Write a poem in under 10 minutes - fun interactive video for kids (Simon Mole)
How to Write Poetry for Kids
Children love to experiment with language from a very early age. You can encourage that love of language and learning by writing poetry for children. The type of poem and subject matter you tackle will depend on many things, including your own tastes and your audience's needs. The best way to become a good writer of poems is to read a lot of them, but you can also take some specific steps to learn how to write poems for kids.
Writing Poetry for Young Children
Consider your audience.Young children tend to gravitate toward short poetry that rhymes. Funny and silly poems are usually popular, as are nursery rhymes. You don't have to write rhyming poetry, but rhymes actually develop valuable pre-reading skills for young children.
- Poems that are about everyday and ordinary experiences can be a good way for young children to learn to think about those things in different lights. Having familiar subject matter can also allow young children to focus on detail such as word sounds and syntax without being too distracted.
- Mary Ann Hoberman writes wonderful poems for young children. Her bookA House Is a House for Meis very popular with young readers because of its use of rhyme, song-like rhythms, and creative descriptions of familiar things: "A hill is a house for an ant, an ant. / A hive is a house for a bee. / A hole is a house for a mole or a mouse. / And a house is a house for me!"(Slash marks, /, indicate line breaks.)
Read a variety of children's poems.There are many collections of poetry and reading suggestions online, and you can check out books of poems at your local library. This will give you a sense of what is appropriate for the age range you want to write for. Reading poems aloud is particularly helpful to get a sense of how language works in poems for young children, as many children's poems are meant to be read aloud.
- Short narrative poems that tell a simple story are ideal for young children, who usually have short attention spans.The Cat in the Hatand other books by are good examples of how to tell a short, funny narrative story in rhyme.
- Limericks are short, 5-line poems that have a particular rhyme scheme, where the first two lines and the last line rhyme, with a different rhyme sound for the middle two lines: AABBA. For example: "A talkative man from Seattle / would spend his days speaking to cattle. / When asked what he said, / one old cow shook her head, / and replied, “Why it’s nothing but prattle!”Because of their strong beat and heavy use of rhyming sounds, limericks are a lot of fun for young children to read or recite aloud.
- "Mother Goose" books are excellent collections of nursery rhymes. Many of these, such as "Humpty Dumpty" and "Hickory, Dickory, Dock" have been popular for several hundred years.
Brainstorm.There are a variety of brainstorming activities you can do to help generate ideas for poems. Try to keep your audience in mind when brainstorming; for example, very young children may not enjoy scary poems or poems that talk about unfamiliar things or experiences.
- Find a particular word that sounds fun to you. It can be any word, but silly ones are often popular with young children. Write down all the words you can think of that rhyme with it. For example, you could try to rhyme something with "banana" or even "hippopotamus." (If you're stuck, there are many online rhyming dictionaries that can help.)
- Choose a word with a specific vowel sound. Then, write down all the words you can think of that share that vowel sound, even if they don't rhyme. For example, you could put together words like "cat," "crab," "map," "apple," and "shaggy." This shared vowel sound is called "assonance," and understanding it will help young readers learn to read.
- Choose a word with a specific consonant sound at the beginning of the word. Then, write down all the words you can think of that share that sound. They don't have to rhyme, but they can. For example, you could put together words like "shaggy" and "sharp" and "shark" and "shake." This shared sound is called "alliteration", and it is another helpful literacy element for young readers.
- Pick a familiar object and describe it. Go into as much concrete, specific detail as you can, using all of your senses. Imagine you're describing your object to someone who's never seen one before. What will you tell them? This can be a great way to introduce young readers to thinking about familiar things in new ways.
- Pick an adjective and write it down. Then, write down as many synonyms for that word as you can think of. Online dictionaries and thesauruses can help you. You may even discover words that are new to you! Expanding children's vocabularies is one of the best things about children's poetry.
