Smack-Dab-in-the-Classroom: Getting Kids to Write Poetry by Dia Calhoun

Some kids feel intimidated by writing poetry. One way to ease them in is by introducing them to verse novels like Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, or The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle or my own After the River the Sun.

Because verse novels are narrative and don’t rhyme, they are closer to prose. So have kids write a short story (one page) in standard prose. Then have them experiment with breaking up the lines. Show them how they can give added meaning to a word or idea by breaking the line in a certain place. Or give emphasis to a word by placing it alone on its on line.

Also fun is to cut the lines/words up and move them around in strips. That tactile exercise also makes poetry writing less intimidating.

One variation on this idea is to take a paragraph of a classic prose book and have each student transform the same paragraph into verse. Because each student creates a different emphasis depending on how they break the lines, comparing the examples shows how poetry is an art form.

This exercise can be done with all ages, from elementary through high school.

Have fun!


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