Poetry Studio... Writing poetry with children - Sketches...thoughts and ideas
Poetry Studio... Writing poetry with children - Sketches...thoughts and ideas

Poetry Studio... Writing poetry with children - Sketches...thoughts and ideas


Beautiful Language Journal

Though a highly unoriginal name for a blank journal I found tossed in a box of “stuff” at an auction, it has become a useful writing tool. It’s a place where I record snippets of vivid description, gorgeous metaphors, and lovely pieces of writing that I find in my reading. Any reading - adult fiction and nonfiction, poetry, children’s books, quotes on walls of displays, wherever I find exquisite words. My entries might be single words or phrases or whole sentences. I make a note of the author. If the source is readily available, I try to note it as well. From time to time, I read through my journal for inspiration to jump start my writing. The “beautiful language” of others leads me to new images of my own. Students can make the same kinds of entries in their poetry notebooks, jotting down similes and metaphors, words and phrases they find in their own reading. Encourage them to note authors and sources.

Samples from my journal:

[leaves of trees] “in all the dialects of green” (Fredrik Backman)

“three stunted and discouraged trees, clearly without a future” (John Neihardt)

“The bare branches wore the stars in their fingers.” (E.B. White, One Man’s Meat, p. 218)

“In the middle of autumn, do you hear yellow explosions?” (Pablo Neruda, The Book of Questions)

“…a broomstick of a man, his arms and legs were like clock hands” (Marcus Zusak, Bridge of Clay, p. 271)

“…his voice was all over the place. A set of wind chimes in a hurricane.” (Jason Reynolds, Look Both Ways, p. 6)


The Knowing Book

The Knowing Book

If you need a special book as a gift for a graduate (of any age), I recommend The Knowing Book by poet and picture book author Rebecca Kai Dotlich. The lyrical text invites readers to open themselves to the world of possibilities, to make wise decisions, and to remember the constants in their lives. The pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations by Caldecott winner Matthew Cordell feature a curious and adventurous skinny bunny with a backpack and a flowing purple scarf. His antics are energetic and endearing and perfectly complement the heartfelt text. Read this book aloud to your grad (if you can manage it without choking up!) and remind them and yourself to “look up” because the sky and the stars will always be there…”Count on it.”


Musical Tables

Poem in Your Pocket Day - April 29

Pocket-size poems can be fun to read, write, and share. I recently discovered Musical Tables (2022), a book of short poems by U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2003) Billy Collins. He describes his fascination with short poems as “they arrive and depart at the same time, disappearing in a wink.” Share some of these poems with students as examples of how a big idea can be condensed into a small package. (Be selective, as some poems in this book are more appropriate for adults.)

My attempts at short poems:

Big Dipper
spills stars on my face.
Moon just watches.

One summer night,
Wind called a meeting.
Thunder rumbled roll call.
Lightning struck up a conversation
with Rain who dropped in.

Warning at the Animal Shelter:
All who enter
having their hearts

Invite students to search books of poetry for short poems that they might copy and keep in their pockets.


Out Of Wonder

Poets Celebrate Poets

Who are your favorite poets?

I revisited one of my favorite poetry books for young people - Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth (Candlewick, 2017), illustrated by Ekua Holmes. In this collection, the authors pay tribute to 20 well-known past and present poets who inspire them. Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, Maya Angelou, Rumi, Pablo Neruda, Sandra Cisneros, Nikki Giovanni, e. e. cummings, and Billy Collins are among those included. Each selection is written in the style and reminiscent of topics associated with the celebrated poet. The enthusiasm that Alexander, Colderley, and Wentworth have for their subjects is obvious. If some of these poets are your favorites, these tributes will make you nod with familiarity and smile.

In the Preface, Alexander expresses the hope that these poems will lead readers to write, to get to know the celebrated poets and their work, or to simply read poetry.

Whose poetry do I read?

I often turn to Ted Kooser or Mary Oliver to immerse myself in nature or to Naomi Shihab Nye to reflect upon the larger world around me (Oliver and Nye are part of this collection)… as well as to many others.


International Haiku Poetry Day

        On April 17, we celebrate the art of haiku poetry. The haiku form became popular in 17th century Japan. Haiku typically consists of three lines in a five-seven-five syllable pattern, though Japanese versions do not necessarily adhere to that configuration. Haiku topics are often nature inspired with the intent of creating an image with words.
        I once attended a workshop conducted by poet Kwame Dawes. He challenged the group to write a haiku a day for 100 days. I started a haiku journal and exceeded the 100 days. My journal now has 274 haiku, and I still occasionally add to it. Try it for yourself!
        You can find a bibliography of haiku poetry books on this site Poetry Studio... Writing poetry with children - Poetry Types (prairiesunshine.net). Share lots of examples with students before they attempt to write their own haiku.
        Selections from my haiku journal:

buttery cups spill
sweet sundrops awakening
Earth’s tired winter eyes
red crepe paper hats
sway to summer’s soft music
garden party chic
plucky little maple
shivers in first snow, offers
a pale orange smile
Dandelion gone
pulled from its crayon box home
Who will be the sun?
(when Crayola discontinued the dandelion color)


