• Annemarie Johnson

Put It on the Page So It Looks Like a Poem


After students have studied free verse poetry, have begun to see poetry hiding everywhere, and have begun to look at everyday objects through the eyes of a poet, they are ready to write their own. I tell them to just start putting their thoughts on paper so that it “looks” like a poem.

Line breaks set the rhythm of a poem and create the white space and shape of the poem. Copy several poems onto overhead transparencies. Have students compare the way poetry and prose looks on a written page. Lead them to notice that poetry “looks” different. Have them experiment with different places for line breaks in their own poetry. Encourage them to read the poems aloud and listen for the effect that line breaks have on the poem. Line and stanza breaks are ultimately up to the poet, but a good rule of thumb is to break on nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Have students play around with the line breaks until the poem looks and sounds the way they want it to. In general, free verse poetry should be capitalized and punctuated like prose (not a capital at the beginning of each line).

After students have studied free verse poetry, have begun to see poetry hiding everywhere, and have begun to look at everyday objects through the eyes of a poet, they are ready to write their own. I tell them to just start putting their thoughts on paper so that it “looks” like a poem.

Student Samples:

#poetry #freeversepoetry #writing #poetryminilessons #whitespace

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