- Think about a relationship that is important to you. This could be with anyone: a grandparent, a sibling, a child, a spouse, a teacher, a friend, a neighbor. Think about how you feel about that person, and write down as much as you can that describes your relationship. Poetry can help young children learn about relationships and empathy.
- Think about an experience you had as a child. It could be a very common experience, such as playing outside or meeting a new friend. It could even be an experience that might be intimidating for young readers, such as the first day of school or visiting the doctor. Try to remember how you felt when you experienced it. Write down all the feelings and thoughts you can remember. You could also try talking to children about what experiences they think about most often.
Write your poem.Writing the poem is the hardest part! The key is to draft frequently and consistently. Don't worry about achieving perfection on your first draft. Instead, try to put down the bones of your poem. You can (and should) improve it with revision.
- If you're stuck, you can use a formula to get you started. Children's author Hannah Lowe suggests a three-step process for coming up with poems: 1) pick a number between 1 and 20; 2) pick a (different) number between 1 and 100; 3) pick a color, a mood, a type of weather, a place, and an animal. The first number represents the number of lines your poem will have, while the second number should make an appearance somewhere within the poem's content. The keywords from step 3 will form the basis of your poem's story.
- Play a round of "mad libs." You can find collections of mad lib formulas in bookstores and online. They work by asking you to write down a list of words (nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc.) without seeing the story template, and then having you fill in the words in blanks in the story. Doing this may help spark your imagination for a poem, but be careful not to plagiarize the actual story template.
- There are various online sources that can give you some "building blocks" if you're having trouble getting your poem started. Writers Digest and Scholastic Publishing online are good places to start, but you can also try searching the internet for ideas that appeal to you.
Revise your poem.Your poem will probably not be exactly the way you want it on your first draft. It may take many drafts to reach your goal, but don't give up! Some professional authors take months, even years, to revise their work.
- If you don't know where to start revising, read your poem aloud. Mark any places that don't sound "right" to you. Then, think about what you found odd or didn't like. Consider ways to change those elements.
- Revision works best if you take it piece by piece. Approaching your poem as though you have to revise the whole poem at once may feel overwhelming to you. Revise a little bit at a time, and your poem will gradually become what you want it to be.
Writing Poetry for Older Children
Consider your audience.Just like with young children, older children have particular interests and needs as readers of poetry. Think about what age range you want to write for. Find poems and collections for that age group and read extensively.
- Lewis Carroll's poems are excellent for older child readers. Poems like "Jabberwocky" play with language, use made-up words, and employ puns and other wordplay. For example, the poem begins "'Twas brillig, and the slithy Toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe." Even though they're made-up words, their grammatical position helps readers imagine what they might mean (and fosters literacy skills in children). Read some of Carroll's poetry for inspiration on the many ways to use language in your poem.
Brainstorm your ideas.The brainstorming techniques in Method 1 will also work for poems geared toward a slightly older audience. The experiences or things you write about may be different depending on the age of the children you're writing for -- for example, older children won't respond to a poem about the first day of school the same way as young children -- but the brainstorming methods will still help you discover things to write about.
Write your poem.The basic process for writing poems for older children is the same as writing for young children. However, you can get more elaborate and complicated with poetry for older children, as they are better equipped to handle complex and abstract ideas.
- Older children may enjoy short but vivid poems such as haiku, a three-line poem of Japanese origin. The first and final lines have five syllables each, while the second line has seven. Often they describe a concrete object or image, such as this one about a cat: "Tired cat sleeps all night. / He needs lots of rest for a / Long day of napping."The very short format requires you to consider your word choices very carefully but can create a lot of impact.
- Concrete poems may also be enjoyable for older readers. These poems form a shape on the page that has something to do with the subject of the poem; for example, a poem about nighttime might take the shape of a crescent moon, or a poem about bravery might take the form of a lion. These poems often don't rhyme, but the connection between the topic and the shape will interest older children.You can find many examples of these online.
