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


Poetry Comics

Poetry Comics

Grant Snider’s Poetry Comics (Chronicle, 2024) is a gem! Short mostly free verse poems are organized to follow the seasons with a minimum of characters engaged in activities appropriate to the time of year. The overall tone is introspective as the texts offer considerable self-reflection and child-like wonderments. The main character pursues the process of writing a poem at intervals throughout the book, as well. Alliteration and repetition in flowing rhythm enhance the read-aloud potential, but readers are going to want to study the art too. The arrangement of vividly colored comic panels varies throughout, adding visual interest. Poetry Comics is deceptively simple on the surface but is really quite powerful - a book that will be read and reread.

Connecting poetry and art

  • Inspired by Snider’s book, readers are going to love creating their own poetry comics. They can start with the text of a poem and then design the panels, or they can make sketches first and use those illustrations to inspire their writing.

  • Illustrate a published poem. Add a selection of poems (text only) to the classroom writing center with the invitation to illustrate them.

  • Introduce ekphrastic poetry. Check the library for books of works by well-known artists published for a child audience. Add books as well as art postcards (available in museum gift shops and online in packets) to the writing center.
For older students, Poems To See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry by Julian Peters (Plough, 2020) might ignite further interest in “classic” poetry. Peters illustrates poems by Maya Angelou, e. e. cummings, Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, Emily Dickinson, Seamus Heaney, and others, using a variety of media and comic formats.


Leafy Landmarks

Arbor Day

Plant a tree
...and visit Leafy Landmarks: Travels with Trees by Michelle Schaub, illustrated by Anne Lambelet (Sleeping Bear Press, 2024). This extraordinary collection of 14 trees introduced to readers by 14 poems in varying styles is a must for the classroom science curriculum. (Full disclosure: studies of history, geography, language arts, and poetry will benefit as well.) A United States map showing the location of the featured trees along with an invitation poem to “Hit the Road” draws readers inside the book. Each poem is accompanied by a substantial reader-friendly paragraph about the tree’s history and significance. Double-paged spreads feature unique print layouts and fonts that incorporate text into colorful digital art. Endpapers supply the definitions of the poetic forms. Likely to inspire curiosity and further research, Leafy Landmarks might also prompt students to experiment with some of the poetic styles and write their own tree poems.

More tree poems! Share these collections with your students:

Florian, Douglas. Poetrees

George, Kristine O’Connell. Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems. Illus. by Kate Kiesler

Morpurgo, Mchael. My Heart Was a Tree: Poems and Stories to Celebrate Trees.
    Illus. by Yuval Zommer.

Oppenheim, Joanne. Have You Seen Trees? Illus. by Jean & Mou-Sien Tseng

Pignat, Caroline. Poetree. Illus. by François Thisdale

Walker, Sally M. Trees: Haiku from Roots to Leaves. Illus. by Angela McKay

The date for celebrating Arbor Day varies from state to state. You can find dates and other information at the Arbor Day Foundation.


Rhyme Time

As Jane Yolen stated, “Let the poem rhyme in the heart, though not always on the page.” We know that poems don’t have to rhyme, but sometimes the cadence or word choice or topic lends itself to writing in rhyme. To do it well, we often need help. Selected print and online sources are readily available.

For adults and older students:

  • The New Comprehensive American Rhyming Dictionary by Sue Young has over 65000 entries and is a useful tool.
  • Webster’s Rhyming Dictionary has over 40,000 entries arranged by sound.
In an easy-to-use format for younger writers:
  • Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary
  • Oxford Children’s Rhyming Words
Online sources:

Rhymer includes 94000+ entries with options for end rhymes (blue/shoe), last-syllable rhymes (timber/harbor), double rhymes (conviction/prediction), triple rhymes (transportation/dissertation), beginning rhymes (physics/fizzle), and first-syllable rhymes (carrot/caring).

Rhyme Zone also acts as a thesaurus.

