3 Ways to Use Poetry to Engage Struggling Writers

poetry writing upper elementary

Motivating and engaging reluctant writers can be an uphill battle! 

Whether you are focusing on improving sentence structure, elaboration, and detail, or figurative language with your writers, poetry can help! I have found poetry to be a huge motivator and a successful tool to help reluctant writers do what we want them to do…write!

Writing poetry helps students succeed and build confidence at the same time.  Since poetry is often shorter than writing narratives, and because it can be written in one or two writing periods, poetry is seen as an attainable task for students who are often intimidated by writing. 

Using poetry to build writers' writing skills and strengthen their grasp of the writing process is a great way to build student confidence and increase their interest in writing, too!

Here are three reasons why you absolutely need to use poetry to engage your reluctant writers. 

poetry writing upper elementary classroom
Poetry often follows a pattern. It could be a poem with a rhyming scheme of AABB or ABAB, or it could be poem that follow a specific rule for each line like haikus, I Wish Poetry, or limericks. Whatever the pattern, whatever the rule, having clear cut directions of how to write is a great way to get reluctant writers writing! Often time the hardest part of writing for struggling writers is getting started. So many times we hear, "I don't know what to write," or "I don’t know how to begin." But when students have to follow clear set rules or patterns there is no guesswork on where to start. As with all good writing lessons, be sure to model each type of poetry writing you complete with your students. I also love using acrostic poetry to engage and challenge writers of all levels across the content areas. 

Teacher Tip: Create anchor charts for each of the different types of poems that you write. Include the pattern or rule, as well as a model of each type of poem. Be sure to save each anchor chart for students to reference as they write during the lesson and when they continue their poetry writing in their journals. Don't forget to read aloud poetry mentor texts to serve as models, too! 

poetry writing upper elementary classroom
What I especially love about teaching poetry writing is that it easily fits into any writing program. It can be taught as a unit at the beginning of the year and practiced all year long, or taught once a month with a different type of poem for each month's focus. No matter how it is taught, poetry writing is a great way to practice the writing process.  Since poetry is a short piece of writing, students are able to get through each step of the writing process in a short amount of time, building confidence and stamina as they complete each poetry task. Students can brainstorm a focused topic and rhyming words during pre-writing, write drafts and revise their work independently, work with an editing and revising checklist to make changes, and work with a peer partner to improve their writing and make additional changes as needed before publishing. If you hold teacher conferences during your writing block, poetry writing is a great way to discuss how to include figurative language and descriptive word choice in student writing. After taking the student's poetry piece successfully through the process students are ready to publish and celebrate their writing.  Grab a FREE poetry lesson and bulletin board display to try out these ideas at the bottom of this post.

Teacher Tip: Keep it going! Once you have practiced poetry writing and taking it through the process with your students, encourage them to keep a poetry journal to keep writing poetry. The success that comes with poetry writing will encourage students to not only continue writing poetry but other genres of writing, too!

poetry writing upper elementary Publishing, celebrating, and sharing student writing pieces is an exciting part of every writing project. I always look forward to each and every student sitting on the author's stool and sharing the writing that they worked so hard to complete. Many times, however, students are intimidated by reading their writing aloud to their peers. This could be because of the length of the writing piece, or insecurities about reading aloud. Completed poetry writing eliminates both concerns. Shorter pieces, often with flow and rhythm are much easier to read aloud and share. It also takes less time to share which is perfect for both reluctant writers and struggling readers.  Another bonus is that it would take less than one writing period to have all students share their writing pieces! Teacher win!

Teacher Tip: Save those poems! I love sharing student poetry writing on a bulletin board each month. I hold on to each poem that the students write in their writing portfolio. At the end of the school year, I compile all the different poems that they wrote throughout the year into a poetry book for them. It makes a great writing portfolio and memory maker from the year. 

When it comes to engaging reluctant writers, poetry is a must! 

Its short text and rhyming pattern draw students in while increasing their engagement and motivation. Don’t save poetry writing for National Poetry Month. Teach poetry writing throughout the year. It will give your reluctant writers a boost of confidence and success throughout the year.  After writing a few poems your students will be hooked and you will love their writing growth!

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poetry activities for reluctant writers



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