Students often struggle with poetry writing because, as the narrator of Love that Dog  says, “anything can be a poem if you write short lines.”

Teaching students how to write poetry can also help you teach the elements of poetry.Here are four poem forms that your students will love writing -- and that will help them learn more about poetic forms

Poetry Writing with Four Fun Forms

1. The Blackout Poem

Students can hardly resist this poetry “writing” activity.

Students can hardly resist this poetry “writing” activity.  Middle school students love the random (and potentially inappropriate) opportunity that blackout poems offer…and the opportunity to cross words out rather than write them.

If you’re not familiar with blackout poetry it goes like this:

  1. Start with a page from an old book that’s ready to go to the recycling bin. Tear it out!  (You can also use a page from a magazine or newspaper article.)
  2. Have students scan the page looking for words that they think are interesting or that make connections for them.  These words might be nouns, verbs, modifiers, interjections (hey! you just hit a grammar review while you were teaching this!!).  Have students circle the words.
  3. You can have students stop here, add an illustration, and black out the remaining words.
  4. To extend the lesson:  Have students list the words on a piece of paper.  Since they are in an specific order on the page, they will write them in a specific order.
  5. Using their list of words, students can construct a poem.  They can add or subtract from their word list.  They can group words into stanzas or create a form for their poem that makes sense.  Don’t forget to add a title.
  6. Back to the torn out page.  Have students mark through all the words except for those they use in their poems.  Alternatively, students can illustrate the page.
  7. The written poem and the blackout page can be displayed together.

What students can learn about poetry through this:

  • theme – the words they choose need to work together to communicate an idea.  You may want to ask students to tell you what theme they want their poem to convey.
  • word choice – students are going to pick the most powerful, vivid words on the page.  Most likely, they’ll pass on words like “good,” “really,” and “some.”  What a great opportunity to discuss the connotative value of words!
  • efficient language – following word choice…this is a great discussion as well.  Connotative meaning!
  • poetry format – students can present their blackout poem as just a list of words, but they will learn that the structure of a stanza or line can have an important impact on the meaning of a poem.

2. Couplets

Most simply, couplets are just two rhymed lines.  They can also be two lines that have the same beats.

You can provide students with poem starters — ideas and words that they can use to get started.  Challenge them to write a series of couplets about the topic.

Students can choose their end rhymes in advance.  For a creative twist, have students create a series of rhymed words, write pairs on index cards, shuffle the cards and distribute.  Students can use those words to create their couplets.

What students can learn about poetry through this:

  • confidence!  Short lines with a planned end rhyme can help students feel more confident about writing poems.
  • meter.  couplets are a great way for students to practice meter.  Each line in the couplet can be clapped out to determine if it has the same number of beats as the next line.
  • rhyme scheme.  Students learn the aa, bb, cc pattern and what it means.
  • condensed language.  Can students create a poem that has a beginning, middle, and end in a series of couplets?  Three couplets, two, or one?
  • word choice.  When dealing with end rhyme – simple words are tempting, but they don’t bring anything to the party.  Each word needs to be carefully chosen.Help students analyze a poem based on couplets - and write their own poem.

Want a great poems that is based on couplets?  “The Secret Heat” is fantastic.  You can find an entire lesson for analyzing and writing a companion poem in the link below:

“The Secret Heart”

3. Quatrains

The quatrain is a four-line stanza.  The four lines alone can be a single poem, or the poem can consist of more than one stanza at a time (as in the case of a sonnet, for example).  Common quatrain rhyme schemes include:  aabb, abba, aaba, abcb — though they can be unrhymed as well.

As with the couplets, you can provide students with the end rhyme word and/or rhyme scheme.  If your students need additional help, this is something you can write as a class.

What students can learn about poetry through this:

  • meter.  As with couplets, students will be able to “feel” the meter of the lines of the quatrain as they write.
  • rhyme scheme.  Students can play with the different rhyme schemes of the quatrain.
  • unrhymed verse.  Students can identify and write quatrains with no rhyme scheme at all.
  • word choice.  As with other poetry forms, students must manipulate their word choice in order for the quatrain to make sense, the rhyme scheme to work, and the meter to be even among the lines.

4. Diamonte

The diamonte poem is written in the shape of a diamond.  It follows this pattern:Here are four poem forms that your students will love writing.

Challenge students to create a poem in which the beginning and the ending are opposite things.  For example:

Here are four poem forms that your students will love writing.

This is another poem that is fun to write as a class.  Students notice that line four contains a shift — from the first noun to the last noun.

What students learn about poetry through this:

  • form.  Students use this strict form to craft the poem.
  • grammar review!  That’s a wonderful bonus to this form!
  • word choice.  Again, so important when students are limited to the number of words they are able to use.
  • confidence.  Most students will love writing these because they are short and fun to craft.

Each of these poem forms provide great ways for you to introduce your students to the craft of writing poetry.  Even if they have written these forms before (and most likely they have), you can adding a challenge by specifying of number of beats per line, requiring students to create a theme, or restricting word choice.

Self assessing – the final frontier!

When students write poems, be sure to allow them to self-assess.  It is more than simply putting words down and making them rhyme.  A simple assessment can be:

  1. What is the theme of your poem?
  2. What do you want your reader to experience after reading your poem?
  3. What is your favorite part of this poem?

When students self-assess, they can look closely at their writing process, what they are trying to communicate (and isn’t that the point), and how they want the reader to respond.  Additionally, students who quickly write a poem will need to slow down and think critically about the theme of their poem.  This question alone is helpful in getting your students to dig into their own writing.

If you’d like more help with poetry writing, check out my 30 Days of Poetry notebooks (digital & paper).Help students learn about forms of poetry as they write one of these fun poems.

I can’t wait to hear how you use these poems in your classroom!

With gratitude,

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