Word Hippo Rhyming Dictionary generates a list of rhyming words by typing the desired word in a text box.

Rhyme Doctors. Three published poets and picture book writers offer advice (with examples) of poetic devices and rhyming terms in their “House Calls” free blog which arrives in email twice a month.



National Poetry Month Poster

National Poetry Month Poster

April is National Poetry Month. The 2024 poster features artwork by author/illustrator Jack Wong and an excerpt from “blessing the boats” by Lucille Clifton (Quilting: Poems 1987-1990). You may request the poster at Get the Official Poster | Academy of American Poets. A downloadable PDF is also available. While you are visiting the Academy of American Poets site, browse for additional educational and personal resources.



She'll Be The Sky

Women’s History Month

She’ll Be the Sky, a collection of poems selected by Ella Risbridger and illustrated by Anne Shepeta (Nosy Crow, 2024), kicks off the celebration of Women’s History Month. All of the 100+ poems from around the world are written by women (and a few girls). The poets include icons from the past (e.g., Emily Dickinson, Christina Rosetti, Sara Teasdale, Amy Lowell) as well as more recent (e.g., Mary Oliver, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Ada Limón, Joy Harjo, Amanda Gorman). Poets, past and present, who have distinguished themselves as writing for young people (e.g., Lucille Clifton, Eleanor Farjeon, Nikki Grimes, Janet Wong, Eve Merriam, Eloise Greenfield) are also represented. Readers will encounter new poetic voices as well. The poems are accessible, and the topics vary widely. Richly colored, full-page illustrations add to the appeal. Poem titles, poets, and first lines are indexed. This collection will enjoy repeated readings among a wide age of readers.

Poetry provides an excellent means for introducing students to well-known women past and present, potentially inspiring curiosity and further research.

Enjoy these collections of poetry about women and girls with your students:

Clinton, Catherine (Ed.). A Poem of Her Own: Voices of American Women Yesterday and Today. Illus. by Stephen Alcorn

Dean, Jan; Brownlee, Lee and Morgan, Michaela. Reaching the Stars: Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls

Grimes, Nikki. Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Illus. by multiple artists

Lewis, J. Patrick. Vherses: A Celebration of Outstanding Women. Illus. by Mark Summers

Nye, Naomi Shihab. A Maze Me: Poems for Girls. Illus. by Terre Maher

Paul, Ann Whitford. All by Herself. Illus. by Michael Steirnagle

For more titles, see “Sketches” post of verse novel biographies.



We celebrate the achievements of Black Americans every day of every month. February gives us a special opportunity to focus on history. Sharing literature - including poetry - is one of our best resources.

Two recent books overview the history and contributions of multiple individuals:

A Long Time Coming: A Lyrical Biography of Race in America from Ona Judge to Barack Obama by Ray Anthony Shepard, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Calkins Creek, 2023)

This collective biography in free verse features six Black Americans from different time periods in American history: Ona Judge, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama. The well-researched, powerful poetry relates their individual struggles for justice in his or her own way…a struggle, made clear in the book, that continues today. Informative, inspiring, and thought-provoking. The struggle has been long, as evidenced by the appended detailed timeline. Substantive bibliography included.

I Heard: An American Journey by Jaha Nailah Avery, illustrated by Steffi Walthall (Charlesbridge, 2024)

Rhyming text invites listeners to hear a story that begins in Mother Africa and follows the ships containing chained cargo coming to America, the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, protests, Freedom Riders, the Civil Rights Act, Black Lives Matter, and present-day leaders (President Barack Obama, Stacey Abrams, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson), plus so much more. Information about people and events in the text is appended.

