Five simple rules for writing a poem

These are five simple rules for writing a poem. You could give these to children before they put pen to paper. I am indebted to Dunn, Styles and Warburton (1987, p.32) for these ideas.

1. It doesn’t have to rhyme

2. Start a new line when you pause

3. Say something fresh

4. Ordinary things make good poetry

5. Every word must count.


I might add the following:

Tell the children that their poem must NOT rhyme today! Tell them to ignore every rule they have been taught about writing prose (forget punctuation, capital letters, the need for full sentences). Write from the heart. Write about what matters to you. Be angry or funny or mysterious. Make up words if you wish to!

As a teacher you could then follow this pattern:

The first draft is then discussed in pairs.

Some poems are read out.

The teacher gives spoken feedback to each child.

The class talks about how to improve their poems.

Pupils have a chance to write a second draft.

Reference: Dunn, J., Styles, M., Warburton, N., (1987) In tune with yourself: children writing poetry – a handbook for teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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