Poetry with Children

I spent most of the day at The Arts Center of the Capital Region for their Write Here conference. One of my favorite parts was a program about writing and sharing poetry with school-age children. It was led by Jill Crammond from Miss Jill’s Artist Studio and Ralph Fahrenstock from Bethlehem Children’s School.

With Jill, we did some activities that combined art and writing. She passed out little slips of paper with words on them, and we were supposed to add one more word to create little mini-phrases, then let those mini-phrases conjure up pictures in our mind. Then we made some Matisse-inspired collages with cut-outs.

Cute, right? What a satisfying craft, really.

We were encouraged to write down any words or phrases that came to mind as we were cutting out and arranging shapes. Weirdly enough, words did, in fact, come to mind.

Poems were written. None will be shared at this time.

Oh, wait. But here are some that actual kids wrote during the activity.

And for those kids who are feeling a bit stumped, they can go fishing in a bowl of words to come up with something.

Ralph took over with all sorts of tips about teaching poetry starting with the first one, “Don’t use crappy poetry.” Then he offered a couple of examples of non-crappy poetry, including How to Eat a Poem and Variations on a Theme By William Carlos Williams. Then he had other suggestions for getting students to play with words, like taking a poem, blowing it up, cutting the individual words, and letting the students come up with their own poem. Or taking a poem that’s written in an indecipherable foreign language and asking them to “translate” it (here was the example he used-it seems somehow disappointing, now, to have the English translation so readily available). Or taking a line from a famous poem and asking students to continue the poem from there. He was also a huge proponent of having each poem read his or her poem aloud. There was a little talk about the performance of poetry in general, with a shout-out to a personal favorite of mine, Taylor Mali.

It was a creative departure from the rest of my day, and it made me feel inspired to go teach a class. But since I don’t actually have a class,  I’ll just blog about it. And possibly work some extra poetry into the read-aloud rotation. Also, I foresee construction paper clippings all over my carpet in the near future.





  1. Cheri

    If you enjoyed this then I highly recommend reading through Georgia Heard’s book, Awakening the Heart. It’s meant for teaching poetry to elementary and middle school aged children and many of the strategies above are in the book plus many more!

  2. Katie, I know there’s a monthly adult writers’ group that meets one Sunday a month at The Arts Center’s theater to read both their poetry and prose, published and in-progress, to the group, both for sharing and for performance. We Bests all attended once and all read from our respective work, but children weren’t really part of their group’s vision. Wouldn’t it be great to start a monthly family writers’ group for both adults and kids, either at The Center or at a more convenient venue here, e.g. FUSS? Just some writer musings before Sunday coffee.

  3. Cheri–I’ll put it on my list.
    Deb–this is a good idea! The crowd felt a bit too “literary writing” for me, anyway. Hmmm, will have to think about this one. . . .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *