Friday, June 19, 2015

Q & A Friday: How to Teach Poetry to Kids

Hi, everyone, and welcome back to Q&A Friday here on the blog! 

So, what is Q&A Friday? Often I get emailed questions about writing, teaching, editing, book recommendations, and general questions about the literary life, and I was thinking that other people might be interested in these questions, too! Q&A Friday is where I will answer one of these questions every other week or so. I hope you find it to be helpful and inspiring! 

 If you have a question, please feel free to email it to me at dallaswoodburn gmail com with "Q&A Friday" in the subject line. Also, if you have thoughts to add to my answers, I would LOVE if you would share your ideas in the comments section below! My aim for this blog is for it to be a positive resource and community-builder for readers, writers, teachers, and book-lovers of all ages! 

Question: I love reading and writing poetry myself, and I have an opportunity coming up to teach a group of kids. I would love to teach a brief lesson about poetry and maybe even write some poetry together, but I have no idea where to start. Do you have any experience teaching poetry to kids? If so, can you suggest any activities that work well?

What a worthy endeavor! Yes, I definitely teach poetry to kids. In my experience, most kids seem to really enjoy reading and writing poetry. One thing I've noticed is that many young kids believe all poetry needs to rhyme, which can be very restrictive when trying to write a poem. So, one of my goals as their teacher is to try to broaden their view of what poetry is and can be. 

Here is a website that I like with different viewpoints from kids of what poetry is: (Note: in the group shots it is hard to read the posters, but if you scroll down a bit you get to singular shots, and some have translations of the kids' handwritten words typed out below the photograph.) 

Perhaps a simple activity you might start with is asking the kids what they think poetry is, and on the board you could brainstorm a list of their responses. In this way, you create a "poetry collage" together! I would encourage you to format this lesson as a discussion among everyone. Instead of telling them what poetry is (or telling them that poetry does not have to rhyme, for example) ask them questions and share examples of different types and styles of poetry. 

Another fun activity would be to write a poem together as a group, or help the kids write their own poems individually. An easy poem that works well for beginning poets is an "I love you" poem. It is basically a series of "I love you more than..." statements, using descriptive language or metaphor, addressed to a person, place or thing. 

When I was in elementary school, I wrote a poem like this for my grandfather "Gramps" which is included in my collection of short stories and poems, There's a Huge Pimple On My Nose:

Dear Gramps,
I love you more than a boxer puppy loves his bark.
I love you more than a loaf of yummy cinnamon bread loves to bake.
I love you more than a gardener loves his red, red rose.
I love you with my whole little-girl heart.
Love, Dallas

Below is a template you could use to help kids come up with their own "I love you" poems:

Think of a person you want to write a poem to. This might be your mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, or friend. 

Brainstorm a list of things you like to do with this person. Try to be as SPECIFIC as possible! For example, in “My Monday Guy” the author describes baking “yummy cinnamon bread.” 
 1) _____________________________________________________________ 
 2) _____________________________________________________________ 
 3) _____________________________________________________________ 
 4) _____________________________________________________________ 
 5) _____________________________________________________________ 

Now, brainstorm a list of SPECIFIC things this person likes or that you associate with this person. For example, in “My Monday Guy” the author describes “a boxer puppy” and a gardener’s “red rose.” 
1) _____________________________________________________________ 
2) _____________________________________________________________ 
3) _____________________________________________________________ 
4) _____________________________________________________________ 
5) _____________________________________________________________ 

Go back and read through both your lists. Draw stars next to your favorite four or five items you brainstormed. Now it’s time to weave your ideas together into a poem! 

Title: ______________________________________________ 
Dear _______________________________________________,  
I love you more than ______________________________________________ 
I love you more than ______________________________________________  
I love you more than ______________________________________________  
I love you with my _________________________________________________  
Love, ______________________________________________

Good luck, and have fun! If you liked this poem and activity, you might want to check out my children's book There's a Huge Pimple On My Nose and accompanying Teacher's Guide!

Previous "Q & A Friday" posts:
- How to manage class time as a writing teacher
- How to build a platform as a freelance writer

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