Inside: Use poetic devices to teach poetry writing lessons that will get your elementary students writing poetry in no time.
I fell in love in a circle of desks.
I’d been fooled before…you know the type, cute and fun but with no real substance. But this was the real deal. I saw the smallest things in new ways, my heart swelled from the raw emotion, and I couldn’t keep my hands off…..
After an unbalanced elementary diet of sing-songy, cutesy poems, in a high school English class, I was finally introduced to the triple-berry-chia smoothies of poetry.
I drank them up!
Fast-forward a few years to my first teaching job. Armed with enthusiasm, I was determined! My students WOULD learn to love AND write poetry.
I realized with a gut-twisting jolt, I had no idea how to get my students from their basic understanding of writing to crafting poetry.
Does This Sound Familiar?
When you put a math problem on the board, you expect to see students working within a few strategies to all get the same answer. You flit from one child to the next, checking in and redirecting everyone down the same path.
But with writing?
Some students will be stymied with what to write. The steps aren’t clear and you’ll spend a lot of time just trying to get them started.
How ‘bout the ones that are started? Are they on the right track or are they listing all the tricks their dog can do instead of writing a poem about how their dog makes them feel?
Pretty soon you’ve got a line of kids begging for help, the noise level is rising, and you’ve got to wrap it up for recess in 3 minutes!
Fortunately, there are some simple tools and frameworks to give your students a foothold when writing poetry.
Teach Around Poetic Devices
Poetic devices are simply tools that poets use. Having the right tools always makes the job easier!
For each of the following poetic devices, use these steps:
- Find an example of the poetic device in a published poem.
- Share it with your students.
- Demonstrate writing a few new examples. (Examples are provided if you want to copy!)
- Give them time to complete the activity.
Get a free poetic devices chart to use in your class by clicking HERE.
Lesson 1: Line Breaks
-Splitting a line of text into two or more shorter lines. This makes the reader slow down or draws their attention to words at the ends of the lines.
Write a few sentences about a favorite place. Experiment with adding line breaks to get the reader to slow down over the best parts. Get rid of extra or unnecessary words.
One of my favorite places is the path on the side of my house. In the spring it is shaded by tall lilac bushes. When the wind blows, tiny purple flowers will fall down on you as you walk through. It smells sweet and fresh.
Version 2, Add line breaks, take out unneeded words, and voila! A poem!
The Path on the Side of My House
In the spring,
By tall lilac bushes.
When the wind blows,
Tiny purple flowers,
As you walk through.
It smells sweet,
Lesson 2: Similes
–Using “like” or “as” to describe something by comparing it to something else. This helps students to see things in new ways like poets do.
Describe someone you know using similes.
As fast as a rabbit,
Loud like a blasting stereo,
As silly as a clown,
My friend Max.
Lesson 3: Personification
-describing something that is not human by giving it human traits
Describe a tool or machine using personification.
It dances and twirls,
In a puddle of eggs.
Powers through flour,
Sugar, and butter,
Its muscles never tiring,
Like mine would.
Lesson 4: Alliteration
-Using the same beginning sound for two or more words that are near each other. This is one way to make poems sound interesting.
Choose a type of weather to describe using alliteration.
Drops drench the sidewalk,
I stomp and splash
Sending sprays of mud everywhere!
The dry grass drinks up
Every drop it can get.
Did you notice some personification in that last one? Eventually kids start piecing together more than one device in their poems (especially if you also do this in your demonstrations) and that’s when things get exciting!
Students can begin to use this poem writing process:
- Choose a topic.
- Plan: Write down bits of simile, alliteration, or personification that come to mind.
- Draft: Choose your favorite ideas from your plan and put them together using line breaks.
- Edit/Revise: Take out any extra words that don’t add meaning or interesting sound to the poem.
- Finish up: Write and final draft and share with others!
Looking for a complete low-prep poetry writing unit? Click HERE