Poem Interactive {Free}
Our tips and ideas for using the interactive at ReadWriteThink.org.

Activity: Pyramid Poem {Learning Alliteration}
Our own look at the sound poem.

Activity: Diamond Poem {Parts of Speech Practice}
Our use of the shape poem.

Poems and Prayers

Poems and Prayers for the Very Young by Martha Alexander
Poetry for the youngest includes favorites by Christina Rossetti, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Browning, and many others. Simple poems that are easy to copy.

The Real Mother Goose {Free eBook}

The Real Mother Goose by Blanche Fisher Wright
A favorite for reading and copying. This one also works well when using as a model for a child to create their own. Also available free online.

Favorite Poems

Favorite Poems Old and New selected by Helen Farris
Copyrighted in 1957, this collection of poems is a favorite. The poems are organized by theme — play, pets, humor, patriotic poems, etc. The index of authors in the back makes it easy to group the poems for reading by poet.

The Harp and Laurel Wreath

The Harp and the Laurel Wreath: Poetry and Dictation for the Classical Curriculum by Laura M. Berquist
Another favorite on our shelf. The selections are arranged by the age (or more specifically stage) of the reader. Excellent selections that grow with your student!

Lesson Plans

Writing an “I Am” Poem
Download from ReadWriteThink.org.

Poetry Using the 5Ws
Another download from ReadWriteThink.org.

Notebooking Pages & Printables

Drawing & Writing Notebooking Paper {Free Download}
Perfect for copying, writing, and illustrating your poems or poetry terms!

Enjoy the complete series:
14 Forms of Writing for the Older Student: Complete Series
14 Forms of Writing for the Older Student

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