Friday, January 8, 2010

SmallWorld's WordSmithery: Form Poetry

It's time for another WordSmithery lesson!

If you are brand new here, I recommend that you go back and start at the beginning. My goal with the WordSmithery is to make creative writing exciting for writers of all ages. Here's what we've covered so far:

Lesson #1: Introduction and Journals
Lesson #2:
Introduction to Creative Writing, Featuring Good Words
Lesson #3:
Using Powerful Words to Create More Interesting Writing
Lesson #4: Similes
Lesson #5: Metaphors and Strong Verbs
Lesson #6: Alliteration and Spring Flowers (or Fall Leaves)

Lesson #7: Writing About the Weather

I also have a place for you to share your kids' writing and read other kids' writing to your children: Share Your Writing! I encourage you to share there or link back to your own blog. My kids love to read what your kids have written!

One more thing: if you are enjoying SmallWorld's WordSmithery, help me spread the word by copying the button on my sidebar and putting it on your own! Thanks!

And now for Lesson #8: Form Poetry. As always, this lesson is loosely scripted. You might eliminate some things or add others as you go.

As you know if you are a regular here, I try to put the "speaking" parts in regular type and the answers in italics. And remember: parents/teacher: you should be doing the assignments, too! Go back and read the first couple of lessons to find out why. Here we go!

Lesson 8: Form Poetry

We’re going to look at some form poems this week. Most poets do not use form poetry, but some write only in form poetry. What do I mean by form poetry? Poetry that follows a particular pattern. Do you know the names of any forms? (Cinquain, haiku, tanka, couplet, ode, limerick, sonnet, ballad, senryu, tanka, etc.)

Here are a few patterns for form poetry and a sample of each on. (Try out each one on the board as you go.)



Line 1: One word (noun or name)

Line 2: Two adjectives describing Line 1

Line 3: Three verbs telling what Line 1 does

Line 4: Four words telling more about Line 1

Line 5: Word that means the same as Line 1


White, cold

Sitting, smiling, melting

On the snowy hillside




Line 1: five syllables

Line 2: seven syllables

Line 3: five syllables

Reaching to lilacs

Memories of a backyard

Spring sun warms my neck.

Lovely butterfly

Fluttering above the earth

How fragile you are.


Line 1: Five syllables

Line 2: Seven syllables

Line 3: Five syllables

Line 4: Seven Syllables

Line 5: Seven Syllables

This brittle winter

Trees stand stark as old soldiers

Determined and glum

Embarrassed to be caught stripped

Of their summer uniforms.


Line 1: Begin with descriptive word and add two items that fit description

Line 2: Something that rhymes with Line 1.

Little daffodil, popping up its yellow head,

Better hide from the snow or it will soon be dead.

(You can put lots of couplets together, and they can be a long poem.)


Line 1: Three accented syllables

Line 2: Three accented syllables; rhyme with Line 1

Line 3: Two accented syllables

Line 4: Two accented syllables; rhyme with Line 3

Line 5: Three accented syllables; rhyme with Line 1

There was a young man from Alcoa

Whose best friend was a six-foot boa.

It never did bite

But it hugged him so tight

That the young man is now no mo-ah.


A poem in honor of someone or something very important to you.

Ode to My Favorite Jeans

Oh, my lovely blue jeans!

How happy I am when you are clean

Folded soft and smooth at the top

Of the laundry basket,

Waiting for me to wear you.

Write some of the above poems together, and then read some poems together. Giggle Poetry has perhaps hundreds of poems that kids will love, from food poems to mushy poems to scary ones. Here are some limericks created by kids (carefully screen any limerick sites—sometimes limericks can be a little racy!), and the Children's Haiku Garden has loads of haiku written by both Japanese and American kids. For a great book of limericks for kids, I recommend John Ciardi's The Hopeful Trout.

Journal Writings, Week 8

(Refer to the poetry patterns in Lesson 8)

Day 1:

Write an ode to a stuffy or runny nose.

[For example: Oh, stuffy nose, how I long to relieve you of your disease! How I wish to give you one good blow and suddenly free you! But stuffy nose, you continue to plague me, wear me down, torture me. Free me, oh nose!]

Day 2

Write 4 couplets about your favorite animal.

[For example:

A koala looks so very sweet

From his fuzzy head to his sharp-clawed feet. ]

Day 3

Write a haiku about whatever month it is.

[For example:

March comes in chilly

and grows warm in the middle.

Bringing greens and blues.

Day 4:

Write an exaggeration that begins: One time I was SO cold…

[For example: One time I was SO cold that my arms turned to popsicles and my brains froze into a solid block of ice.]

Day 5:

Describe a perfect winter day.

All material on the page copyright 2009-10, Sarah Small.


  1. We're going to be studying this very topic this week. I will look at your other resources. This series is new to me. Thanks. I'm a lover of all things language arts.

  2. Hey, I came over from a link at Jimmie's and it was like magic, I don't think I'd even left a comment yet and you came over and left ME a comment! You are amazing! ;)
    I've skimmed the first 7 wordsmithery posts and will have go back over them as I'm really trying to get my feet when it comes to the whole area of writing! Thanks for visiting me back! You can visit anytime! :)

    Amy in Peru

  3. Luv, luv, luv that you've posted this series! What a change of pace from a typical writing lesson. Thanks for posting. (I've copied all the posts into a word document as some of the links to download don't seem to be working.)

    Keep posting!

  4. I do not know what style this one is but it is a favorite of mine

    by Edgar A. Guest

    Figure it out for yourself, my lad,
    You've all that the greatest of men have had,
    Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes
    And a brain to use if you would be wise.
    With this equipment they all began,
    So start for the top and say, "I can."

    Look them over, the wise and great
    They take their food from a common plate,
    And similar knives and forks they use,
    With similar laces they tie their shoes.
    The world considers them brave and smart,
    But you've all they had when they made their start.

    You can triumph and come to skill,
    You can be great if you only will.
    You're well equipped for what fight you choose,
    You have legs and arms and a brain to use,
    And the man who has risen great deeds to do
    Began his life with no more than you.

    You are the handicap you must face,
    You are the one who must choose your place,
    You must say where you want to go,
    How much you will study the truth to know.
    God has equipped you for life, but He
    Lets you decide what you want to be.

    Courage must come from the soul within,
    The man must furnish the will to win.
    So figure it out for yourself, my lad.
    You were born with all that the great have had,
    With your equipment they all began,
    Get hold of yourself and say: "I can."


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