Check library shelves for these selections of poetry and other favorites you might have:

Alexander, Kwame. The Undefeated. Illus. by Kadir Nelson

Brooks, Gwendolyn. Bronzeville Boys and Girls. Illus. by Faith Ringgold (reissue with new illustrations)

Browne, Mahogany L. with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood. Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice. Illus. by Theodore Taylor III

Bryan, Ashley. Freedom Over Me: Eleven slaves, their lives and dreams brought to life

Elliott, Zetta. A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart. Illus. by Noa Denmon

Feelings, Tom. Soul Looks Back in Wonder

Giovanni, Nikki. Spin a Soft Black Song. Illus. by George Martins

Greenfield, Eloise. Honey, I Love and other love poems. Illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon

Grimes, Nikki. One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance. Illus. by multiple artists

Hughes, Langston. The Dream Keeper and other poems. Illus. Brian Pinkney (some of Hughes’ poems have been published in single poem picture book versions)

Hudson, Wade (Sel.). Pass It On: African-American Poetry for Children. Illus. by Floyd Cooper

Medina, Tony. Love to Langston. Illus. by R. Gregory Christie

Myers, Walter Dean. Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse

Smith, Charles R., Jr. 28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World. Illus. by Shane W. Evans

Thomas, Joyce Carol. The Blacker the Berry. Illus. by Floyd Cooper

Weatherford, Carole Boston. Freedom in Congo Square. Illus. by R. Gregory Christie



Though reading aloud EVERY day is vital, the first Wednesday in February is designated to highlight its value and enjoyment. Poetry is meant to be read aloud. Rhymed or unrhymed, the music of the words sets poetry apart. Make a goal to read one poem (or more!) to students each day. Here are some possibilities for fitting poetry into the daily routine:

  • ✓ start the school day with a poem
  • ✓ read just before going to lunch
  • ✓ relax after recess with a poem
  • ✓ read right before going home
  • ✓ incorporate poetry reading into subject area curricula. Start a file of poems
       related to science units, areas of social studies, and math concepts. The
       number and variety of poetry books related to curriculum subjects is
  • ✓ invite students to share some of their favorite poems. Stress the importance
       of reading a poem fluently for the enjoyment of listeners. (This means oral
       reading practice!) Students might also wish to share poems they have written.

Keep in mind that discussion is not necessary unless it is spontaneous. Consider these read aloud times for simply enjoying a poem.


Ted Kooser as Mentor

In her thought-provoking poem “Ted Kooser Is My President” (Honeybee, Greenwillow, 2008), Naomi Shihab Nye pays homage to the images in Kooser’s poetry. Those images in the form of similes, metaphors, personification, and vivid word choice reflect his unique way of seeing the world. Two of Kooser’s collections of short poems are particularly valuable as mentor texts for writers from primary grades through adults - Winter Morning Walks: 100 Postcards to Jim Harrison (Carnegie Mellon, 2000) and Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry (with Jim Harrison, Copper Canyon Press, 2003). Few poets have Kooser’s eye (and ear) for metaphor. His longer works, including Pulitzer Prize-winning Delights & Shadows (Copper Canyon Press, 2004) are replete with stunning examples, as well. According to Ted Kooser, “A good metaphor…changes the way you look at the world” (Local Wonders, University of Nebraska Press, 2002). He would know.

(See the “Reviews 2023” page on this website for a review of Carla Ketner’s new picture book biography, Ted Kooser: More Than a Local Wonder.)

(See the “Reviews 2022” page for a review of Ted Kooser’s first book of poetry for young people, Marshmallow Clouds.)


Stomp and Chomp


Sometimes a book of poetry can serve as a mentor text for student writers because the poems contain numerous examples of both meaning and sound tools. Stomp and Chomp: My First Book of Dinosaurs by Simon Mole, illustrated by Matt Hunt (Candlewick, 2023) is one of those books. (As a bonus, dinosaurs are generally a high interest topic.) The content of the poems demonstrates excellent use of incorporating research findings into the text - interesting facts about diet, behaviors, and physical characteristics are imbedded. Varying points of view are presented - several of the poems address readers; others are third person observations or first-person narratives. Word choice is vivid and very specific with effective use of simile and metaphor. Poems are rhymed and unrhymed with considerable repetition. Alliteration, assonance, and consonance provide rhythm. Abundant use of onomatopoeia makes the poems great fun for reading aloud. Different styles of poetry and the line break choices offer additional models for writing. Individual poems can be used in craft lessons while still retaining the enjoyment of the poetry.