How To Write A Poem

How to Write a Poem

Authors Kwame Alexander and Deanna Nikaido instruct readers to “Begin with a question like an acorn waiting for spring…and open the window of your mind and climb out, like a seedling.” Beyond that…listen, imagine, feel, dream, explore to find the “one true word (or two)” that “have been waiting to slide down your pencil into your…hand.” And last of all - share your discoveries with a poem. Melissa Sweet’s collage art encourages the kind of observation and imagination that the text gently suggests are the keys to writing a poem. Take a “poem walk” with students and encourage them to use their senses as they observe their surroundings. If a walk is not possible, stimulate writing with objects from nature, such as shells, unusual rocks, leaves, all kinds of seeds, dried flowers, tree bark, twigs, feathers, snakeskin, etc.


National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month. Though we are well into the school year, it’s never too late to begin the daily habit of reading a poem to students. When? At the beginning of the school day. During a snack break. Just before lunch. Right after lunch or recess. Just before going home. The reader doesn’t always have to be the teacher. Invite a guest reader…someone else in the building. Some students may wish to share a poem they have prepared for reading aloud. The important thing is to celebrate the reading of poetry!

Here are some of my favorite quotes about poetry:

“There is something about poems that is like loving children: they keep returning home and singing to you all your life.” – Felice Holman

“Kids need to become friends with poetry.” – Georgia Heard

“If you never hear a poem spoken, it’s like never hearing a song sung.” – Ashley Bryan

“Poetry is really the fusion of three arts: music, storytelling, and painting.” – Molly Peacock

“Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you, and all you can do is to go where they can find you.” – Winnie the Pooh

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Celebrate with this poem (Poetry Studio: Poems To Share - The April Fool). This poem is based on a personal experience of my husband, whose mother once packed graham crackers spread with toothpaste in his school lunch on April 1. He thought it was his favorite treat - a graham cracker “sandwich” made with white frosting. Students might make a list of humorous personal experiences in their poetry notebook as ideas for potential poems.


Student Poetry Notebook

A notebook is a way for students to organize their poetry lives and serves as a valuable resource when they are writing. A spiral notebook works, but it will eventually run out of pages. A loose-leaf binder is expandable and easier to “tab” individual sections. Possible items to include:

  • list of poem ideas - ongoing, to be added to any time
  • list of favorite words - caution students to think about words they like the sound or appearance of, rather than things they like. (See my list of favorite words on this site: Poetry Studio... Writing poetry with children - My Favorite Words Page)
  • similes and metaphors found in other books they read (not necessarily poetry) - once students are familiar with the concepts, encourage them to look for similes and metaphors they like in their reading and make a note of them (remind them to cite the source)
  • color words - always helpful in writing
  • research lists - research can be useful and even essential when writing poetry. Interesting information often finds its way into a poem. (See some thoughts on research here: Poetry Studio... Writing poetry with children - How I Write Page)
  • rough drafts - a notebook provides ready access to initial and revised drafts
  • lines of poetry that may eventually appear in a poem - lines of poetry may occur at unlikely times and places. A notebook works better than scraps of paper for remembering them.
  • definitions of poetic devices and terms - for example, onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance, consonance, personification, line breaks, hyperbole, repetition, etc. This might be a photocopied page in everyone’s notebook.
As students begin to build their notebooks as a resource, they will find other sections they want to include, and their notebooks will begin to look different according to the individual.


Biographies in Verse Novel Format

March is Women's History Month—the perfect time to recommend biographies of famous women to students. Here is a starter list of biographies written in verse novel format. Add your favorites to the list. (E=Elementary; MG=Middle Grade; YA=Young Adult)

Atkins, Jeannine. Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Mothers. Henry Holt, 2010. MG

Atkins, Jeannine. Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science. Atheneum, 2016. MG

Atkins, Jeannine. Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math. Atheneum, 2020. MG

Atkins, Jeannine. Hidden Powers: Lise Meitner's Call to Science. Atheneum, 2022. MG

Atkins, Jeannine. Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis. Atheneum, 2017. YA

Elliott, David. Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc. Clarion, 2019. YA

Engle, Margarita. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir. Atheneum, 2015. MG/YA

Engle, Margarita. The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba. Henry Holt, 2010. MG/YA

Engle, Margarita. Soaring Earth: A Companion Memoir to Enchanted Air. Atheneum, 2019. YA

Grimes, Nikki. Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir. Astra/WordSong, 2019. YA

Hemphill, Stephanie. Your Own Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath. Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. YA

Jennings, Terry Catasús. Pauli Murray: The Life of a Pioneering Feminist and Civil Rights Activist. Yellow Jacket, 2022. MG/YA

