Poetry: you either love it or hate it.
Personally, I love it—and my first grade students did too. Every Monday for an hour, our classroom turned into a Writer’s Workshop. My students spent the first bit writing their own original poetry, after which we had ten minutes of sharing time around the classroom rug. I loved teaching Writer’s Workshop because I was able to share my love of poetry with my students, and they loved it because they got to be silly and exercise their creativity.
In our increasingly tech-focused world, hobbies like poetry inspire kids to get creative away from the screen. After all, while creativity and tech can work in tandem, there’s something so cathartic about expressing our creativity the old-fashioned way.
Are you wondering how to teach poetry to kids? It’s easy; just follow these five steps. You never know—poetry might be your kiddo’s creative calling.
How to Teach Poetry
1. Read Poetry with Your Kids
The first step in learning any new skill is research. Before your kids can start writing poetry, they need to know what it is. Next time they’re tucked in and begging for a bedtime story, use the opportunity to familiarize your kiddos with the wonderful world of poetry.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to introduce them to literary giants like Louise Glück right off the bat. There’s a ton of children’s poetry in the world that younger kids will love! Try starting with some classic Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein. Green Eggs and Ham and Where the Sidewalk Ends were some of my students’ personal favorites.
If you have a teen to inspire, show them some more advanced (and inspiring) works like Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese or one of Shakespeare’s many love sonnets.
2. Help Your Child Brainstorm
One of the hardest parts of the poetry process is knowing what to write about. When there are so many topics that demand a child’s attention, it can be hard for them to narrow it down to one or two ideas. Do they want to write a poem about their grandparents or the chocolate ice cream cone they ate yesterday? For older kids and teens, are they more inspired by the wilds of nature or their own tumultuous emotions?
Sit down with your child and help them brainstorm ideas. If they’re having a hard time thinking of potential poem topics, show them how to make a list or use a mind map. Older kids may also benefit from brainstorming using unstructured freewriting time. Set a timer and give them a few minutes to write down whatever comes to mind. The only rule? They can’t stop writing until the timer dings!
If your child is still having trouble determining a topic, the My Creative Diary app can help. Available on all Troomi phones with the Discover plan, this cool KidSmartⓇ App gives your child daily writing prompts that will inspire their next poem. Click here to learn a little bit more about how Troomi’s KidSmartⓇ Apps help your kids exercise their creative brains.
3. Choose Words to Use
Your child has a topic in mind. Now what? Next, make a list of words that describe the topic. Help your kiddo explore their senses and think about how their chosen theme makes them feel. For example, if the topic is tiger, they might write down words like orange, striped, fierce, and jungle.
If your kiddo is interested in writing a rhyming poem, help them think of words that rhyme. For a poem about ice cream, for example, they might come up with words like sweet and treat or mint and hint. Websites like this one are a great resource when hunting for rhymes.
Once you’ve cultivated a solid list of words, help your child choose some of their favorites to include in the poem. Circle them and set the list to the side.
4. Write Your Poem
Now that your child knows what poetry is, has a topic in mind, and has cultivated a list of masterfully chosen words, there’s only one thing left to do: write!
It’s no secret that writing poetry can be complex and intimidating, especially for kids who have never written a poem before. That’s where poetic form comes in. A poem’s form is its structure, dictating rhyme scheme, line length, and the amount of stanzas. Just like instructions help a child put together LEGOs, a poem’s form helps writers know how to write a specific piece.
Here are some basic poetic forms that your child may have fun with:
Older kids may enjoy experimenting with more complex forms, like a sonnet or sestina. If they don’t enjoy the constraints of form, let them run wild and write a free verse poem. Free verse poets are the rebels of the poetry world—not even form can contain them.
Remind your budding poet that not every poem is going to be a winner. With enough time and focus, however, even the duds can be refined into something they can be proud of. The secret is to keep writing, no matter how discouraged they may be!
5. Encourage Your Child to Share
Once your child has written and revised their poem, encourage them to share it with the world (or at least close friends and family). Sharing creative works helps boost a child’s self-esteem and may even inspire others to present their work. Here are some ways kids can share their poetry:
- Tape a poem to the fridge
- Attend open mic nights
- Send their poem to a teacher
- Read a poem for show-and-tell
- Post their poetry on social media
Practice Makes Perfect
The best way to perfect any skill is to practice, practice, practice. Poetry is no different! Now that you know how to teach poetry and your child has written their first poem, motivate them to keep writing. As they practice, they’ll notice that writing gets easier and easier. Soon, they’ll be able to experiment with all sorts of poetic forms—and have a blast doing it.