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10 Engaging Poetry Ideas Your Students Will Love

Are you ready to introduce poetry in your middle school ELA classes but feeling uncertain about where to start? Teaching poetry doesn't have to be difficult or confusing. And, you don't have to create an entire unit before giving kids the opportunity to write poems. April is National Poetry Month, so let's check out some student-approved poetry writing ideas to help you get started.


Poetry Activity ideas

1. KENNING POETRY

What's Kenning Poetry, you say? A kenning poem describes something without saying what it is, much like a metaphor. Each line in a kenning poem is a simple phrase of ONLY two words. These words can be joined using a hyphen and are a combination of a noun and a verb (ing or er ending) or a noun and noun used in place of one noun. The format creates a kind of puzzle for the reader.


Directions for writing a Kenning poem:

  • Choose a topic or subject for your poem

  • Brainstorm at least four or more compound phrases to describe your subject

  • Put the phrases together in a way that is easily read and makes sense

An easy way to introduce this format is to have students use themselves as the subject. You'll want them to focus on choosing vivid verbs to keep the poem interesting. Once they understand the process, encourage students to write poems using different subjects like characters, themes, and ideas from their reading.


Food-devouring

Animal-saving

Baseball-playing

Video-watching

Mess-making

Family-loving


2. POETRY SQUARES

Another student favorite is Poetry Squares. I like to introduce this poetic form to my students because it motivates them to think critically and creatively. To begin, students create poems using a predetermined list of words that may not seem related at first. They must "force-fit" the words by coming up with a creative solution to the combination.


poetry squares

Poetry square poems can be 4x4, 5x5, or 6x6. For example, a 4x4 poem is created by writing four lines of poetry with four words per line. Students must also use each word in the square in the exact order it appears. They may use the words to begin or end the line of poetry.


Blue Skies Birthday

We all love birthdays

Time to celebrate me

Hoping I am happy

Skies are blue today


At first, students find this type of poetry a bit challenging, but once they've successfully written a few, they love the format and beg for more! Be sure to model the process with your class and then allow them to work in groups to create poems before trying some on their own. Download the Poetry Squares resource.


3. CONCRETE POETRY

concret poem ideas

Concrete poetry, sometimes called shape poetry, is a form in which the words create shapes that represent the poem’s subject as a picture. Try this concrete poem generator with your students.


4. NATURE PERSONIFIED POEM

 Nature Personified poems are perfect for celebrating Earth Day and spring. Use these directions when teaching this format to students.


Title: (Type of nature/natural event)

Line 1: Title (how does it happen, arrive, or begin)

Line 2: (Tell what it does)

Line 3: (Tell where it happens)

Line 4: (Tell how it performs or works)

Line 5: (Explain how it leaves/ends)

Here is an example you can use:

Rain

It rushes down from its playground

Watering earth’s parched soil.

Rain doesn’t search for the perfect spot to fall,

It plays hide and seek or sprinkles little kisses,

And then disappears until next time.

Put a twist on the nature personified poem by having students choose a theme or topic from their reading and use the same format.


5. COLOR POEMS

Another student favorite is the color poem. A color poem is one that uses a specific color to express the mood of the poet.

Line 1: Your color

Line 2: An item that is your color

Line 3: Another item that is your color

Line 4: Your color sounds like

Line 5: Your color tastes like

Line 6: Your color feels like

Line 7: Your color sounds like

Line 8: Your color looks like

Line 9: An action the color does


poetry activity ideas

Here's an example poem for the color green:

Green

Green is life abundant and growing

Green is freedom flowing through your veins

It fills the air with sweet music of spring


It tastes like fresh cherry limeade in the summer

And feels like goosebumps on my arm

Green sounds like spinning tires on a race track

It looks like a soft blanket covering the earth.

Green reminds us to be grateful.

*If you want to differentiate the assignment for higher-level thinkers, have them replace the word green with synonyms throughout the poem.

6. LIST POEMS

Students love writing list poems because it's more like a natural extension of their conversation. The List Poem consists of a series of items, actions, or thoughts arranged in a list format. The subject is open to any topic, which is another reason it is a student favorite.

Things I Love About Summer:

Hanging out with friends,

Cold drinks on hot days,

Bare feet in warm sand,

Fun times with family,

Endless days of doing nothing.


Poetry 5ws

7. THE 5 W's POEM

A 5 W's poem answers the questions Who, What, Where, When, and Why about a certain subject or event and should include a complete thought about the topic. This type of formula poem is another easy format for students who might be reluctant to write poetry. Once they have answered the questions, have them remove the question words to create the poem. Here is an example:


The girl with a hair as bright as the sun

Spent her days exploring the forest

Among the towering trees and whispering leaves

Every weekend in the afternoon

To find peace and adventure in nature's charm.


8. SIMILE POEM

Simile poems use similes, of course! Students practice writing similes using "like" or "as" comparing objects, people, or emotions. Encourage them to include imagery, creating a vivid picture. You can use this example as a model for your students:


The baby's laughter is like a melody,

Floating in the breeze,

Sweet and uplifting,

Filling the room with joy and ease.


9. TANKA


Tanka is a Japanese form of poetry similar to haiku but longer, with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7. The subject of a Tanka is often focused on emotional or personal experiences. You may have to review syllable-counting with your students, but this is a great prescription poem to introduce in your classroom. Once students get the hang of the pattern, they will beg you to write more! Here is one to share with your classes:


Autumn leaves fall down (5)

Crisp breeze whispers through the trees (7)

Memories linger (5)

Of laughter and love once shared (7)

In the warmth of summer's glow (7)


10. TILE POEMS

You’ve probably heard of magnetic poetry. Maybe you’ve got some of those magnetic word tiles on your fridge right now. If you're not familiar with it, magnetic poetry started out as the idea of individual words printed on small magnets, which might be related to a particular theme or topic. The magnetic word tiles are creatively arranged into poetry on a refrigerator or other metal surface.


tile poetry

I designed a tile poetry activity that helped motivate and engage my reluctant writers. It's a similar idea to magnetic poetry. Download the free digital tile poetry resource to use in your classroom.





If you love this post, be sure to subscribe to the weekly Cheat Sheet to get freebies and more teaching tips and ideas just like these. Check out digital poetry options in the Digital Poetry Unit and Activities bundle.


➡️ Teach poetry with ease using some of my favorite resources below including the FREE Emotion Poetry resource!



Make writing poetry fun in the beginning with simple formats. Write and share your own poetry examples with students, too, and give them a lot of opportunities for creative play with words. Once they become more confident, it will be easier to dive into more complex types of poetry and analysis.

Comment with your great ideas for incorporating National Poetry Month in April. I'd love to hear your plans!

Happy teaching!

Straight Outta Class








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