Literacy Teaching Tips 14

It is the time of the school year that efforts in connection with upcoming test taking are beginning to reach fever pitch.  The students in your care will need breaks from this – and you teachers will need for these breaks to be brief, right?


Here is a week's worth of poetry writing ideas.  They can all be accomplished quickly – in the small crevices of time that you can capture in the name of creativity during this period of intense test preparation.


All of these ideas are based on single sentence starters.  This is doubly useful – since you are responsible for seeing that your students know how to write complete sentences.


When your students have tried out these ideas, you will be well on your way to compiling a classroom poetry anthology – just volume one!  (Won't that make a nice thing for parents to peruse while they are waiting for their turn next time conferences come around?)


The following sentences were either written by me or submitted by others via FB or Instagram.  If your students need help (at first) to think of sentences to write down, I suggest that you show them a series of interesting images – from calendars, magazines, art books, etc.  It will be helpful for them to have a collection of sentences from which to choose.  That's step one!


My dog Mac has pointy ears.  (me)


Sometimes scaredy cats woof.  (Kylie)


I am getting stronger at age 58.  (Janet)


George Conger's gone to Spain.  (me)


I feel taller than the tallest building.  (Kylie)


Little girls in laughing pants make a statement.  (me)


Jazz hands and man hands are not mutually exclusive.  (Kylie)


Homemade pizza has lots of lumps.   (me)


Let's eat the toppings first.  (Kylie)


The party begins with green elf shoes.  (Greg)


Graffiti can be angry.  (Greg)


He tickles the ivories with elegant ease.  (Kylie)



Poetry Writing Tips – Starting With a Single Sentence


1.  Poems do not have to be lengthy in order to convey an idea or be memorable.  Sometimes brevity is best; couplets are an excellent form to employ when just two (rhyming) lines will do the trick. 


I think I have shared my all-time favorite couplet with you before, but here it is again:


Wouldn't you like to have lasagna

any time the mood was on ya?


X.J.  Kennedy



One of several places that you can find this poem is in April Bubbles Chocolate, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Barry Root.  If you are not familiar with Kennedy and his work, you are in for a treat as you explore with the children in your care!



As I look over the previously listed sentences generated yesterday, I see some that lend themselves pretty easily to becoming couplets.  The really important thing to keep in mind (in addition to the constraints of rhythm and rhyme) is that you need to convey a point – an idea that you find worthy of pondering and/or sharing.



My Dog Mac

My dog Mac has pointy ears,

and barks at everything he hears.


Stella Castella

Thank you, Jaynie Casey, for posting that dog picture; it got me thinking!




Getting Stronger

I'm getting stronger at fifty-eight;

watch me lift my own body weight!


Stella Castella

Thanks to Janet Morrison for the starter sentence!


Piano Man

He tickles the ivories with elegant ease,

producing results that consistently please.


Stella Castella

Thanks, Kylie, for the photo and the starter sentence – and here's the way she finished the couplet!


He tickles the ivories with elegant ease;

his zipping hands obscure the keys.



2.  Experiment with repetition.  Your starter sentence might contain a word or phrase that particularly pleases you.  Try repeating it to see if you like the sound of that.  Maybe you'll want to repeat the entire sentence! 


George Conger's Gone to Spain

George Conger's gone to Spain;

George Conger's gone to Spain.

He sees the sights,

the splendid sights –

George Conger's gone to Spain!


Stella Castella


Taller Than

I feel …

taller than the tallest


taller than the tallest


taller than the tallest

person –

want to throw

out my arms

and sing.


Stella Castella

Thanks to George Conger for posting the picture and to Kylie for the beginning sentence!


It Begins

The party begins

with green elf shoes,

green elf shoes,

green elf shoes.

The party begins

with green elf shoes,

a bag of wigs, and

a breakfast cruise.


Stella Castella

Thanks to Greg for providing the photo and the sentence that begins this poem! Thanks to my fellow cruisers for the memories!


3.  Make a conscious effort NOT to rhyme, concentrating instead on experimenting with places to make line breaks in your sentence - in order to convey your message as powerfully as possible.   Add words/ideas as needed to make your point.


 Little Girls in Laughing Pants

Little girls in

laughing pants

make a statement.

They say

quite clearly,

We are here

to move


and while

we are at it

we might move

you, too.

Stella Castella

Thanks to Mandi Sheets Weber for getting tagged in a great photo!



can be


full of



menace -

made of

pointed horn,


runny eye.


can be

angry -



at the

same time.

Stella Castella

Thanks again, Greg, for the cool photo and starter sentence!

4.  Experiment with different ways to place your words upon the page.  If you actually arrange the words into the shape of the object about which you are writing, that is a concrete (or shaped) poem.  My favorite concrete poem ever is Forsythia by Mary Ellen Solt.




Homemade Pizza



                                                   U     P

Homemade pizza has lots of   L          SSS,


C O L O R F U L vegies


and cheesy   B         PSSSS.

Let's eat the toppings


Stella Castella

Thanks to Brittaney Niebergall for posting the photo and Kylie for the ending sentence!

5.  Feel free to invent a word – if it helps you to make your writing sound interesting or evoke an image (sight, sound, smell, etc.).  The following one-sentence poem contains an invented word and is, as you can see, concrete in form.