When I taught first and second grade, I always began writers’ workshop with a poetry unit. I found that this was something all my students could do – from those who were just learning to form words, to those who could write page after page. Read on to learn how to teach children to write poetry with a simple color poem.
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When I introduce poetry writing, I explain that poetry is different than story writing. It looks different on a page. It usually has fewer words. Poetry uses words that put special pictures in our minds. And while it sometimes rhymes, it often doesn’t.
Writing poems can be intimidating for kids. Color poems show just how simple and enjoyable poetry writing can be.
Teach children to write poetry with color poems
Yesterday, after picking up my daughter from first grade, I sat at the table with my daughter (age six) and her brother (age five).
1. To begin, we read books about color. We enjoyed And to Name But Just a Few – Red, Yellow, Green and Blue the most. Other fun color books include Red Is a Dragon: A Book of Colors, My Many Colored Days, and The Day the Crayons Quit.
2. After reading, I told the kids that we were each going to write poems about a particular color. I chose the color purple because I didn’t want to use up one of the easy colors! Be sure to model a color your kids aren’t going to choose… otherwise you may end up with two poems remarkably similar ;).
3. I wrote “purple” on top of the page, and together we brainstormed things that are purple. When I did this in the classroom, I always had to encourage kids not to just put things they saw sitting around the room – otherwise the poem might be something like this: “Chair. Scrap of paper. My shoelace. That chart on the wall.” That’s why reading those picture books first is so important.
Together we came up with a short list:
4. Next, I showed the kids how to add words to the poem to make it more interesting. With the kids’ input, here was our next version of the color poem:
Crisp wet grapes
Soft, juicy plums
Shiny, rubbery balloons
Cozy new sweater
5. Now it was time to give my kids a try at writing a simple poem. They chose their favorite colors (of course). My Six got to work writing a long list.
She found the books extremely helpful as she wrote. They also helped her with spelling if she needed it.
My Five (not yet in kindergarten) also got to work. The immediate challenge for him was accepting that I was not going to give him the spelling for every word. Sounding out words and writing the sounds as you hear them is part of the learning process for young writers. I was relieved that after initially crying about it, he was ready to write.
With the exception of the word daisy (which he copied from the book), the rest of the spellings were his. I should note that most preschoolers will not be able to spell this well. Both my husband and I do well with writing and spelling, and our older two kids seem to have inherited these abilities. (I won’t get started on the loooong list of undesirable traits I’ve also passed on!)
Depending on the ability level of your child, you may see just one or two letters per word. You might even have your child dictate the poem to you. (Confession: my Three was supposed to be part of this activity as well. He wasn’t willing to dictate to me, however, and with our newborn on my lap and Day Two of Daddy out of town, it wasn’t a battle I was going to fight!)
6. Finally, I worked together with the kids to help them add extra words to make their poems interesting.
My daughter, who wasn’t exactly keyed about doing a writing activity right after school, wanted my help. She is thoroughly capable of doing this herself, but as I said – Day Two of Daddy out of town. Newborn on my lap. Toddler yelling “I done, Mommy!”
(This is what my toddler was doing while the rest of us were working at the table.)
My daughter couldn’t come up with a describing word for every line of her poem. Rather than having me tell her what to write, we dropped some of the words and ended up with this:
Cold ice cream
Understandably, my Five needed a lot more assistance. I gave him prompts like, “How does a lemon taste?” and “How does a slide feel?” This was his poem:
Yoke can pop
the Sun is to Hot
7. I typed the poems up for the kids, and they both loved having a crisp, clear copy.
How can you extend this lesson?
a. Turn it into an art project. Have your child make a color collage and glue the poem on the center. Or your child can do as my Five did — illustrate the poem and glue it to a matching piece of construction paper.
b. Come back to the poem a different day and make it even better.
c. Make an alliterative color poem. To do that, make each line of words start with the same letter. Here’s an example:
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