Free Verse Poetry


As Georgia Heard says, “We all have poetry inside of us, and poetry is for everyone.”  One of the best ways to improve student writing is to begin by teaching them to write free verse poetry. Free verse poetry differs from “form” poems such as haiku, cinquain, and rhyming couplet in that it doesn’t follow rules or a regular pattern of rhythm or rhyme.  This can be intimidating at first, but with specific mini-lessons, students quickly learn that they, too, “have poetry inside of them.”  One of my favorite resources for teaching free verse poetry to young writers is Regie Routman’s series call Kids’ Poems. Click here to learn more. 

The following activities help create a poetry-friendly climate in our classrooms that can lay groundwork for successful free verse poetry writing: 

Poetry Pause
Reading poetry aloud to students on a regular basis is a must! I found that I needed to be more intentional about reading poetry so I added a poetry pause to our daily routine. You can read all about this read aloud ritual here

What Do We Notice?
After my students have been exposed to a great deal of free verse poetry, we are ready to begin writing some of our own.  We begin by first making a list of what we have noticed about free verse poetry as we have read and shared it aloud:

The next step is to begin making a list of  possible poetry topics:

Where Poetry Hides
This is an idea that comes from Awakening the Heart by Georgia Heard.  Ask students to take home their notebooks and spend some time searching their houses for places where poems are hiding.  Many poems are written about everyday, ordinary objects.  The key to turning the ordinary topic into poetry is to be as specific as possible and to create images or word pictures for the reader.  Reading aloud poems from books like All the Small Poems and Fourteen More by Valerie Worth can help students see that poetry hides in the most obscure places.

Where Poetry Hides for Mrs. Johnson:

  • floor of my van
  • refrigerator
  • my veggie garden
  • washing machine
  • my calendar
  • my lists
  • in books
  • my computer
  • craft  room
  • garage
  • Lauryn’s closet
  • scrapbooks/
  • photo albums
  • old neighborhood
  • on airplanes
  • in airports
  • hotel rooms
  • in the camper
  • the bottoms of shoes
  • snooze alarm
  • my freezer
  • Mom J’s “scary closet”
  • drywall
  • bathroom project
  • pile of shoes in closet

Poetry Walk
Take students outside for a walk with pencils and clipboards.  Invite them to write down what they see, hear, feel, etc.  Remind them that there is no talking during these short walks so everyone can use all of their senses to notice the things around them and think like writers.  After returning to class, allow students to share their notes with one another.  Invite students to use their observations to compose free verse poetry.  

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