No rhyme? No problem: Using Poetry During the School Day

use poetry during the school day

April is National Poetry Month—a time to celebrate language, literal and figurative, and the mental images a good poem can suggest. Some poems are in verse, with rhyme, rhythm, and meter. Poetry can sing without rhyme, too.

Haiku and Tanka Poems

Poetry without rhyme, known as free verse, can take many structures. One rhymeless structure is haiku. Haiku is a poem form that originated in Japan and usually features nature in some way. Each haiku has three lines, and each line has a set number of syllables—five, then seven, then five again. A tanka poem uses a similar structure, extending the poem to five lines, with seven syllables each.

Winter Haiku

Simply crisp and cold

The ground is covered with white

It’s winter at last.


Room with a View: Tanka

Looking through the glass

Past offices and a church

The lonely rooftops

Neighborhoods empty of folk

Gone to work or school all day.

Free verse can cross curricular lines, too. Integrating poetry into what your student is currently learning can be as motivating as using a brainteaser to get your school day started. Try this!

Acrostic Poems

In an acrostic poem, the first letter of each line spells out a word or a message. Your student might already be familiar with this form of constrained writing using acronyms or short memorable phrases, known as mnemonics—a learning technique to aid memory retrieval. For example, you can explain U.S. history with an acrostic poem using the name of an important event.

At the battle site

Little did the trapped people know

A siege would lead to a massacre.

Motivating the army to go to battle shouting,

Oh, remember the Alamo!

Have your student use this interactive tool to practice writing acrostic poems.

Alphabet (or ABC) Poems

An alphabet poem uses the letters of the alphabet in order. It can be restrictive to follow this format exactly, but it is a great writing activity for children to exercise their linguistic and creativity skills.

Options include challenging your child to come up with a full 26-word alphabetical story or making a short alphabet poem by just using a section of the alphabet. Try a partial alphabet poem for a seasonal journal entry to get your student started, like this one from one of my students reflecting on winter. Why not challenge your student to write his or her own alphabet poem about the emerging spring weather?

Enter a world full of everlasting snow

Freezing the water, when you try to row

Giant blizzards coming, though very rare

Hills of snow beyond compare

Ice falls in mounds at my feet

Jabbing at my body, the cold stings my cheek

Knowing how endless we may seek

Lies spring around the corner, waiting to astonish me?

May the snow melt soon, much to my glee

Nevermore, calls Mother Nature

O’er the hills and through the forest in her nurture

Whatever the structure, the poet uses figurative language to paint word pictures and create mental images for the reader. A simile, for example, compares two things by using the words “like” or “as.”

My love’s like a red, red rose is a popular example.

I’m as quick as a cricket!

A metaphor also creates an image by comparing, but it doesn’t use “like” or “as.”

Her eyes were daggers that pierced right through my heart.

The candle’s flame was a homing beacon guiding us through the dark to our own front door.

Idioms contribute strong images to a poem, too. If a Learning Coach is “climbing the walls,” he or she isn’t really hanging from the light fixture. The poet is really saying that the Learning Coach is at her wits’ end, tense, or frustrated.

For children and parents alike, free verse can be a great creative outlet that’s less demanding to write than other forms of poetry because it doesn’t have the limitations of meter, rhythm, and rhyme. So, before your student “hits the ceiling,” or “blows her top,” during a particularly frustrating day or lesson, try introducing a little poetry fun into your studies!

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