Tuesday, November 19, 2013

              Tips for Teaching Students to Write Poetry

1)  Marinate kids in lots of poems. Students need two kinds of poetry: playful poems they “get” quickly, as well as deeper poems that haunt them.
2)  Write small. Poets take pleasure in naming the world.  Look for the odd, disturbing detail. 
3)  “The secret wish of poetry is to stop time.” (Charles Simic) Try to render the experience, not explain it.  Don’t say too much. 
4)  Try to create tension in the poem.
5)  Look for the mystery in your subject.
6)  See if you can end with your strongest line.
7)  Listen to suggestions, but learn to trust yourself.


  1. Love these tips. I plan to tape them into my teacher-writer's notebook and look at them again and again. I am teaching a group of 6th graders today, and the tip that will be foremost in my mind is #3. I want to give them the gift of time to ponder.

    1. Yes, Margaret, 6 grade kids (and older) tend to go on too long. They over-explain and thereby write the mystery out of their subjects.

  2. Great tips, Ralph! I'm going to share them with teachers and kids, starting today! Have fun at NCTE! I wish I was there!

  3. Margaret and Carol--so glad you found these helpful! I think we're kindred spirits :-)


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