Judge, Lita. Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein. Roaring Brook, 2018. YA

Krasner, Barbara. Ethel's Song: Ethel Rosenberg's Life in Poems. Calkins Creek, 2022. YA

Mutén, Burleigh. Miss Emily. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. Candlewick, 2014. E

Nelson, Marilyn. Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor's Life. Christy Ottaviano/Little Brown, 2022. YA

Nelson, Marilyn. how i discovered poetry. Dial, 2014. MG

Weatherford, Carole Boston. Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe. Candlewick, 2020. YA

Weatherford, Carole Boston. Becoming Billie Holiday. Art by Floyd Cooper. Astra/WordSong, 2008. MG/YA

Woodson, Jacqueline. brown girl dreaming. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, 2014 (autobiographical). MG

Zoboi, Ibi.Star Child: Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler. Dutton/Penguin Random House, 2022. MG


Source for Poetic Forms

A professional resource for poetic forms is valuable for teaching unfamiliar types of poems to students as well as varying the styles of poetry in your own writing. I find that the Handbook of Poetic Forms (T&W Books, 2007) edited by Ron Padgett is a useful go-to source. The Second Edition contains traditional and modern forms. Each entry gives a bit of history, defines the arrangement of the form, and offers examples.

For a more child-oriented source, check "Definitions of Poetry Types" on this website Poetry Studio... Writing poetry with children - Poetry Types (prairiesunshine.net). Each brief definition is accompanied by suggestions of books for young readers that exemplify the form.

Many authors of recent books of poetry and verse novels include definitions of the poetry types used in the book either on the pages with the poems or in the appendix. Encourage students to take note of this information.

Poetry Boost by Michelle Schaub

Great resource! Poet and picture book author Michelle Schaub's occasional posts offer practical ideas, writing examples, mentor texts, and specific strategies for enriching the reading and writing of poetry in the classroom.

In a recent post, Michelle addresses revision and shares an excellent checklist to use with students (and with your own poetry writing!). She demonstrates her process of revision using her poem "Granny's Teapots," which appears in Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections (illustrated by Carmen Saldana; Charlesbridge, 2019).

Her posts are archived so you can revisit.

You can sign up for her free e-mail newsletter at Poetry Boost or visit her website at Award-Winning Children's Author , Teacher, and Poet Michelle Schaub

Valentine's Day

Early messages of Valentine poetry date back to the 15th century. Here is the oldest printed Valentine's Day card message, published in 1797 and decorated with flowers, cupids, and doves:

Since on this ever Happy day,
All Nature's full of Love and Play
Yet harmless still if my design,
'Tis but to be your Valentine.


Tyger, Tyger

Tyger, Tyger

Tyger Tyger Magazine is a free online journal of poems for children. Published every 5 months, each issue of 12 new poems focuses on a different theme (e.g., animals, color). The poems feature contemporary writers from all over the world. A backlist of previous issues is available on the site.
Each issue comes with teaching resources for a selection of the poems - ideal for use in the classroom and at home. The resource ideas cross the curriculum and include activities for appreciating the poem, art, science, writing, language arts, and more. The focus age group for the poems and activity ideas is ages 7-11 but are adaptable for both younger and older students.
As a bonus, each poem is available as a free, downloadable, printable poster. Check out Tyger Tyger Magazine at: Tyger Tyger | New poems for children


Things To Look Forward To cover

Things To Look Forward To

Sophie Blackall's 50-plus books, including her two Caldecott Medal winners Finding Winnie (in 2016) and Hello Lighthouse (in 2019), have awed readers for a long time. She describes Things to Look Forward To: 52 Large and Small Joys for Today and Every Day (Chronicle Books, 2022) as a "Book for Grownups." I see it as a book that inspires reflection and creative thought for people of all ages. We often forget the everyday things that fill our lives with joy, but Blackall reminds us not to overlook them by mentioning and illustrating 52 small pleasures. Not all of them have relevance to the lives of young people yet (e.g., voting, doing your taxes, falling in love, coffee) except as observations. But "Hugging a Friend," "First Snow," "Rainbows," "Patting a Friendly Dog," "Feeding the Birds," and many others are for everyone.


  • Students might choose individual pages from Blackall's book and write a poem about their feelings or experiences with the topic.
  • They might write a long poem about what they look forward to.
  • The format of Blackall's book may serve as a model for a class book, "Things We Look Forward To," with the contribution of a poem and illustration by each student.

Beautiful Language Journal

The Knowing Book

Poem in Your Pocket Day - April 29

Poets Celebrate Poets

International Haiku Poetry Day

How to Write a Poem

National Poetry Month!

Happy April Fool Day!

Student Poetry Notebook

Biographies in Verse Novel Format

Source for Poetic Forms

Poetry Boost by Michelle Schaub

Valentine's Day

Tyger, Tyger

Things To Look Forward To by Sophie Blackall

Page last updated 05/24/23

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