How to Teach Poetry to Kids

Red Cat Reading Team Blog, fun activities, Reading

There are fun and endless ways to create your own silly kids poems together, whether they rhyme or not. Be as silly as you can. It has been shown that young children who are learning to read tend to remember words and sentences better if they appeal to them! So grab some pencils, some paper, and spend some time creating some silly kids poems together.

Since there are so many different kinds of poems out there, it can be a bit overwhelming to know what style to choose or where to start. If your child needs more structure to get their poem started, have a look at these 9 different types of poems and see which one your child finds most interesting!

1. Haiku

The haiku (or hokku) is an ancient form of Japanese poetry that has become very popular all over the world. Renowned for its small size, haikus consist of just three lines (tercet); the first and third lines have five syllables, whereas the second has seven. Haikus don’t have to rhyme and are usually written to evoke a particular mood or instance. So, you can have a lot of fun with them! You may have written or will find yourself writing your own haiku at some point in school, or you can get creative and try it at home, too.

2. Free verse

Free verse is a popular style of modern poetry, and as its name suggests there is a fair amount of freedom when it comes to writing a poem like this. Free verse can rhyme or not, it can have as many lines or stanzas as the poet wants, and it can be about anything you like! So, while free verse may sound simple enough, the lack of rules makes this form of poetry tricky to master!

3. Sonnet

This very old form of poetry was made famous by none other than William Shakespeare, but the sonnet actually originated in 13th century Italy where it was perfected by the poet Petrarch. The word ‘sonnet’ is derived from the Italian word ‘sonnetto’ which means ‘little song’. Traditionally, sonnets are made up of 14 lines and usually deal with love. As a rule, Petrarchan (Italian) sonnets follow an ABBA ABBA CDE CDE rhyme scheme, whereas Shakespearean (English) sonnets are typically ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. But of course, rules are made to be broken!

4. Acrostic

Like haikus, you’re likely to encounter acrostic poems at school! But that doesn’t mean they’re boring – in fact, far from it! This type of poetry spells out a name, word, phrase or message with the first letter of each line of the poem. It can rhyme or not, and typically the word spelt out, lays down the theme of the poem. Why not try it with the silliest word you can think of – it can be really fun!

5. Villanelle

The villanelle is another very old form of poetry that came from France and has lots of rules. It is made up of 19 lines; five stanzas of three lines (tercet) each and a final stanza of four lines (quatrain). As you can see from the rhyme scheme; ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA, this type of poem only has two rhyming sounds. Plus, there is a lot of repetition throughout the villanelle. Line one will be repeated in lines six, 12 and 18; and line three will be repeated in lines nine, 15 and 19. So although this takes out the extra work of having to write 19 individual lines, the real challenge is to make meaning out of those repeated lines!

6. Limerick

Limericks are funny (and sometimes rude!) poems which were made popular by Edward Lear in the 19th century. They have a set rhyme scheme of AABBA, with lines one, two and five all being longer in length than lines three and four. The last line is often the punchline. Their sound is very distinctive, it’s likely you’ve heard or read one before!

7. Ode

The ode is one of the oldest forms of poetry and believed to have come from ancient Greece. Yep – yonks ago! The word ‘ode’ is derived from the Greek word ‘aeidein’ which means ‘to sing or chant’, and these poems were originally performed with a musical instrument. An ode is typically written to praise a person, event or thing (you could write an ode to your pet or favourite food!) and they are usually quite short in length.

8. Elegy

An elegy doesn’t have rules like some of the other forms of poetry but it does have a set subject: death – eek! They are usually written about a loved one who has passed away, but can also be written about a group of people, too. Although they can sound sad, elegies often end on a hopeful note, hooray!

9. Ballad

The ballad is another old and traditional form of poetry that typically tells a dramatic or emotional story. They came from Europe in the late Middle Ages and were initially passed down from one generation to another, and often with music. Ballads do have a set form; they are typically four lines (quatrain) and have a rhyme scheme of ABAB or ABCB. However, this form is looser than others so can be modified to suit a writer’s (that’s you!) needs. Most modern pop songs you hear nowadays can be referred to as ballads!

Now, Here’s How to Write a Poem for Kids:

1. Gather Supplies

Grab plenty of paper and a few pencils for you and your child. Get situated in a spot that the two of you associate with fun and being social, such as the dining table, your child’s room, or a fun corner of your living room. By writing together in a familiar spot, you won’t make your child feel overwhelmed or anxious about the activity. Get some books that have silly poems in them, or print out a few online that you think your child would like. This will encourage them to get excited about the idea of reading poems with you!

If your child gets a bit tired of reading and writing poetry after a while or struggles to get into the swing of writing, perhaps try listening to poetry via an audio book. You can find cds for the car at your library or find something downloadable online!

2. Get Started

Once you are settled in, spend some time discussing what type of poem you would like to write. Do you want it to rhyme? If so, then make a list of silly rhyming words that you can use in your poem. Do you want it to be a long poem or a short poem? Is there any way you can incorporate some of your child’s school vocabulary words into the poem? Make sure to use language that your child will respond better to. For example, using the word “quiet” instead of “peaceful” can be easier for your child to understand and sound out.

Ask your child to come up with a few words that he or she would like in the poem. You can write these down or even create flashcards and have your child rearrange them. You can help fill in some of the missing words, and ask your child to write the poem in their own handwriting. This will help reiterate the words and their meanings, as well as help small motor skills and handwriting skills.

You can even challenge your child to write a poem from the perspective of a person, animal, or object other than yourself. Encourage children to think like something else. This could be as funny or serious as you’d like it to be. For example, what’s it like to be a squirrel in a tree? Or a prince in a castle?

3. Make it Fun!

When you are finished writing the poem, don’t stop there! Plan a fun activity around it. For example, if you have written a poem together about taking silly foods to a picnic, you and your child can take a picnic trip together. Pack a basket full of the silly foods you named in your poem! Another fun activity could be creating a “stage” for your child to read their poem on, and act out some of the silly scenes that you’ve written together. Not only do activities like these foster your child’s creativity and imagination, they are also wonderful ways to interact together and get your child interested in reading and writing.

No matter how your child chooses to write their poem, helping your child develop a love of reading and writing is a wonderful gift to give them. Make it a family activity or a quiet activity for a rainy day. The choice is yours, and the sky’s the limit. Whether you are picking up some popular poems for kids or you are helping your child to write their very own poem, it is bound to be a wonderful way to help encourage your child to get creative, silly, and enjoy reading.

Do you have any favorite silly poems for kids? Let us know in the comments below!