Poetry For Upper Elementary and Middle School

Introducing poetry to our students can be intimidating because there are so many types of poetry. As an upper elementary and middle school teacher, I know my students aren’t ready for the complexities of iambic pentameter.  

Here are some of my favorite forms of poetry for 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.  If you are a 3rd-grade or 7th-grade teacher you could definitely use these too with a few minor adjustments. 

Here are  5 of my favorite types of poetry to introduce, why I love them, and a link to a lesson that will help you incorporate them into your classroom.

  1. Acrostic 

I love acrostic poetry because it is simple.  Have a base word and write one word per line, making sure your word starts with a letter from the base word and is on topic.  That was harder to explain than I thought.  

Almost every student I have had is familiar with simple acrostic poems.  I love that they can connect to poetry lessons they’ve had in the past.

However, when I have my students work on acrostic poetry I make it a more mature version.  Often students will have one word per line, which is a good start.  

My acrostic lessons use sentences that can be spread across multiple lines and use a lot of descriptive details.  We also practice the writing process while writing acrostic poems.

Finally, acrostic poems are awesome for holidays.  Kids have a lot of fun trying to make their acrostic poems follow the rules because they know so much about holidays it turns it into a fun challenge.

I have acrostic poems for almost every holiday.  Here is the growing bundle with everything you could want.

  1. Diamanté 

Diamante poems are seven lines and in the shape of a diamond. It does not rhyme.  The heart of a diamante is to compare opposites. The pattern, with one topic on the top and on the bottom is:

  1. One noun
  2. Two adjectives
  3. Three -ing verbs
  4. Four nouns
  5. Three -ing verbs
  6. Two adjectives
  7. One noun

I love this poem because students have to compare two things that are opposite.  They find things that are in common and not.  They look at the parts of speech.  They have to be descriptive.  It’s a fun poem and it’s always interesting to see what they compare. 

Here is my diamante lesson to help you get started writing in your own classroom.

  1. Cinquain 

A cinquain is another less common form of poetry.  It’s french and has five lines, cinq is five in french.  It does not rhyme.  Here is the layout of a cinquain.

  1. Topic
  2. Two adjectives
  3. Three -ing verbs
  4. A sentence describing the topic
  5. Synonym for topic

This poem also has students thinking about the parts of speech, but in a fun writing project.  They have to think about how to describe their topic.  It also leaves a great opportunity to discuss synonyms and antonyms.  

I usually have my students write about a classmate or friend, which helps build community in the room.  It’s also a lot of fun to write about a friend.  Here is my Friendship Cinquain lesson.  However for todays technology addicted students I thought it would be fun to have them write about the love of their loves.  Here is my Cell Phone Cinquain lesson.

  1. Haiku 

Haikus are poems from Japan that have three lines with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5.  Traditionally haikus are about nature, but nowadays they are written about anything.  

I love that students practice syllable counting in these poems because it is a good skill for reading and writing, but it also makes them think more carefully about word choice.  What would a teacher give to have students think more about word choice?  I’m telling you this poem is the way to do it.

I am always astonished to see what my students have written when we work on haikus, even struggling or resistant writers end up with beautiful, descriptive, and inspiring pieces.

I always have my students write a haiku poem for every season.  It’s a great chance for us to get outdoors and observe the season.  We jot down notes and sit in silence for a few minutes (it’s a hard skill).  Then we write our poems about those small moments.  Here’s the link to the bundle so you can easily see all the haiku lesson options.

  1. Ode

There are three types of odes: Horatian, Pindaric, and Irregular.  Basically Horation and Pindaric have a lot more rules about structure and meter.  Irregular is more modern in that no rhyme or meter is necessary.

I honestly think that my students would not be able to successfully write Horatian or Pindaric odes, and I want to set them up for success by introducing them to Irregular Odes.  Maybe later in the school year or in future grades, they could take on a challenging ode.

The way I teach Irregular Odes is to have 3-4 stanza (it’s like poetry paragraphs).  I choose to have my students rhyme their odes because it can give them a bit of a feel of the other types of odes but much simpler.

The heart of an ode is to praise or glorify a subject.  They have to make it seem like the greatest thing since sliced bread.  

I decided that writing about Earth for Earth Day would be the perfect opportunity to introduce my students to odes.

There are so many awesome forms of poetry we can teach.  Often when we teach poetry our students are learning other important ELA lessons too.  

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