poetry · writing workshop

Stepping Toward Poetry

A couple weeks ago I shared five, five-minute ways to create everyday opportunities for poetry in your classroom of writers. To convince you a little further, I’m sharing with you some more suggestions on crafting your own poetry as well as nudging your writers to do the same. 

Poetry is Writing Bait

The hook

is discovering where

topics live,

and reeling in

their life.

Places to start:

  • Small events
  • Objects
  • Conflicts
  • Observations
    • Social Interactions
    • Nature
    • Colors

Poetry encourages us to par down a message or experience to the fewest of words or phrases. When we write a poem, we are challenged to capture feelings that may have seemed fleeting but within a poem are paused in time. We can hook writers in when they realize any moment, even the smallest, can be the focal point of their writing. Simply taking an observed object and squeezing every sensory detail out of it can become the start of a poem.

Turn Reluctance into Confidence

Power lives here

In the small

In the unsure

In the words

Power is hiding…why not use it.


When you “go small” as opposed to “going big,” kids will take notice. Help them focus on a moment that expresses an emotion or is a metaphor for an idea. For example, a shell–hard exterior with rippled textures, a rock–made of many layers of experiences over time, broken pencil–still able to tell a story. The size of a poem is what often intrigues the reluctant writer. Showing students a haiku or a short free verse poem that evokes a visible feeling demonstrates to students the power a few words can create. There is power in poetry and those who are reluctant are often seeking power within something. 

Be Reckless With Words

A bit of fantastic

A slip of free

Bizarre or funny

Step in and breathe

Like words, my breath

Connect you to me


Let students be a bit free, creative, silly and maybe even a bit fantastic or bizarre. Share poems and lines from every emotion and feeling. From all walks of life and corners of the world. Through your own demonstrations, let go of the idea of writing a good poem. For all the tips and ideas I am about to share, take a risk and try them yourself. In doing so, you will create a set of mentor texts for your students. Save all your drafts or create one draft and work through it in front of your students. Show them your process, (you may discover you have a process if you didn’t know you did already). 

Want a place to begin? Click here for collections from the Poetry Foundation or The Poem Farm.

What is a found poem? Click here. 

Share form but don’t worry about form. Explore the words and see what form they take on their own. Sometimes it is best to start with the theme, message or idea you are trying to communicate and then see if it fits a form, rather than starting with form first.

A school is a place that seems to serve a “brain only” idea, and it can be our job to figure out how to weave the other parts of learning to the surface. Poetry allows us to expand our thinking beyond a “brain only” idea and opens us up to really see and really experience the world.


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