Explore figures of speech in your poem.Older children have the linguistic sophistication to better understand figures of speech like metaphors and similes. Try looking at an ordinary object, such as a hat or a toy, and thinking of other ways you could describe it using words such as "like": for example, "The hat was like a mountain." Metaphors and similes encourage creative exploration in young readers.
- Naomi Shihab Nye's poem "How to Paint a Donkey" explores with metaphor the feelings of a child painting a donkey: "I could clean my paintbrush / but I couldn't get rid of that voice. / While they watched / I crumpled him, / let his blue body / stain my hand."
Describe a familiar object in unfamiliar language.Pick an object and describe it without using any of the words traditionally associated with that object. For example, try to describe a cat without using the words "fur" or "whiskers." This type of re-envisioning works quite well with older children.
- Carl Sandburg's poem "Fog" describes a common occurrence with uncommon language: "The fog comes / on little cat feet. / It sits looking / over harbor and city / on silent haunches / and then moves on."
Use all your senses when writing.Writers often focus most heavily on sight, but your other senses also provide the type of vivid detail that young readers enjoy. Think about taste, smell, hearing, and touch as well.
- "April Rain Song" by Langston Hughes is a good example. It begins: "Let the rain kiss you / Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops / Let the rain sing you a lullaby."
Write about feelings.Poetry that deals with emotions and feelings works very well with slightly older children, who are often curious about how to express themselves. Poetry can help older children explore their own feelings and learn about those of others.
- Gwendolyn Brooks' "The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, or What You Are You Are" is a poem that deals with what it's like to be different from others in a funny, accessible way.
Writing Poetry with Children
Read with your child.Reading poems together is an excellent way to build your child's literacy skills and develop their love of language. As you read poems, ask your child what interests him or her about what you've read, and explain any elements they have questions about.
- Talking about rhyme and rhythm works well with young readers. Ask your child to think of another word that rhymes with one in the poem, or have them clap along with the beats of the words as you read.
Sing a funny song together.Nursery rhymes are excellent for this because they have very familiar melodies. Write down the lyrics, then help your child come up with a poem that they could sing to the same tune. You can use the original song lyrics as a template if you get stuck.
Write an acrostic poem together.If your child can write their name, have them spell it out on a piece of paper, leaving space between the letters. (If they can't write yet, write the letters for them.) Then, encourage your child to think of a poem where each line starts with one of the letters. This personalized poem will develop your child's language skills and make him or her feel special.
- You can also help your child write acrostic poems for other words. An acrostic poem for "dog" could look like this: "Devoted furry buddy / On my bed is sleeping / Greatest of pets."
Try an "I Spy" game.This game begins with the same line each time: "I spy with my little eye / something beginning with..." The rhyming sounds are a natural way to get your child thinking about rhyme. "I Spy" encourages your child to pay attention to details and learn how to describe them.
Create a "found poem." This exercise works best with older children. Have your child go through a magazine, newspaper, or book and highlight several dozen words they find interesting or appealing. They don't have to have a particular reason for why they like those words. Once they've found between 20-50 words, help your child arrange the words into a poem. You can add in new words where needed.
Take a nature walk.As you explore, ask your child to note things that interest them, such as the weather or scenery. If they can write, have them write down their ideas in a notebook; if not, you can take notes for them. When you get back home, help your child decide on what notes to use in the poem. The poem can tell a story or just describe a scene or a feeling.
- Encourage your child to use specific, concrete words to describe what they see. For example, rather than saying "the weather is nice outside," you could encourage your child to use specific sensory details such as "the sun shining makes my skin feel warm" or "the blue of the sky looks just like my sweater."
- Young children tend to have short attention spans, so try to keep poems written for them fairly short and simple.
- Be adventurous! You can write about anything you can imagine. Everyday experiences are often good subjects for poems, but you could just as easily write a poem about a dragon or a unicorn.
- Be patient with yourself. Writing is hard and takes a lot of time and practice. You may not like the poems you produce at first, but keep writing. You will get better!
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