Absurd Words

What is a poem?

The responses to this question can inspire a valuable conversation with student writers. In A Poem Is a Firefly by Charles Ghigna, illustrated by Michelle Hazelwood Hyde (Schiffer Kids, 2021), animal characters explore the variety of things a poem can be, including a whisper, a shout, a wild rose, a laugh, a sigh, an echo, the moon, a spiderweb, and much more. Teaching strategy: pose the question before reading the book aloud and record students’ responses. After reading, encourage students to extend their thinking about what a poem might be and add to the list. As a culminating activity, lead them in using their list to create a class poem.

Partner this book with these additional titles that encourage thinking about “What is a poem?”:
Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer. Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2016
A Poem Grows Inside You by Katey Howes. Illus. by Heather Brockman Lee. Innovation Press, 2022
Kiyoshi’s Walk by Mark Karlins. Illus. by Nicole Wong. Lee & Low, 2021


Absurd Words

Absurd Words

For a great addition to a classroom writing center, consider Absurd Words by Tara Lazar. The book’s subtitle, “A Kids’ Fun and Hilarious Vocabulary Builder for Future Word Nerds,” is an apt description. This dictionary/thesaurus hybrid is made up of 32 “word squads,” - “words that share something in common.” The topics are attention-grabbers; e.g., “Itchy Feet,” “G.O.A.T.,” “Shock Value,” “Recipe for Disaster,” “Off to Battle,” “Motormouth,” “Class Clown,” and so much more. Entries include 14 or so words with part of speech, pronunciation, definition, and sample sentence for each. Some words include an etymology and a pop culture reference. The final section invites readers to create their own “Crashwords” (made-up words). The book is well organized, colorful, and sturdy (great for the repeated use it will enjoy) with an index of the more than 750 words included. Huzzah!


Summer Poetry

Summertime is poetry time! Here are some collections that are just right for summer sun reading. Add some of your favorite books to the list.

Coombs, Kate. Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems. Illus. by Meilo So. Chronicle, 2012

Domeniconi, David. M is for Majestic: A National Parks Alphabet. Illus. Pamela Carroll. Sleeping Bear Press, 2003, 2007

Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. Lemonade Sun and Other Summer Poems. Illus. by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. WordSong 1998, 2001

Florian, Douglas. Poem Runs: Baseball Poems and Paintings. Clarion, 2012

Florian, Douglas. Summersaults. Greenwillow, 2002

Frost, Helen. Among a Thousand Fireflies. Photos by Rick Lieder. Candlewick, 2016

George, Kristine O’Connell. Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems. Illus. by Kate Kiesler. Clarion, 2001

Gerber, Carole. Seeds, Bees, Butterflies and More: Poems for Two Voices. Illus. by Eugene Yelchin. Henry Holt, 2013

Harrison, David L. Vacation: We’re Going to the Ocean. Illus. by Rob Shepperson. WordSong, 2009

Janeczko, Paul. That Sweet Diamond: Baseball Poems. Illus. by Carole Katchen. Atheneum, 1998

Maddox, Marjorie. Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems. Illus. by John Sandford. Resource Publications, 2019

Schaub, Michelle. Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmer’s Market. Illus. by Amy Huntington. Charlesbridge, 2017, 2020

Schnur, Steven. Summer: An Alphabet Acrostic. Illus. by Leslie Evans. Clarion, 2001

Turk, Evan. You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks. Atheneum, 2019

Wissinger, Tamera Will. Gone Camping: A Novel in Verse. Illus. by Matthew Cordell. Clarion, 2017


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.

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Things To Look Forward To by Sophie Blackall

Page last updated 06/05/24

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